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Construction Fraud Whistleblower Lawyers

Construction fraud against the government is one of the most common areas of fraud and may cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

Witnessed fraud on the government?

The government spends billions of dollars on construction of roads, bridges, buildings, military complexes, hospitals, schools, and more. Too frequently, those projects are the targets of fraud against the government.

You may recognize construction fraud in many forms. Sometimes you may simply observe it on the job site. It can be that obvious. However, spotting other kinds of construction fraud may require knowing the contract terms, vendors, market conditions, and more. The depth and breadth of the law, terms of the contract, and prevailing market may all play a role.

If you think something is wrong, there may very well be fraud happening. Don’t simply wait and watch. Contact us. Let’s talk it through. We know the law and its complexities. What you’re seeing may be nothing, or it may be a multimillion-dollar scam against taxpayers.

Want to dig deeper? Let’s start at the beginning.

The federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) and similar state laws provide protection for, and potentially significant financial incentives to, whistleblowers who take appropriate legal action. Using their inside knowledge of illegal practices, these whistleblowers are often the last line of defense between taxpayers and scam artists.

What is construction fraud?

State and federal governments spend billions every year to build a wide variety of things, including:

  • Government, public, and military facilities and buildings
  • Infrastructure, like roads, bridges, and even utilities
  • Monuments and parks

The government is particularly vulnerable to construction fraud because there is so much money involved and often little oversight.

In FCA terms, “construction fraud” includes outright fraud and any contracting activity involving a contractor or subcontractor presenting false claims to a government agency to win a contract or get paid under the contract.

What are some common forms of construction fraud?

In the convoluted world of construction contracts and law, there are many ways fraudsters take a bite out of taxpayer money. If you recognize any of these activities, call us as soon as possible. Here are some common examples of construction fraud against the government. Some of these categories include vast arrays of illegal practices.

Bribery

Bribery is historically common. Paying someone in the government’s procurement side for favorable treatment is a violation of the law, including the FCA. More importantly, the whistleblower in this situation may be the only way to stop it. Also, note that bribery may be subtle – it doesn’t always involve a bag of money. Conferring benefits and other “perks” can constitute bribery.

If it sounds fishy, you may be on to something. Call us, and let’s talk through your suspicions.

Collusion, bid-rigging, and false estimates

Collusive bidding and bid-rigging are common and more difficult to spot because they often involve complicated corporate structures. If ABC Dynamics is bidding against XYZ Logistics, and far up the chain of ownership, they’re subsidiaries of the same parent company, they can collude to drive the bid price up. Similarly, companies may provide a false estimate by knowingly underbidding a contract to get the work and plan to bill the actual cost later on.

Billing for work not performed

Billing for work that is not performed may be the low-hanging fruit of construction fraud. Perhaps the contract stated that a utility line was to be buried six feet deep, but it was only buried four feet deep – a cheaper, faster result. Maybe the contract states that ten workers will be on-site for eight hours a day, six days a week, but there were never ten workers.

Inflating costs

Inflating costs and man-hours can be as simple as people billing for a few minutes they did not work or charging $0.03 for a screw when the screw only cost $0.025. These may seem like minor transgressions when considered alone, but the magnitude becomes apparent when you expand the scope. How many workers are billing for unworked time in a year? How many millions of screws were used in the project? After all, who’s going to notice? If you did, you could be the whistleblower that stops it.

False certification

False certification: Contracts often require that companies certify that they have completed a job or task before getting paid. FCA cases often involve allegations that contractors false certify compliance with contract specifications or other legal requirements.

For example, a contractor could be held liable for falsely certifying compliance with contract specifications if it uses a lower quality construction material than agreed in the contract. Or a contractor could be using less of something than prescribed – gravel, concrete, insulation, etc.
False certification of compliance with the numerous legal requirements governing federal contracts is more complicated. There are dozens of laws that may come into play depending on the particular type of contract and the method of fraud. A few examples:

  • By law, Small Business Administration set-aside contracts may only be awarded to businesses that meet specific requirements, such as veteran-owned, owned by minorities, or of a specified size. If a company gets one of these contracts without meeting the qualifications, it may be an FCA violation.
  • Commercial Sales Practice rules require specific types of contractors to disclose historical sales data for all products in their contract, including things like rebates. If a contractor bids on a contract knowing full well it will get a rebate on products and services and does not disclose that fact, they may have committed an FCA violation.
  • Price Reduction Clause compliance refers to the clauses in a General Services Administration contract meant to ensure that companies give the government their best customer price.
  • Buy America Act compliance means exactly what it says – some contracts must prefer American labor and materials over all others. Contractors must provide origin information for materials and labor. Some contractors may agree to these terms but look for avenues to cut costs and get around the requirement by falsifying the origin data.
  • Davis-Bacon Act compliance simply means paying workers on a federal contract the prevailing wage – and this is only one example of wage-related acts that can regulate government contracts. Underpaying workers can be an FCA violation.

