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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

U.S. Investigations Services Agrees to Forego at Least $30 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

Contractor Allegedly Failed to Perform Required Quality Control Reviews on Contracts for Background Investigations with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The Justice Department announced today that U.S. Investigations Services Inc. (USIS) and its parent company, Altegrity, have agreed to settle allegations that USIS violated the False Claims Act (FCA) for conduct involving a contract for background investigations that USIS held with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  The companies have agreed to forgo their right to collect payments that they claim were owed by OPM, valued at least at $30 million, in exchange for a release of liability under the FCA.  USIS and Altegrity are headquartered in Northern Virginia.   

From its privatization in 1996 until September 2014, USIS provided background investigations services for OPM under various fieldwork contracts.  The government alleged that beginning in at least March 2008 and continuing through at least September 2012, USIS deliberately circumvented contractually required quality reviews of completed background investigations in order to increase the company’s revenues and profits.  Specifically, USIS allegedly devised a practice referred to internally as “dumping” or “flushing,” which involved releasing cases to OPM and representing them as complete when, in fact, not all the reports of investigations comprising those cases had received a contractually-required quality review.  The government contended that, relying upon USIS’ false representations, OPM issued payments and contract incentives to USIS that it would not otherwise have issued had OPM been aware that the background investigations had not gone through the quality review process required by the contracts.

“Shortcuts taken by any company that we have entrusted to conduct background investigations of future and current federal employees are unacceptable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Justice Department will ensure that those who do business with the government provide all of the services for which we bargained.”   

“Contractors who do business for the federal government have a responsibility to provide the goods and services that they promise,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia.  “This particular company failed to meet its obligations of comprehensively reviewing the backgrounds of current and prospective federal employees.  This settlement demonstrates our commitment to holding government contractors accountable.”

“This case demonstrates my office’s dedication to protecting tax payers’ money,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama.  “We will continue to vigorously pursue all fraud against the government in order to restore and safeguard funds paid by our citizens.”

In February 2015, Altegrity, USIS and their affiliates filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in Delaware.  The settlement of USIS’ FCA liability is part of a broader settlement that also resolves other matters between the United States and USIS/Altegrity that were part of the bankruptcy proceeding.

The FCA lawsuit against USIS was originally filed under the whistleblower provisions of the act by Blake Percival, a former executive at USIS.  The FCA prohibits the submission of false claims for government money or property and, under the act’s whistleblower provisions, a private party may file suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The United States may elect to intervene and take over the case, as it did here.  Mr. Percival’s share of the settlement has not yet been determined. 

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama, OPM and OPM’s Office of Inspector General. 

The claims resolved by the settlement agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.  The case is United States of America, ex rel., Blake Percival, v. U.S. Investigations Services, LLC, No. 14-cv-00726-RMC (D.D.C.).

Updated August 19, 2015