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US intervenes in suits against Hewlett-Packard, Accenture and Sun Microsystems

The United States Dept. of Justice announced that it has intervened in three whistleblower suits alleging that Hewlett-Packard, Accenture LLP, and Sun Microsystems Inc. violated the False Claims Act.

The suits, originally filed under the qui tam provisions of the FCA, allege that defendants made payments to a number of companies with whom they had global “alliance relationships.” The government’s lawsuit contends the relationships and resulting “alliance benefits” that were paid amounted to kickbacks and raised undisclosed conflicts of interest.

The government complaints outline how Sun and HP paid millions of dollars annually either in cash or rebates to companies that sold their products to the government, without the knowledge of government negotiators. Accenture, in contrast, received millions of dollars in kickbacks, according to prosecutors.

Companies alleged to have received “influencer fees” from HP include Accenture, BearingPoint, Capgemini Ernst & Young, Electronic Data Systems, GTSI, Northrop Grumman, and Science Application International. Accenture is the only one accused of any wrongdoing. HP also paid partners rebates for buying products and then reselling them to the government. Under federal rules, the rebates should have been disclosed.

Sun allegedly engaged in similar conduct and is also accused of deceiving the government in contracts for general purpose IT equipment, software maintenance, and professional services. Prosecutors claim Sun didn’t tell the GSA it was charging some commercial customers less, in violation of contract clauses.

Accenture, acting as a consultant for the government, allegedly accepted kickbacks in the form of “system integrator compensation,” rebates, and marketing assistance fees. The company earned all three from Sun and HP, according to the complaint.

The DOJ released an April 19, 2007 press release on the intervention. Information Week ran an April 23, 2007 article on the suits.

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