DoJ steps in to false claims lawsuit against Symantec

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 2:16pm EDT

By Stephanie Wasko
Special to Federal News Radio

The Justice Department joined the whistleblower lawsuit against Symantec Corporation on Tuesday. The department accused the technology contractor of providing inaccurate prices to the General Services Administration, thus, violating the False Claims Act.

"This lawsuit demonstrates the government's commitment to ensuring that the companies it does business with act with integrity," said assistant attorney general Stuart Delery for the Department of Justice's civil division in a press release. "When the United States spends taxpayer dollars based on contractors' representations about their business practices, we expect to be given complete and accurate information."

Symantec sells a variety of computer security products. The Fortune 500 company has sold software directly to federal purchasers through a Multiple Awards Schedule contract with GSA, DoJ stated. This contract lasting from 2007 to 2012 involved hundreds of millions of dollars of sales, according to the report.

The case claims Symantec knowingly gave GSA wrong information regarding commercial prices, resulting in the agency negotiating a contract costing more than some non- government contracts, according to the press release.

Symantec responded to the press release in an email statement to Federal News Radio.

"At Symantec we take compliance rules seriously and believe we followed all GSA Schedule and state contract program rules. We have fully cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, which Symantec was alerted to and first publicly disclosed in June 2012," said Noah Edwardsen, Symantec's corporate communications manager, in the email. "We deny any wrongdoing and are confident the prices paid by the government for Symantec products and services were fair and reasonable."

But GSA is saying otherwise.

GSA acting inspector general Robert Erickson said contractors cannot provide GSA with inaccurate and incomplete pricing data. "American taxpayers deserve a fair deal," he said.

Symantec also allegedly failed to update GSA of improved commercial discounts and to apply those same discounts to the government contracts, according to the press release, violating GSA's price reduction clause.

DoJ stated the lawsuit was filed as "qui tam" under the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to sue for false claims on the government's behalf. This provision allows the "whistleblower" to receive a share of any recovery money, according to the report, and also permits the government to intercede in the case as DoJ has done with Symantec. The press release stated the lawsuit still pending in the District of Columbia.

The government has seen many False Claims lawsuits over the years and collected more than $3.8 billion through the False Claims Act cases in 2013 and more than $17 billion since 2009, according to DoJ. The department recently filed a similar lawsuit, sparked by a whistleblower, against CA technologies for misrepresenting their prices to the government.

The Civil Division's Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and GSA's Inspector General investigated the Symantec case.

"At Symantec we take compliance rules seriously and believe we followed all GSA Schedule and state contract program rules. We have fully cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, which Symantec was alerted to and first publicly disclosed in June 2012," said Noah Edwardsen, Symantec's corporate communications manager, in an email to Federal News Radio. "We deny any wrongdoing and are confident the prices paid by the government for Symantec products and services were fair and reasonable."

Stephanie Wasko is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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