Federal Judge Awards Qui Tam Whistleblower $168,000 in Attorneys Fees

On April 29, a federal judge awarded $168,000 in attorneys fees and costs to a whistleblower who filed a qui tam lawsuit against a scientific instrument technology company alleging allegations of the Buy American Act (BAA). The whistleblower’s suit resulted in a $625,000 False Claims Act settlement between Instec Inc. and the U.S. Department of Justice in September of 2022.

The BAA creates a preference for domestic products when the government purchases supplies. In 2020, a former employee of Instec Inc. filed a qui tam suit against the company and its owner alleging that they falsely certified to the government that scientific instruments it produced in China were domestic products. 

In September 2022, the DOJ announced that it had reached a $625,000 settlement with Instec and its owner to settle the whistleblower’s allegations. The whistleblower received $124,500 (19.92%) as the relator’s share of the DOJ settlement. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are eligible for 15-30% of the funds collected in a qui tam settlement.

Litigation in the case continued over whether the whistleblower was entitled to attorney fees and on April 29, a federal judge awarded $168,000 in attorneys fees and costs.

“This case demonstrates how important it is for whistleblowers who report fraud by government contractors to be fully compensated under the False Claims Act,” said David K. Colapinto, a founding partner of the Washington, D.C. whistleblower law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, and co-counsel for the whistleblower.

“I am honored to have worked with Dave Colapinto and his team at KKC to bring this matter to a successful conclusion and, together with our courageous client, to assist federal prosecutors and investigators in holding this federal defense and technology contractor accountable for violating federal contract-related laws,” stated Colapinto’s co-counsel, former federal prosecutor Kenneth M. Harmon, principal of the Colorado-based Law Office of Kenneth M. Harmon, LLC.

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