ILNews

Humvee maker wins $277M

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A rush to equip troop-carrying Humvees with protective armor during the bloodiest days of the Iraq war resulted in millions of dollars in overcharges to the federal government for which the armor provider is liable, an Indiana judge ruled this month.

Humvee maker AM General LLC of Mishawaka is owed more than $277 million by the company that supplied kits for troops to retrofit the vehicles with armor in the field dating to 2004, and for armor installed on Humvees in later years, St. Joseph Superior Judge Michael P. Scopelitis ruled in AM General LLC v. BAE Systems Inc., et al., 71D07-0907-PL00195.

In a series of rulings including a 194-page order issued April 2, Scopelitis ordered British defense contractor BAE Systems to pay judgments totaling $277,939,519 to AM General for breach of contract and violations of most-favored customer clauses.

“We intend to proceed. Post trial we have a couple of options, a motion to correct error or a notice of appeal,” said Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP partner Karl Mulvaney, who has joined BAE’s appellate team. “We’re considering our options at this point and no decision has been made.”

Scopelitis’ April 2 order includes findings of fact that paint a picture of rampant overcharges from BAE and its predecessor companies that AM General passed on to the Army, even as AM General sought to determine true costs. Armor Holdings, which developed the retrofit armor kits, was purchased by BAE, and Armor Holdings’ executives received multi-million-dollar payments and retention bonuses, Scopelitis noted.

In April 2007, the Army required BAE to provide certified cost or pricing data to ensure that its profits were in line with those deemed reasonable for tank and vehicle purchases, generally between 5 and 15 percent. The Army’s insistence on accountability came during what would become the deadliest year of the war for American forces, when 899 service members died in Iraq.

“Because of the continuing conflict in Iraq, AMG and (the Army) faced a vital procurement obligation,” Scopelitis wrote. “To prevent Coalition forces from increasing risks due to (improvised explosive devices, the Army) needed to continue to provide armored vehicles to the Army without interruption.”

“BAE was concerned for months that disclosing its costs data would reveal excessive profits,” including markups on armor kits of 36 to more than 44 percent, according to Scopelitis’ findings. The government ultimately alleged gouging by BAE, including such allegations that windshield wiper extenders for Humvees were marked up as much as nine times more than the government would consider fair or reasonable.

BAE provided Army procurement officials with inaccurate, incomplete or defective cost estimates, the judge wrote. The company “modified its cost or pricing data to artificially inflate its cost and thereby reduce its apparent profit rate,” according to findings.

But BAE also was the supplier stipulated by the Pentagon. “This was a unique technology which we moved heaven and earth to put together, and we felt it was protected and don’t feel this was an issue,” Mulvaney said of armor pricing.

“BAE Systems strongly disagrees with the judge’s ruling in this extremely complex subcontract dispute, and will appeal the decision,” the company said in a statement. “BAE Systems is firmly committed to the principles of fair contracting and providing both value and performance in support of its many government and commercial customers.”

In 2008, the Army ordered AM General to seek an $84.5 million price reduction from BAE, according to the findings, but AM General continued to be denied access to BAE’s cost data. Scopelitis wrote that BAE declined to cut prices on its armor units sold to AM General and instead, “sought to trade the inevitable price reduction for contractual concessions from AMG.”

But AM General’s contract with BAE required BAE to supply AM General with certified cost or pricing data on request, and it required BAE to indemnify AM General, Scopelitis wrote.

By April 2012, the military informed AM General that the government had been overcharged more than $410 million due to BAE’s pricing for armored parts, according to the findings. A military review board later reduced that amount significantly, and AM General agreed to settle.

Under the settlement, the military would continue to withhold payment of more than $62 million from AM General due to BAE’s overcharges, and AM General would pay the government half of the net most-favored contractor judgment it might receive in its litigation against BAE. Scopelitis awarded $113,673,152 under that claim, so the government’s share is more than $56.8 million.

“Under Indiana law, BAE is required to indemnify AMG for the amounts that AMG reasonably agreed to give (the government) to settle its pricing claim,” Scopelitis wrote.

Meanwhile, BAE failed to persuade the court to find in its favor on claims that AM General misappropriated trade secrets when it decided to make the armored parts itself and used components from BAE and materials that the company claimed were trade secrets to reverse-engineer and manufacture the armor panels and kits.

Scopelitis ruled that the materials AM General used to develop its own armor were readily available and were not trade secrets. “Reverse engineering is lawful under trade secrets law so long as the product was obtained lawfully,” he wrote. “BAE has not established damages.”

Scopelitis ruled after a three-week trial in October in South Bend that attracted high-powered, connected legal firms on both sides.

AM General was represented by LaDue Curran Kuehn LLC of South Bend with backing from Washington powerhouse Williams & Connolly LLP. The Vault.com 2013 Law Firm Rankings based on nationwide associate surveys places Williams & Connolly as the nation’s No. 1 white-collar defense firm and No. 2 Washington, D.C., firm.

“All I’m authorized to say is the company has no comment beyond what is actually in the (court) papers,” said Paul E. Harold of LaDue Curran Keuhn, who with John LaDue represented AM General as local counsel. Williams & Connolly partner David Kendall said in an email, “We will let the decision speak for itself.”

BAE was represented by Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP of Indianapolis and the Washington firm WilmerHale, rated the No. 3 Washington, D.C., firm in the Vault survey. William C. Wagner of Taft declined to comment. Juanita Crowley, the attorney of record for WilmerHale, has retired.

According to the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database maintained by the Project on Government Oversight at www.contractormisconduct.org, BAE is the ninth-largest U.S. government contractor with contracts worth more than $6.87 billion in fiscal year 2011. The database records 13 instances of misconduct by BAE since 1995 totaling more than $588 million.

BAE recorded international sales of more than $27 billion in 2012, according to company financial information.

An AM General spokesman said the company would not comment beyond the ruling.•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

ADVERTISEMENT