Thursday, February 20, 2014

Covering Up Corruption: KBR and Halliburton/ WP

Whistleblowers have some protections under US law.  In fact, those who report on corruption that costs the government money are entitled to a large chunk of what $ is recovered as a result of their whistle-blowing.  This often results in multimillion dollar payouts from what are termed "qui tam" or False Claims Act lawsuits.

But apparently Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root were not happy about the possibility that their employees might blow the whistle if they discovered fraud... and these companies have in fact been found liable in such lawsuits in the past.

Between 2002 and 2011, KBR was the largest U.S. contractor operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, winning nearly $40 billion worth of federal work, according to the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. KBR has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and allegations of fraud relating to contracts with the U.S. government, according to the war commission and the Justice Department.
So the companies required employees to sign confidentiality statements that prohibited employees from speaking to government officials or anyone else, under penalty of termination and legal action.  From the Washington Post:
One of the nation’s largest government contractors requires employees seeking to report fraud to sign internal confidentiality statements barring them from speaking to anyone about their allegations, including government investigators and prosecutors, according to a complaint filed Wednesday and corporate documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Attorneys for a whistleblower suing Halliburton Co. and its former subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, said the statements violate the federal False Claims Act and other laws designed to shield whistleblowers...

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