Inchcape to Pay $20 Mln for Allegedly Overbilling US Navy
U.K. based marine services contractor Inchcape Shipping Services Holdings Limited and several of its subsidiaries have agreed to pay $20 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly overbilling the U.S. Navy under contracts for ship husbanding services, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
Inchcape provided goods and services, including food and other subsistence items, waste removal, telephone services, ship-to-shore transportation, force protection services and local transportation, to Navy ships at ports in several regions throughout the world, including southwest Asia, Africa, Panama, North America, South America and Mexico. The lawsuit alleged that from 2005 to 2014, Inchcape knowingly overbilled the Navy for these services by submitting invoices that overstated the quantity of goods and services provided, billing at rates in excess of applicable contract rates, and double-billing for some goods and services.
“Federal contractors may only charge the government for costs allowed by their federal contracts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will take action against contractors that knowingly submit inflated claims to the armed forces—or any other agency of the United States—as those inflated claims wrongfully divert taxpayer dollars.”
“We trust contractors supporting our warfighters to act with the utmost integrity and expect them to comply with their obligations to bill the government as called for by their contracts,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu. “This settlement reflects our Office’s strong commitment to holding accountable those who violate these fundamental principles, no matter where they may be located.”
"This settlement demonstrates that the Department of the Navy will continue to hold contractors accountable for the agreements they make to supply our fleet,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “The Department expects strict adherence to higher standards within the Department and expects the same from its contractors."
“Fraud is an abuse of the system that siphons resources away from the American warfighter,” said Jeremy Gauthier, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Washington D.C. field office. “NCIS will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold responsible those who would put personal gain above corporate integrity.”
Inchcape said in a statement that it disputes the allegations but has decided to settle the case to put an end to a long drawn out distraction.
"Although Inchcape remains confident in its legal positions, the action was filed eight years ago and yet remains in its earliest stages. Absent this settlement, the litigation would likely continue to distract Inchcape personnel and drain resources for years to come," the company said. "Inchcape, accordingly, has determined that it must put this matter behind it, so that the company can focus on the future."
The lawsuit was brought under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by three former employees of Inchcape, Noah Rudolph, Andrea Ford and Lawrence Cosgriff. Under the act, a private citizen may bring suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery. The government may intervene in the case, as it did here. The False Claims Act allows the government to recover treble damages and penalties from those who violate it. As part of today’s resolution, the whistleblowers will receive approximately $4.4 million.
The case was handled jointly by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, with assistance from the Department of the Navy and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
The case is captioned United States ex rel. Rudolph v. Inchcape Shipping Services Holdings Limited, et al., No. 1:10-cv-01109 (D.D.C). The claims alleged in the case are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.