by Ben Vernia | May 25th, 2010
The Department of Justice announced on May 25 that EMC Corp., a Massachusetts-based information technology company, paid $83.5 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act by providing false pricing information to the General Services Administration. According to DOJ’s release:
The United States alleged that, by misrepresenting its commercial pricing practices, EMC fraudulently induced the General Services Administration (GSA) to enter into a contract with prices that were higher than they would have been had the information technology company not made false misrepresentations. Specifically, the United States alleged that the Hopkinton, Mass.-based company represented during contract negotiations that, for each government order under the contract, EMC would conduct a price comparison to ensure that the government received the lowest price provided to any of the company’s commercial customers making a comparable purchase. According to the government’s complaint, EMC knew that it was not capable of conducting such a comparison, and so EMC’s representations during the negotiations – as well as its subsequent representations to GSA that it was conducting the comparisons – were false or fraudulent.
The United States also alleged that EMC engaged in an illegal kickback scheme designed to influence the government to purchase the company’s products. EMC maintained agreements whereby it paid consulting companies fees each time the companies recommended that a government agency purchase an EMC product. These kickback allegations are part of a larger investigation of government technology vendors that has resulted in settlements to date with three other companies, with several other investigations and actions still pending. The kickback investigation was initiated by a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.
The case was originally filed as qui tam suit in Arkansas, but it was transferred to the EDVA before being settled; the Department did not announce whether the relator would receive a share of the recovery.