Whistleblower Case Victory in D.C. Bid-Rigging Trial

A qui tam whistleblower and his lawyer are very happy as a result of a $102 million jury verdict–to be shared by the whistleblower–in a False Claims Act trial that ended on May 14.

The defendants in this whistleblower case included Bill Harbert International Construction Inc.; Harbert Construction Services; Bilhar International Establishment; Harbert Corp.; and Harbert International. The case alleged bid-rigging on three U.S. government-funded construction contracts in Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s.

The jury found that defendants violated the False Claims Act and awarded $34 million in damages, which are “trebled” under the False Claims Act.

The Department of Justice lawyer, Carolyn Mark, is a veteran prosecutor. She handled one of my first cases under the False Claims Act in the late 1980s–another bid-rigging case against electrical contractors, one of whom I was defending (in my former life, before I represented whistleblowers). I sent Carolyn a note of congratulations today.

AUSA Keith Morgan also deserves kudos, as does Robert Bell, who represented whistleblower Richard Miller.

Two of my favorite D.C. federal judges presided over the case. Initially, the late Judge William Bryant had it, and it was later transferred to Judge Royce Lamberth.

The case alleged rigging of bids on three construction contracts financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development in the 1980s and 1990s. The investigation produced criminal indictments in the Northern District of Alabama and some guilty pleas, which delayed the civil False Claims Act case.

The government entered into pretrial settlements with several defendants, and the case proceeded to trial against the remaining ones.

The verdict represented most of the damages of $40 million that the government and whistleblower/relator requested, which were trebled to reach the $102 million.

After a long battle, imagine the whistleblower felt when the jury sent back this note:
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