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Humvee maker wins $277M

April 24, 2013

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.”

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