Too often the general public wrongly believes the False Claims Act (“FCA”) only applies to Medicare or Medicaid fraud. But the FCA applies to just about any type of fraud orchestrated against the federal government, including fraud against any its many departments and divisions.
This certainly includes fraud perpetrated against the United States Department of Energy (“DOE”).
On DOE’s website, in fact, we find an entire page devoted to “Whistleblower Information.” (LINK to DOE Website). DOE even possesses a “Whistleblower Connection Coordinator” to act as a “legal representative, agent, or advocate for DOE employees, contractors and grantees.”
The same web page also identifies different types of fraud or wrongdoing DOE typically sees come to light via whistleblower complaints, such as:
- Violations of any laws, rules or regulations;
- Substantial risks of significant adverse impact or mission;
- Any gross waste of funds (more than debatable expenditures);
- Arbitrary decisions for personal gain and/or to injure others;
- Substantial or specific damages to public health or safety.
What are other words can we use to help understand such a list? Fraud. Rigged bidding. Bribery. False reporting. Dishonest billing. Etc. Are you a DOE employee or a contractor who knows of something going on involving the agency (or its money) which simply turns your stomach? Then chances are there is a good reason for that, and you likely possess some form of whistleblower protection.
In September 2020, DOE and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington announced a $57.75 million dollar settlement with a federal contractor, Bechtel of Aecom (LINK to DOJ Press Release). This came about after Bechtel of Aecom admitted to falsely billing DOE for work not actually performed from 2009 to all the way into 2019.
This false draft labor billing case began in late 2016 when four (4) whistleblowers came forward with allegations of labor mischarging. With that, “pursuant to the settlement agreement, [those] relators will receive $13,750.000 of the settlement amount.”
In March 2022, DOE and the Department of Justice announced a $10 million dollar settlement with another federal contractor, MOX Services. (LINK to DOJ Press Release). Specifically, this settlement resolved allegations that MOX Services submitted “false and fraudulent invoices for non-existent materials and [received] improper kickbacks.” As noted by Corey F. Ellis, U.S. Attorney for South Carolina,” “Federal contractors cannot charge for non-existent materials and accept kickbacks in connection with federal contracts… To do is to defraud the American taxpayer.”
If you work for DOE, or for a DOE contractor, and you know of ongoing fraud or other wrongdoing, please contact my office at any point to discuss your possible options and protections as a federal whistleblower.