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Can companies hide possible fraud through compliance investigations?

An investigation is privileged, according to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, as long as “one of the significant purposes” of the inquiry was to obtain or provide legal advice.

There is likely going to be an appeal of a recent decision by a three-judge panel regarding Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a defense contractor, and whistleblowing over alleged fraud.

Harry Barko, a former employee of KBR, alleges KBR was involved in fraud during the Iraq war. He claimed there was fraud in a multibillion-dollar program related to U.S. military bases in Iraq. Barko made an internal complaint about his concerns, which led to his computer getting confiscated “at the request of the company’s legal department in Houston,” according to a report from The Washington Post. He later filed a lawsuit against KBR and Halliburton, which at the time was its parent company.

The Kellogg Brown & Root decision was made by a three-judge appeals court panel on June 27, and the internal corporate compliance records in this case showed widespread fraud, according to allegations. The documents revealed possible bid-rigging, conflicts of interest, and overcharging by KBR.

“If the Court’s initial ruling is sustained, companies will be able to use compliance investigations to hide fraud and discredit whistleblowers,” Kohn said in a statement.

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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