Back in 2009, a former employee of ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) by the name of James Gordon, walked into the U.S. District Court for D.C. and filed a complaint against his employer for retaliating against him after he had complained about ethics and legal violations at the U.S. Embassies in Kabul Afghanistan and Bahrain.
The former complaint stated that the company retaliated against him in violation of the False Claims Act.
The problems that Gordon initially reported included both mischarging the U.S. Department of State for services which weren’t actually rendered, and multiple ethics violations by employees of AGNA.
Allegations Against AGNA
These charges included all of the following:
–> AGNA did not properly staff the Kabul embassy in order to provide the level of security outlined in the company’s contract with the Department of State.
–>AGNA employees were allowed to visit local brothels that were well-known for using trafficked women as employees, in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
–>AGNA cut costs by substituting refurbished Iraqi vehicles in place of armored vehicles for transporting goods to and from the Kabul Embassy.
According to Gordon, when he reported all of these issues to upper management, he was immediately demoted and “harassed.”
In a July 7th press release, the company’s version of events surrounding the allegations are as follows:
“This case involves allegations made by a former employee. The company’s investigation and the investigation of the Government both confirmed that these allegations arose largely from a personal animosity of that former employee toward AGNA’s supervisor of the work at the Embassy – another former employee who is named specifically in the Complaint, Mr. Nick Du Plessis. Based on the company’s review conducted as part of this case, Mr. Du Plessis was, in fact, an effective leader who played a key role in keeping the Embassy secure, and has been disparaged unfairly by the allegations.”
However, the company’s claims are misleading, because this wasn’t the first time such charges were brought against the firm.
Earlier Allegations Against AGNA Were Silenced With a Settlement
In 2008, two former project managers – James Sauer and Peter Martino – also filed civil compaints against the company for much the same reason Gordon did. In those cases, the two managers issued complaints about fraudulent representations. The company settled with the two former employees out of court, and part of the agreement was that they would not speak to the press about those allegations any further.
While the company claims that James Gordon’s charges were unwarranted, a quick glance at his background suggests that the man is quite credible. He served for four years as an Officer in the South African Defense Force, seven years as an Officer in the New Zealand Army, and has worked in high-level positions for multiple defense security companies serving the Iraq region.
It appears that Gordon was not prepared for the sort of unethical conduct he would witness upon accepting a position with ArmorGroup Iraq in 2004.
In his lawsuit, he reported one example in 2007 when AGNA fired two staff from the guard force, Gordon had told the Contracting Officer’s Representative, “For now we are OK but if one person gets sick or slips on a banana peel the whole thing falls apart like a cheap suit.”
According to Gordon, the Contracting Officer’s reply was, “Lock up the banana supply.”
After Gordon filed the lawsuit in 2009, the case was placed under seal while the U.S. Justice Department reviewed the allegations. Finally, on April 29, 2011, the United States government decided to join the suit.
AGNA Settles the Case For $7.5 Million
Three months later, in July of 2011, the company agreed to pay the United States $7.5 million to resolve all of the allegations and settle the lawsuit. Having filed the case under provisions of the False Claims Act, James Gordon is entitled to a portion of the settlement – $1.35 million to be exact.
The threat of unscrupulous companies wasting taxpayer dollars is not lost upon U.S. Officials. Tony West, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division reported in a DoJ press release:
“These contracts are put in place to provide essential support to personnel who are serving in our missions overseas. The Department of Justice will actively pursue its legal remedies where contractors falsely claim taxpayer dollars for services that fall short of material requirements in their government contracts.”
Unfortunately, the $7.5 million settlement amounts to a slap on the wrist for a major defense contractor, and it does not resolve the issue of what led to a sort of culture where management could accept mis-charging the U.S. for services, and where workers felt that it was okay to visit a brothel where trafficked women were known to be held.
These issues have become more prevalent as the United States “outsources” it’s security needs to Corporations where the prime motivator is the bottom line. This transition to for-profit Corporations responsible for the security of foreign U.S. personnel appears to be leaving those personnel at the mercy of Corporate management decisions and practices.
If the AGNA allegations are any indication, those decisions are apparently not always made with security in mind.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com