Government intervenes in false claims suit against CH2M Hill

Government intervenes in false claims suit against CH2M Hill
In this April 3, 2008 file photo, a sign warns of radiation on the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland, Wash. In a remote pocket of the Northwest, World War II weapons production and storage built a booming economy that continued through the Cold War and into cleanup and disposal of nerve gas, plutonium and radioactive waste. Those activities are wrapping up at northeast Oregon's Umatilla Chemical Depot and southeast Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation, meaning a change for a region whose economy has long been fueled by federal dollars. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

US DOJ NEWS RELEASE -- The government has intervened in a lawsuit against CH2M Hill Hanford Group Inc. (CH2M Hill) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, the Department of Justice announced Friday.  CH2M Hill is a subsidiary of CH2M Hill Companies Ltd., a Colorado-based engineering and construction services company. 

Between 1999 and 2008, CH2M Hill was a U.S. Department of Energy prime contractor responsible for the management and cleanup of over 170 underground storage tanks containing mixed radioactive and hazardous waste at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Site in southeastern Washington.   The lawsuit filed by Mr. Schroeder alleges that numerous CH2M Hill hourly employees regularly and substantially overstated the number of hours that they worked.  The complaint also alleges that CH2M Hill management knowingly condoned this practice and submitted inflated claims to the Department of Energy that included the fraudulently claimed hours. 

Eight former CH2M Hill employees, including Mr. Schroeder, have pled guilty to felony charges stemming from the time card fraud. 

The lawsuit was originally filed under the False Claims Act by Carl Schroeder, a former employee of CH2M Hill.  Five former CH2M Hill employees, including Mr. Schroeder, have pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from the time card mischarging. A sixth CH2M Hill employee has also been charged and is scheduled to enter a guilty plea later this month.

The False Claims Act authorizes private parties to sue on behalf of the United States and authorizes the United States to intervene in such a suit and take over responsibility for litigating it. Although the act generally authorizes the whistleblower who initiated the suit to share in any recovery, it also bars recovery by any whistleblower who is convicted of criminal conduct for his role in the fraud/ The United States has notified the court that it expects to file a motion to dismiss Mr. Schroeder from the action on the basis of is criminal conduct. Mr. Schroder’s lawsuit is captioned U.S. ex rel. Schroeder v. CH2M Hill, 09-cv-5038.

The claims asserted in this case are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.  The case is being handled by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, with the assistance of the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General.