Grainger settles "defective pricing" False Claims Act allegations with GSA for $70 million

by Ben Vernia | December 28th, 2012

On December 26, the Department of Justice announced that a hardware company with a Multiple Award Schedule contract with the General Services Administration had agreed to pay $70 million to settle civil charges that it failed to provide truthful pricing information in obtaining its government contract, and had overcharged the government. According to DOJ’s press release:

W.W. Grainger Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $70 million to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims under contracts with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Postal Services (USPS), the Department of Justice announced today. Grainger is a national hardware distributor headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Grainger entered into a contract to sell hardware products and other supplies to government customers through the GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program. The MAS program provides the government and other GSA-authorized purchasers with a streamlined process for procurement of commonly-used commercial goods and services. To be awarded a MAS contract, and thereby gain access to the broad government marketplace, contractors must agree to disclose their commercial pricing policies and practices to assist the government in negotiating the terms of the MAS contract.

Today’s settlement resolves issues discovered during a GSA post-award audit of Grainger’s MAS contract. The GSA Office of Inspector General learned that Grainger failed to meet its contractual obligations to provide the GSA with current, accurate and complete information about its commercial sales practices, including discounts afforded to other customers. As a result, government customers purchasing items under the Grainger MAS contract paid higher prices than they should have.

In addition, today’s settlement resolves allegations that Grainger failed to meet its contractual obligations to provide “most-favored customer” pricing under two USPS contracts for sanitation and maintenance supplies. The USPS contracts required Grainger to treat USPS as Grainger’s “most-favored customer” by ensuring that USPS received the best overall discount that Grainger offered to any of its commercial customers. Agents and auditors from the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated Grainger’s pricing practices and discovered that Grainger did not consistently adhere to this requirement, causing USPS to pay more than it should have for purchases made under the two contracts.

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