Examples of construction fraud: Bid-rigging

The purpose of bidding on government contracts is to allow the contracting agency to select the best-value bid. Federal law typically requires actual competition among bidding construction companies.

In one type of scheme, several conspiring contractors may agree that one should win the bid, while the others refrain from bidding or submit bids that are likely to be rejected. In exchange, those contractors may be hired as subcontractors. This type of arrangement involves several layers of deception since a prime contractor is typically required to disclose the identities of subcontractors to the government agency.

Examples of construction fraud: False certification

A contractor is liable to complete work according to contract, including the work of subcontractors. The contractor is also required to bid in good faith. If it does not, it may be in trouble with the False Claims Act.

In a case handled by Bill Nettles when he was the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, a construction company paid to resolve claims that it had a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) do work on its road construction project, when the disadvantaged business actually subcontracted the work out.4

The Department of Transportation’s DBE program is meant to help women and minority contractors, who have faced historical barriers to entry in the construction industry, by providing fair opportunities to compete for federally funded work. In this case, which is an example of set-aside fraud, the whistleblower received 20% of the recovery.1,4

Who might commit construction fraud?

The most common type of defendant is a construction company that functions as the prime contractor in a government construction contract. However, a subcontractor may be liable if the government awarded a contract based on false information that originated with the subcontractor and was communicated to the government through the prime contractor. Company executives are also often defendants in FCA cases.

Regardless of the size of the company or your role in it, if you feel like something suspicious is happening and the government is being defrauded, contact us.

How do I report construction fraud?

There’s a right and wrong way to report fraud, especially if you want the protections offered by the federal False Claims Act or its state equivalents, if applicable. We urge you to speak with us first.

Whistleblower protection is powerful and something you should take advantage of for as long as possible. On top of that, we add our You-First Policy to help put our clients’ minds at ease and protect their best interests throughout the process of their whistleblower case.

How much money may a construction fraud whistleblower win?

The federal FCA allows a whistleblower to receive up to 30% of what the government recovers in a successful lawsuit brought by the whistleblower, depending on the government’s role in the case.

To qualify for this reward, a whistleblower (also known as the “relator”) must comply with a range of procedures, including several related to confidentiality and being the “original source” of the incriminating information. You’re in the best position to receive an award when you are first to bring fraud to the government’s attention.

In other words, a relator who wants to obtain an award should engage a construction fraud whistleblower attorney as soon as they suspect fraud to ensure all legal requirements are followed at every stage of the reporting and litigation.

Talk confidentially with a whistleblower lawyer

If you suspect construction fraud against the government, let’s talk. We are here to help put you at ease as we try to help you determine — confidentially and discreetly — if you should move forward with a whistleblower/qui tam claim. You’re not alone, and there’s no need to struggle with a decision. Our You-First Policy means we’re protecting your best interests and taking stress off you. We will try to protect you regardless of your involvement.

Contact us or call 1-888-292-8852.

If we decide to take your case and you don’t get a reward for reporting fraud, you owe us nothing.2

Awards we’ve won

For standards of inclusion for awards listed, visit bestlawyers.com, thenationaltriallawyers.org, superlawyers.com, farrin.com/business-nc-power-list, and millondollaradvocates.com. National Trial Lawyers Top 100 designation is for 2022. Regarding the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, we do not represent that similar results will be achieved in your case. Each case is different and must be evaluated separately. Firm award is for the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. Attorney awards are for attorneys with the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin.

Contact the Carolina
Whistleblower Attorneys

If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about what you know, let us set the record straight.

  • Corporate ethics hotlines can be risky and may lead to termination. If you’ve already done this, call us immediately.
  • Your coworkers could be aware of the fraud – or complicit in it – and you should not talk to them about it.
  • The first claim to be filed under the False Claims Act can proceed – if you’re not first, you’re at a serious disadvantage and may get nothing (another reason not to speak to your coworkers about it).
  • A confidential discussion costs you a few minutes, but could save you time, stress, and money.

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