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Humvee maker wins $277M

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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.•
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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