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Compliance Specialist's Retaliation Claim Summarily Denied

A False Claims Act retaliation claim was summarily denied by the District Court for the Western District of Washington because there was insufficient evidence suggesting the plaintiff engaged in activity protected under the FCA or the contractor knew the plaintiff engaged in protected activity. The plaintiff, a former ethics and compliance specialist for a defense contractor, alleged the contractor retaliated against him for complaining about the dismantling of a compliance risk management program. The court partially granted the contractor's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the claim, concluding the plaintiff could not prove two of the three elements necessary to succeed on a FCA retaliation claim (31 USC 3730(h)).

Higher Standard

First, the plaintiff may have subjectively believed the contractor was committing fraud against the government, but his belief was not objectively reasonable. His false certification theory was based on his belief the contractor was required to certify it complied with federal contracting laws and regulations each time it submitted a bid, but he did not identify a contract or any law or policy that imposed the requirement. Further, the evidence was insufficient to show the contractor's changes to the CRM program rendered statements fraudulent under the FCA, and the plaintiff could not show the contractor's receipt of money from the government was contingent on a certification of compliance. Second, the contractor did not know the plaintiff was engaged in protected conduct. Due to his compliance position, the contractor was held to a higher standard and was required to show "clear notice" to the contractor of his "intentions of bringing or assisting in an FCA action." The plaintiff may have told his superiors that he intended to report his concerns to the government, but he did not give the contractor reason to believe he was contemplating or investigating a qui tam action. (Sicilia v. Boeing Co., et al., DC WD Wash, 55 CCF 79,519)




(The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )


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