Brian Markus, a former employee at Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc., will be awarded $2.61 million for his role as a qui tam whistleblower in a False Claims Act case. In the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) press release, two U.S. Attorneys highlighted the importance of whistleblowers in cybersecurity enforcement.
The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act enable private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government if they know of an individual or company defrauding the government. Qui tam whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 15 and 30% of the government’s recovery, if one occurs.
Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. is a company headquartered in California that “provides propulsion and power systems for launch vehicles, missiles and satellites and other space vehicles to the Department of Defense, NASA and other federal agencies,” the press release states. The company allegedly “misrepresent[ed] its compliance with cybersecurity requirements in certain federal government contracts.”
Markus, the whistleblower, and Aerojet “reached a settlement of the case on the second day of trial,” according to the press release. Markus both filed and litigated the lawsuit against Aerojet.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton praised whistleblowers, stating: “Whistleblowers with inside information and technical expertise can provide crucial assistance in identifying knowing cybersecurity failures and misconduct.”
“The qui tam action brought by Mr. Markus is an example of how whistleblowers can contribute to civil enforcement of cybersecurity requirements through the False Claims Act,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California said in the press release.
The press release also contains information about the DOJ’s Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative, which the Deputy Attorney General established in October of 2021. The Initiative “aims to hold accountable entities or individuals that put U.S information or systems at risk by knowingly providing deficient cybersecurity products or services, knowingly misrepresenting their cybersecurity practices or protocols, or knowingly violating obligations to monitor and report cybersecurity incidents and breaches.”
Whistleblowers are key to uncovering fraud and corruption in all industries. In Fiscal Year 2021, qui tam whistleblowers helped the DOJ recover $1.6 billion in settlements.