Earlier this week, the Department of Justice announced a settlement it reached with five Harbert Companies to resolve False Claims Act allegations. The companies involved, Harbert Corporation, Harbert International, Inc., Bill Harbert International Constructions Inc., Harbert Construction Services (U.K.) Ltd., and Bilhar International Establishment, were accused of submitting false claims to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The companies have agreed to pay a $47 million settlement.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s USAID funded a construction contract to build a sewer system in Cairo, Egypt. Harbert International bid on and won the contract. According to the complaint, the accused Harbert companies entered into illegal agreements with other companies bidding on the contract in order to ensure that Harbert International would win the bid. The Harbert companies allegedly convinced the other bidding companies to either withdraw their bids altogether or to submit intentionally high bids for the contract in return for payoffs from Harbert.
When companies use bid-rigging to win government contracts, they prevent the government from finding the best and least expensive option for its projects. Schemes such as this one force the government, and by extension the American taxpayer, to pay significantly more for construction projects. This alleged fraud was uncovered and reported by whistleblower Richard F. Miller. Miller filed his qui tam case in the US District Court for the District of Columbia in 1995. This settlement finally brings this case to a close.
If you are aware of government construction fraud, or other types of fraud, being committed, contact the experienced attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei today.