Facing allegations that they had submitted false claims and also caused others to submit false claims to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Harbert Corporation, Harbert Construction Services (U.K.) Ltd., Harbert International, Inc., Bill Harbert International Constructions Inc., and Bilhar International Establishment have agreed to settle with the U.S. government for $47 million, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The defendants were accused of conspiring to rig bids on a USAID-funded construction contract for work in Cairo, Egypt in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Harbert International Inc. participated in a joint venture that bid on and was awarded the contract to build a sewer system. To keep the bidding system fair and ensure the government gets the best price on its contracts, parties bidding on a federal contract are prohibited from colluding or rigging the bids in any way. Nevertheless, according to the complaint, various Harbert entities made agreements with other potential bidders to be sure that their joint venture would have the winning bid. The DOJ alleges that other potential bidders agreed not to bid or submitted intentionally high bids in exchange for a payoff from the Harbert entities.
Like many cases of fraud, this bid-rigging scheme was first brought to light when a whistleblower filed a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the government. Richard F. Miller, who blew the whistle on the Harbert bid-rigging scheme, will get a share of the recovery. Because whistleblowers are so valuable in uncovering fraud, the False Claims Act provides that a whistleblower is entitled to a portion of any recovery based on his or her allegations.
Waters & Kraus is a national firm with highly skilled lawyers practicing qui tam litigation in four offices, including Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore. Our attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing whistleblowers in a variety of fraud cases. Contact us or call our attorneys at 800.226.9880 to learn more about our practice and how we can assist.