Fluor Whistleblower Draws “First Blood”

Last week, the Department of Justice announced it had intervened in a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that federal contractor Fluor Corporation improperly used federal funds for lobbying activities. The lawsuit was originally filed in February 2011 by whistleblower Loydene Rambo.

The Byrd Amendment prohibits contractors from using federal funds to influence or attempt to influence the executive branch or Congress in connection with the awarding, extension, continuation, renewal, amendment, or modification of a federal contract. Contractors are required to certify (FAR Subpart 52.203-11) that they will comply with this lobbying restriction.

The government alleges that Fluor, while managing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington State, spent DOE funds to lobby Congress and executive branch officials to secure additional appropriations and contracts for the Volpentest HAMMER (Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response) Training Facility at the site.

Rambo’s complaint actually accuses two contractors of engaging in improper lobbying—Fluor and Mission Support Alliance, LLC (MSA), a joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Jacobs Engineering Group, and Wackenhut that succeeded Fluor in 2009 as Hanford’s managing contractor. Rambo, who worked for Fluor from 2001 to 2009 and MSA from 2009 to 2010, claims that both contractors spent a combined total of roughly $670,000 in DOE funds between 2005 and 2010 to retain lobbyists from the firms Congressional Strategies, LLC and Secure Horizons Consulting, LLC. The government, which only joined the part of the lawsuit pertaining to Fluor, will file its own complaint within the next 120 days.

A Fluor spokesman told POGO that the company “vigorously denies” the allegations made in the case.

Fifteen of Fluor’s 34 instances in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database involve misconduct at Hanford, including whistleblower reprisal, safety violations, and contract fraud. The last time POGO blogged about Fluor was in July, when two instances involving its work in Iraq popped up in the news in the same week. First, a former Fluor employee was sentenced to prison for conspiring to steal military generators in Iraq and sell them on the black market. A few days later, it was announced that a Dallas jury returned a nearly $19 million verdict against the company in a negligence lawsuit filed by a civilian contractor who was severely burned while showering at a Fluor-managed facility in Iraq.

Image from Department of Energy.