Two U.S. government contractors, Bechtel National Inc., Bechtel Corporation (Bechtel) and AECOM Energy & Construction, Inc. (AECOM), along with subsidiary Waste Treatment Completion Company, LLC (WTCC), have agreed to pay $57.75 million to resolve fraud allegations for overcharging the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for unallowable idle time charges for workers on the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington State. The False Claims Act (FCA lawsuit was filed by four whistleblowers who served as craft workers at the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant (WTP).
The Hanford nuclear reservation is the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site. In 2001, the DOE contracted with Bechtel and AECOM to design and construct the WTP to treat the dangerous radioactive waste stored at the reservation. The contractors hired hundreds of skilled tradesman or “craft workers” such as electricians, millwrights, pipefitters, planners, material coordinators, schedulers, and turnover/transition specialists to complete the project.
The complaint alleges that, between 2009 and 2019, the contractors overcharged DOE for unreasonable and unallowable workers’ idle time and failed to schedule enough work to keep workers sufficiently productive (which resulted in more idle time). The contractors admit to continuing to overcharge the government even after U.S. authorities notified the defendants that the costs were unallowable. Bechtel and AECOM admit that management was aware of the excessive idle time, which sometimes could last “several hours.” Instead of rectifying it, they overcharged DOE for the time spent not working on the project.
The complaint alleges that the contractors overcharged taxpayers, but it also alleges that by cutting corners, Bechtel and AECOM threatened the general public’s health and safety. “Completing the WTP is not only critical to public safety and the environmental health of the Pacific Northwest but is an urgent and critically important ongoing public health concern, which the DOE and the State of Washington have appropriately made a top priority,” said First Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, Joseph H. Harrington. “It is stunning that, for nearly a decade, Bechtel and AECOM chose to line their corporate pockets by diverting important taxpayer funds from this critically essential effort.”
The four whistleblowers’ courage to challenge wrongdoing and their resolve and commitment to protecting taxpayers and the general public’s health and safety entitles them to share in the recovery of the successful qui tam lawsuit. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are entitled to between 15% and 25% of the settlement. For their collective efforts, the four whistleblowers will receive $13.75 million of the settlement amount.
If you believe that you may have information about a company committing fraud against the government, the Qui Tam Attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei are always available to assist in bringing a case forward. We have years of experience litigating under the False Claims Act and have won clients millions of dollars in compensation over the last decade. Our expert Qui Tam attorneys have the resources to provide you with guidance on various types of whistleblowing cases, such as fraud with government programs, securities and commodities, tax payments, the banking industry, and more. If you would like to consult with one of our Qui Tam attorneys, please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation Form or call (202) 973-0900.