Champion requests refilings of whistle-blower lawsuit

Company looks to remove references to former employee who pleaded guilty for falsifying evidence and lying to the government

After the October sentencing of William Burch to two years in prison for falsifying evidence and lying to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Champion Laboratories Inc. seeks to erase mentions of its former employee-turned-enemy who triggered the U.S. antitrust probe.

The oil filter maker and other companies, including Honeywell International Inc., requested a judge in Chicago Tuesday to require more than 50 class-action lawsuits to be refiled for the whistle-blower suit.

“We’re outraged that the illegal acts of one individual could result in a case like this being brought in the first place,” said Keith Zar, general counsel for UCI International Inc., which owns Champion. “We don’t believe that there is any evidence of price-fixing activity without Mr. Burch’s fabricated evidence.”

Burch was fired in January 2006 because of expense report fabrications, according to the company, and later filed a wrongful discharge lawsuit in retaliation, which Champion settled by paying Burch $450,000. However, the wrongful termination lawsuit was not enough for Burch, who filed a lawsuit based on the False Claims Act in March 2008, providing fake letters and doctored evidence to the DOJ, which opened a grand jury investigation in June 2008.

At the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Mary Crawley said Burch aimed to “deceive the antitrust division, to have a criminal investigation opened, to get his enemies prosecuted and then to make money out of the whole thing.”

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