In September, 2016, the government decided to intervene in a qui tam whistleblower suit initiated by a former employee, Deborah Cook, of Energy & Process Corporation (E&P) of Tucker, Georgia. According to the allegations in the case Cook brought, E&P was a supplier of faulty rebar (reinforcement bar) for South Carolina’s Savannah River nuclear processing site, located near Aiken.
The federal government paid E&P millions of dollars—the contract stated $11.5 million—to provide the needed nuclear-construction grade rebar because the plant was intended to process nuclear waste. The Savannah River Site, also called the MOX Facility, was required to be able to endure earthquakes. It is alleged that one-third of the rebar was defective even though E&P certified that quality assurance requirements had been met. Instead of nuclear-construction grade rebar, E&P delivered commercial-grade rebar.
It is further alleged that E&P supplied commercial-grade steel that cost them roughly $750 per ton, the market price at the time. However, the government was charged $3,400 per ton. Therefore, supposedly E&P not only provided substandard materials, creating a greater risk of a nuclear accident at the MOX Facility, it also charged the government almost five times the market price for the materials delivered.
Without whistleblower Cook, these allegations might never have come to light, and the MOX Facility would have put many people at risk.
The government, according to U.S. Attorney John Horn of the Northern District of Georgia, intends to hold E&P liable if the suit’s claims are valid. He commented, “To ensure that the nuclear facility would be safe, the government paid E&P a sizable premium for exhaustive quality control procedures. This lawsuit alleges that E&P intentionally failed to perform the quality control work, and then concealed its failing by providing false certifications to the government. In intervening in this lawsuit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeks to ensure that entities that defraud the government are identified and held responsible.”
As the case is ongoing, there has been no determination of liability on E&P’s part and no award specified for the whistleblower. However, should it be decided in favor of the government, Ms. Cook would be eligible for an award of between 15 and 30 percent of the judgment or settlement. The exact percentage would be decided by the court.
A nuclear disaster is almost unimaginable when it comes to its possible ramifications and the scope of death and destruction. Whistleblowers are urgently needed in cases where the public safety is put at great risk.
Making a difference.
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case; government intervention can sometimes increase the chances of recovering reward money. Even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case without government involvement. Our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.