Lockheed Martin Corporation and two subsidiary companies will pay the U.S. $5 million to resolve allegations stemming from two whistleblower lawsuits that accused them of violating U.S. environmental laws while under government contract to operate a uranium enrichment facility, which in turn led them to knowingly submit false claims to the federal government for reimbursement.
The Department of Energy contracted Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, and Lockheed Martin Utility Services to operate the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Ky., from 1984 to 1999. The Lockheed companies’ primary responsibility under these contracts involved the process of enriching uranium for use in nuclear weapons and power plants.
Additionally, Lockheed Martin was responsible for environmental restoration, waste management, and custodial care at the 3,500-acre site.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Lockheed Martin violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which establishes how hazardous wastes must be managed, by failing to identify and report hazardous waste produced and stored at the facility. The U.S. also alleges that Lockheed Martin failed to properly handle and dispose of the waste.
This misconduct resulted in false claims for payment under its contracts with the Department of Energy, the Justice Department claimed.
The U.S. is currently working with other contractors to remediate contamination at the site caused by Lockheed Martin’s noncompliance with federal environmental laws and contractual obligations.
Under the terms of the settlement, Lockheed Martin will pay $4 million to resolve the False Claims Act allegations. Lockheed Martin Energy Systems and Lockheed Martin Utility Services will each pay $500,000 in civil penalties for their RCRA violations.
The settlement resolves two lawsuits filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of any recovery the government makes as result.
The FCA lawsuits were filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. and by several former Lockheed Martin employees who worked at the Paducah facility. The United States intervened in the lawsuits, which were then consolidated into one action. The whistleblowers will share an award of $920,000 for their role in exposing Lockheed Martin’s misconduct.
“Government contractors are required to follow the same federal laws that apply to everyone else,” said John Kuhn, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. “These companies do not get a pass on compliance, especially when their responsibilities include managing and disposing of hazardous waste.”
Source: U.S. Department of Justice