WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Texas highway construction firm has agreed to pay the United States $3 million to resolve claims that it knowingly violated the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contracting requirements on federally-funded Texas highway construction projects, the Justice Department announced today. The Department of Transportation (DOT) program provides a vehicle for increasing the participation by women and minority businesses in state and local procurement.
Houston-based Williams Brothers Construction Company agreed to pay the government to settle False Claims Act and administrative claims involving the illegal exercise of control over two concrete-supply companies, DDS Aggregates of Austin and ANT Enterprises of Houston. Williams Brothers also settled claims that it violated the law by claiming DBE contracting credit for lease expenses incurred by ANT and DDS for equipment owned by 59 North, LLC, an affiliate of Williams Brothers.
Williams Brothers acts as a prime contractor on numerous federally-funded highway construction contracts in Texas. Under these contracts, Williams Brothers is required to comply with DOT’s DBE regulations and accurately report contracting that falls under the program regulations to obtain and maintain the construction contracts.
“It is essential that government contractors adhere to contract requirements,” said Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The federal government relies on the honesty of its contractors to provide accurate billing information.”
In addition to the $3 million payment to resolve civil claims, Williams Brothers has also entered into a separate administrative agreement with the Department of Transportation involving the hiring of a DBE compliance monitor and an agreement by Williams Brothers to voluntarily contribute assistance and other services to the Texas Department of Transportation’s DBE Supportive Services Program.
“The government will not tolerate violations in the pursuit of profits," said Chuck Rosenberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. "Contractors are not free to ignore their obligations."
The government’s investigation was conducted by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Highway Administration.