A whistleblower lawsuit accusing a NASA contractor of failing to meet its contractual obligations in proving ground support systems for two space missions has led to a $375,000 settlement with the U.S. government.
California-based United Paradyne Corporation agreed to settle the allegations made by former employee Steven Walker under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. The Act allows private individuals and other parties to sue on behalf of the United States in cases of fraud and other misconduct targeting federal agencies and programs.
NASA Office of Inspector General investigated and supported the whistleblower allegations, which revolved around United Paradyne’s agreement to provide NASA with equipment designed to support NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion space capsule for the Artemis program. NASA’s findings prompted the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to intervene in the case.
According to the DOJ, NASA contracted United Paradyne to manufacture five Hydraulic Accumulator Rack Assembly Swing Arm Systems for the mobile launch system for the Artemis moon missions at Kennedy Space Center.
The swing-arm systems would serve as umbilical connections to the rocket and Orion capsule, providing them with power, communications, coolant, fuel and stabilization prior to launch. The equipment will also be used on NASA’s Artemis II mission and Orion flight with astronauts in 2022.
The whistleblower lawsuit alleged that the equipment United Paradyne delivered to NASA failed to meet its contractual requirements. Specifically, the company delivered the five accumulator racks between Aug. 11 and Oct. 19, 2015, but failed to clean the racks, failed to verify cleanliness, and failed to maintain cleanliness throughout testing phases and final inspection as it was required to do.
Additionally, the whistleblower complaint asserts that United Paradyne falsely certified that it had met NASA’s requirements for the equipment.
“Violating NASA’s contractual requirements raises danger and risks to our space program and its personnel as well as harms the integrity of the federal contracting process,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to enforcing federal law and ensuring a system of fair play for all government contractors.”
Whistleblowers whose False Claims Act lawsuits lead to a judgment or recovery are paid up to 25% of the total recovery as an award in cases that the DOJ actively backs or up to 30% in cases the government declines to litigate.
According to the DOJ, Mr. Walker will receive $75,000 (20%) of the United Paradyne settlement.
Beasley Allen has an experienced group of lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases. Lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team are Larry Golston, Lance Gould, Paul Evans, Leslie Pescia, Leon Hampton, Tyner Helms and Lauren Miles.