Scripps Research Institute pays $10 million to settle grant mischarging allegations

by Ben Vernia | September 12th, 2020

On September 11, the Department of Justice announced that The Scripps Research Institute, based in California and Florida, had agreed to pay $10 million to settle False Claims Act allegations, originally brought by a whistleblower, that the institute failed to ensure that staff devoted NIH grant-subsidized time to research instead of other tasks. According to DOJ’s press release:

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has agreed to pay the U.S. $10 million to settle claims that it improperly charged NIH-funded research grants for time spent by researchers on non-grant related activities such as developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities, the Department of Justice announced today. 

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TSRI is a non-profit biomedical research institute with campuses located in Jupiter, Florida and La Jolla, California. TSRI receives millions of dollars in funding from NIH through hundreds of grants each year.  The settlement resolves allegations that between 2008 and 2016, TSRI failed to have a system in place for its faculty to properly account for time spent on activities that cannot be charged directly to NIH-funded projects or are unrelated to the research activities of the NIH-funded project.  Consequently, the U.S. contended that TSRI improperly charged time spent by faculty on developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications directly to existing NIH-funded projects, rather than allocating such charges as indirect costs.  The U.S. also alleged that TSRI improperly charged NIH-funded projects for time spent by its faculty on other activities unrelated to the funded projects, such as teaching, TSRI committee work, and other administrative tasks. 

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The whistleblower, a former institute staff member, will receive $1.75 million (a 17.5% relator’s share).

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