On May 17, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Rhode Island announced that Zoll Medical Corporation, a Massachusetts based medical device manufacturer, agreed to pay $400,000 to resolve alleged False Claims Act (FCA) violations. The U.S. Attorney’s alleged that Zoll knowingly sold Chinese made electrocardiogram cables (“ECG”), which are used with defibrillators and cardiac monitors, to federal government purchasers, including the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the U.S. Attorney’s press release the Federal Trade Agreements Act requires that goods sold to the military or federal government purchasers must be made in America or certain designated foreign countries and that China is not such a country. In addition to failure to disclose, the government alleged that Zoll falsely claimed the ECGs were made in the United States.
“When corporations choose to supply the American military and American government agencies with goods, the law is clear: we expect those goods to be American made,” said U.S. Attorney Cunha. “When companies fail in their legal duty by substituting foreign products for the U.S-origin goods that the law requires, we will hold them accountable.”
The government acknowledges in its press release that the alleged FCA violations were brought to the authorities attention by the whistleblower Jing Zhang, a former employee of Zoll. Zhang filed a civil suit under the qui tam provision of the FCA. Qui tam claims 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. According to the settlement agreement, Zhang will receive $80,000 from the government and $35,000 from Zoll to cover expenses, attorney fees, and costs.
On June 1, the Supreme Court issued an unanimous ruling in a landmark False Claims Act case which whistleblower advocates say will help ensure the future efficacy of the law in fighting fraud.