Government intervenes in case against whistleblower case involving background checks

by Ben Vernia | October 30th, 2013

On October 30, the Department of Justice announced that it was intervening in a False Claims Act qui tam relator’s suit against United States Investigations Services, LLC, which alleged that the company failed to perform quality checks of background investigations it performed under a contract with the Office of Personnel Management. According to DOJ’s press release:

The government has intervened in a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act against United States Investigations Services LLC (USIS) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the Department of Justice announced today. The lawsuit alleges that USIS, located in Falls Church, Va., failed to perform quality control reviews in connection with its background investigations for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The lawsuit was filed by a former employee of USIS, Blake Percival, under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties, known as relators, to sue on behalf of the government when they believe false claims for government funds have been submitted. The private party is entitled to receive a share of any funds recovered through the lawsuit. The False Claims Act also permits the government to investigate the allegations made in the relator’s complaint and to decide whether to intervene in the lawsuit, and to recover three times its damages plus civil penalties. The government is intervening now based on the results of its investigation of the relator’s allegations and has requested that the court give it until Jan. 22, 2014, to file its own complaint.
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Since 1996, USIS has contracted with OPM to perform background investigations on individuals seeking employment with various federal agencies. Executed in 2006, the contract at issue in the lawsuit required USIS to conduct the investigatory fieldwork on each prospective applicant. It also required that a trained USIS Reviewer perform a full review of each background investigation to ensure it conformed to OPM standards before sending the file back to OPM for processing.

According to the relator’s complaint, starting in 2008, USIS engaged in a practice known at USIS as “dumping.” Specifically, USIS used a proprietary computer software program to automatically release to OPM background investigations that had not gone through the full review process and thus were not complete. USIS allegedly would dump cases to meet revenue targets and maximize its profits. The lawsuit alleges that USIS concealed this practice from OPM and improperly billed OPM for background investigations it knew were not performed in accordance with the contract.

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