A federal judge has overturned a jury’s verdict in favor of an Interior Department whistle-blower. The whistle-blower, who was an auditor at the department, charged that the Kerr-McGee Corporation cheated the government out of millions of dollars of royalties for oil and gas the company pumped in publicly owned coastal waters.
The judge ruled that the former auditor was not eligible to sue Kerr-McGee as a private citizen under the False Claims Act because he had gathered most of his evidence while on the job. As an employee of the department, he was required to disclose that evidence to the government, which he did. The judge ruled that the “involuntarily disclosed” information could not later be “voluntarily disclosed,” as required by the False Claims Act. The judge also found that Maxwell was also precluded from bringing the suit under the public disclosure bar.
We reported on the jury verdict on February 2, 2007.
The New York Times (subscription required) story on the judge’s ruling ran on April 3, 2007.