Illinois-based Hardware Distributor W.W. Grainger Pays US $70 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
W.W. Grainger Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $70 million to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims under contracts with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Postal Services (USPS), the Department of Justice announced today. Grainger is a national hardware distributor headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Grainger entered into a contract to sell hardware products and other supplies to government customers through the GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program. The MAS program provides the government and other GSA-authorized purchasers with a streamlined process for procurement of commonly-used commercial goods and services. To be awarded a MAS contract, and thereby gain access to the broad government marketplace, contractors must agree to disclose their commercial pricing policies and practices to assist the government in negotiating the terms of the MAS contract.
Today’s settlement resolves issues discovered during a GSA post-award audit of Grainger’s MAS contract. The GSA Office of Inspector General learned that Grainger failed to meet its contractual obligations to provide the GSA with current, accurate and complete information about its commercial sales practices, including discounts afforded to other customers. As a result, government customers purchasing items under the Grainger MAS contract paid higher prices than they should have.
In addition, today’s settlement resolves allegations that Grainger failed to meet its contractual obligations to provide “most-favored customer” pricing under two USPS contracts for sanitation and maintenance supplies. The USPS contracts required Grainger to treat USPS as Grainger’s “most-favored customer” by ensuring that USPS received the best overall discount that Grainger offered to any of its commercial customers. Agents and auditors from the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated Grainger’s pricing practices and discovered that Grainger did not consistently adhere to this requirement, causing USPS to pay more than it should have for purchases made under the two contracts.
“Misrepresentations during contract negotiations undermine the integrity of the government procurement process,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that government purchasers of commercial products receive the prices to which they are entitled.”
“The substantial payment by Grainger reflects the Justice Department’s focused and productive work in the economic interests of our citizen constituents,” commented United States Attorney James L. Santelle of the Eastern District of Wisconsin. “This settlement shows that we are committed to ensuring that false claims are investigated fully and pursued effectively so that government monies are used properly and the integrity of our contracting system is upheld.”
“This case is another demonstration of the value of the work performed by Inspectors General ,” said GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller. “Our auditors and agents worked tirelessly to reach this critical settlement.”
“The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General aggressively pursues instances of contracting improprieties that negatively impact the Postal Service and cause unnecessary expenses. We appreciate the partnership of the Civil Divisions of the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for their support in this case,” said Joanne Yarbrough, Special Agent-in-Charge of the OIG’s Major Fraud Investigations Division.
This settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin; the GSA Office of Inspector General; and the USPS Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.