3M Company Agrees To Pay $9.1 Million to Settle Qui Tam Lawsuit Alleging That It Supplied the U.S. Military With Defective Combat Earplugs
In a recently announced settlement, Minnesota-based 3M Company is resolving allegation that it knowingly sold the U.S. military defective earplugs to the tune of $9.1 million. 3M Company allegedly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) without disclosing the defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device. The original lawsuit was brought under qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions under the False Claims Act.
The United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly. As a result, the earplugs did not function properly for certain individuals. The government further alleged that this design defect was not disclosed to the military. “Today’s settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed,” said Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit, in a press release issued by the Justice Department. “Properly made safety equipment, for use by our Soldiers, is vital to our military’s readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military.”
Defense contract fraud can come in many different forms and remains one of the most active areas of false claims litigation. The False Claims Act has been an important tool in the fight against government programs fraud since it was first enacted to combat war profiteering during the Civil War. But the system depends on whistleblowers telling their story with the help of an experienced False Claims Act attorney. As a part of this case’s resolution, the whistleblower will receive approximately $1.9 million reward under a provision of the False Claims act that permits successful qui tam whistleblowers to receive between 15% and 30% of the amount recovered for the government
“This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for supplying substandard products, in particular products that could directly impact our service members’ health and welfare. DCIS protects the integrity of Defense Department programs by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively affect the wellbeing of our troops,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig, Jr., DCIS Mid-Atlantic Field Office, in the Justice Department’s press release.
While the claims have been resolved by the settlement, there has been no determination of liability.