The Department of Justice has joined a whistleblower lawsuit that accuses The Gallup Organization of overbilling federal agencies for polling services for government programs.
The whistleblower's 2009 complaint, unsealed for the first time today, claims Gallup gave inflated estimates to the U.S. Mint and the State Department for the number of hours the company would take to conduct polls. The polling and consulting company kept separate and lower internal estimates of the required hours, the complaint states.
The DOJ had been negotiating a possible settlement with Gallup earlier this month in the False Claims Act case, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Amy Berman Jackson has, for now, kept under seal other documents besides the complaint and DOJ notice of intervention.
The DOJ also indicated in court records that it plans to assert additional claims related to Gallup's subcontract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which relate to allegations in the whistleblower lawsuit about negotiating for funding from the agency, a department press release states.
"Contractors who do business with the federal government must honor their obligations to provide honest services and products," U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. said in a written statement. "Working with relators and federal investigators, we will do all that we can to act against those who illegitimately bill the American taxpayers."
The plaintiff, Michael Lindley, claims he was fired after 17 months as director of client services at "the most trusted name in polling," because he told his bosses in 2009 that he would have to go to the DOJ since he was unsuccessful in getting the company to stop the misconduct.
A Gallup spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.
The DOJ says that the plaintiffs in qui tam lawsuits are entitled to receive a share of any funds recovered through the lawsuit. The False Claims Act authorizes the United States to intervene in such a lawsuit and take over primary responsibility for litigating it. The False Claims Act allows for recovery of three times the government's losses, plus civil penalties.
The lawsuit was brought on Lindley’s behalf by law firms Vogel, Slade & Goldstein in Washington and Katz, Marshall & Banks.