30 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
not been reported, though mandated by law. These hidden complications
included 12 deaths. Guidant subsequently paid $92.4 million in criminal
and civil penalties, the largest fine levied to date for violating the FDA’s
medical device reporting requirements (Jacobs, 2003).
A recent example of exposing dangerous behavior to superiors and the
public occurred on October 24, 2004. On this day, Army Corp of Engineers
Contracting Director Bunnatine Greenhouse sent a letter to the acting
Army Secretary and copies to Congress and the news media. Greenhouse
has a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in mathematics and a Master of
Science (M.S.) in engineering management. Her letter detailed that the
Corp had shown a pattern of favoritism toward Halliburton that imperiled
“the integrity of the federal contracting program.
In March 2003, Greenhouse saw no reason why the Corps awarded
Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), without competition,
a 5-year, $7 billion contract to repair oil fields. In December 2003, Corps lead-
ers went behind her back to issue a legal document approving the unusually
high prices KBR had charged for fuel imports to Iraq. These prices are now
calculated by Pentagon auditors as being inflated by at least $61 million and
are the subject of criminal inquiries. In early 2004 she questioned why an
expiring Halliburton logistics contract in the Balkans had to be extended
from the original term of 4 years for an extra 11 months and $165 million on
the grounds that no other company could do the job on time.
The Pentagon began an investigation and promised to protect Green-
house’s position (Eckholm, 2004). Halliburton has denied any wrongdoing.
Exposure of alleged impropriety is not covered by OSHA whistleblower
protection because OSHA complaint procedures were not followed.
A person may also act as an observer of ethical dilemmas in an organi-
zation in which he or she is not employed. In this section, we discuss
applicable legislation, procedures, and examples of persons fighting for
external change.
If a citizen has evidence of fraud (excluding tax fraud) against government
contracts and programs, the citizen may sue, on behalf of the government,
in order to recover the stolen funds. The violator is liable for three times
the dollar amount the government was defrauded and for civil penalties of
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Options for Action When an Engineering Ethics Threshold Is Reached 31
$5500 to $11,000 for each false claim. In compensation for the risk and effort
of filing a qui tam case, the observer conscience is rewarded a portion of the
funds recovered, typically 15 to 25%.The term qui tam comes from the Latin
phrase, “Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro sic ipso in hoc parte sequitur,
which translates to, “He who sues for the king in this matter sues for himself
as well.
The qui tam section is the first section of the False Claims Act, a Civil
War–era law that Congress rejuvenated in 1986 with amendments in
order to fight rampant government fraud. In the second section of this
Act, discharge or harassment of the citizen filing the qui tam suit is
prohibited. In response to discharge or harassment, the citizen may file
a wrongful discharge suit for double back pay and other damages. This
antiretaliation provision was modeled after other whistleblower laws.
From 1986 to 2003, False Claims Act settlements and judgments totaled
more than $12 billion. In fiscal year 2003 alone, a record $2.1 billion was
recovered under the False Claims Act (FCALC, 2004).
Observer protection procedures range from False Claims Act proce-
dures to anonymous complaint filing.
False Claims Act Complaint Filing
A qui tam complaint must be filed within the later of two time periods:
(1) 6 years from the date of the violation of the Act, or (2) 3 years after the
government knows or should have known about the violation, but in no
event longer than 10 years after the violation of the Act. The citizen filing
must be the first to file for this violation. The complaint must be in federal
district court, in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Additionally, a copy of the complaint, along with a written disclosure state-
ment of all material evidence the citizen possesses, must be served on the
attorney general of the United States and should be served on the U.S.
attorney for the district in which the action is brought.
The complaint will remain in strict confidence for at least 60 days,
during which time the government will investigate allegations. If the
government intervenes and proceeds, the Department of Justice will
have the primary responsibility for prosecuting the case. The time from
government intervention to case settlement varies; some cases are
settled within 1 year (FCALC, 2004).
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