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United States ex rel. Mateski v. Raytheon Co.

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20051
Nos. 13-55341, (9th Cir., 03/07/2016)

The Ninth Circuit held that the public disclosure bar of the False Claims Act did not bar an individual's qui tam lawsuit against his employer under the Act. The employer, an engineering company, entered into a contract with NOAA to design and build a Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) as part of a larger system for collecting meteorological, oceanographic, environmental, and climatic data. In June 2006, the individual filed his False Claims Act suit against the company for failing to comply with numerous contractual requirements in the development of VIIRS, fraudulently covering up areas of noncompliance, and improperly billing the government for erroneous and incomplete work. But project cost overruns and delays had attracted media attention two years prior, following a 2004 GAO report. The lower court therefore dismissed the complaint, concluding that it was based on prior public disclosures and was therefore precluded by the Act's public disclosure bar. But the individual's allegations were not "substantially similar" to the prior publicly disclosed reports when viewed at the appropriate level of generality. His complaint alleged fraud that was different in kind and degree from previously disclosed information about the company's problems in performing on the contract at issue. Although the public reports described delays and incompetence, none explicitly asserted deception by the company. If his allegations prove to be true, the individual is a relator who will have provided the government with genuinely new and material information about fraud. Accordingly, he should be allowed to move forward with his qui tam suit, and the lower court's decision was reversed and remanded.