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Cummings and Tierney Request Documents from KBR

Apr 1, 2014
Press Release
Cummings and Tierney Request Documents from KBR

Company Reportedly Barred Employees from Reporting Wrongdoing

 

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 1, 2014)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. John F. Tierney, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to the CEO of KBR, one of the nation’s largest government contractors, requesting documents relating to the company’s treatment of potential whistleblowers seeking to report wrongdoing at the company, particularly with respect to its contracts with federal government agencies.

According to press reports, KBR’s Vice President of Legal Affairs recently confirmed that the company has used confidentiality agreements for the past decade to prohibit employees from reporting allegations of wrongdoing unless authorized by the company’s attorneys.

“The use of these confidentiality agreements could raise significant concerns if employees of federal contractors are being prohibited from disclosing allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse to government agencies, Congress, or Inspectors General,” the Ranking Members wrote. “Obviously, requiring employees to clear such reports through KBR’s general counsel’s office before reporting them to the government would defeat the purpose of good government laws and whistleblower protections enacted by Congress.”

The Ranking Members are seeking copies of all complaints submitted to KBR from its employees, subcontractors, or any other individuals from 2002 to present; copies of all confidentiality agreements restricting employees in any way from reporting allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse; and all policies and procedures relating to the use, application, enforcement, or waiver of confidentiality agreements in relation to internal complaints, tips, and investigations.

Click here and see below to read the full letter.

 

April 1, 2014

 

William P. Utt

Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

KBR, Inc.

601 Jefferson Street

Houston, TX  77002

 

Dear Mr. Utt:

We are writing to request documents relating to KBR’s treatment of potential whistleblowers seeking to report wrongdoing at the company, particularly with respect to its contracts with federal government agencies. 

According to a recent Washington Post article, KBR’s Vice President of Legal Affairs confirmed in a recent deposition that the company uses confidentiality agreements to prohibit employees from discussing the subject matter of allegations of wrongdoing unless the disclosure is specifically authorized by KBR’s General Counsel.[1]

According to the article, these confidentiality agreements admonish employees that “unauthorized disclosure of information” could cause “irreparable harm” to the company and that violations could result in “disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”  The article also provided a summary of KBR’s explanation for these confidentiality agreements:

 

Mark E. Lowes, KBR’s vice president of litigation, said the confidentially statements are designed to protect the integrity of the internal review process, not to conceal information.  He said that the company often receives unfounded complaints and that the process is designed to ensure those complaints are not publicly circulated.  He also said KBR employees are encouraged to report allegations of wrongdoing.  If those allegations are supported by the facts, he said, they are forwarded to the proper authorities.[2]

As you may know, the Committee has conducted extensive investigations into previous claims of fraud relating to KBR’s contracts with the Department of Defense, including within the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), and we have relied on whistleblowers who were willing to come forward despite the risks to their own reputations and careers.[3]  According to the transcript of the recent deposition, the number of complaints received since 2003 relating to KBR’s LOGCAP III contract alone are “probably pushing up to a thousand, maybe even more.”[4]

The use of these confidentiality agreements could raise significant concerns if employees of federal contractors are being prohibited from disclosing allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse to government agencies, Congress, or Inspectors General.  Obviously, requiring employees to clear such reports through KBR’s general counsel’s office before reporting them to the government would defeat the purpose of good government laws and whistleblower protections enacted by Congress.

To assist our inquiry into this matter, please provide the following documents and information:

1.                  All complaints or tips submitted to KBR from employees, subcontractors, or any other individuals from 2002 to present;

 

2.                  For each complaint or tip submitted from 2002 to the present:

 

a.                   the date the complaint or tip was submitted;

b.                  a description of any internal or external investigative steps taken in response to the complaint or tip;

c.                   a description of any disciplinary action taken relating to the complaint or tip;

d.                  a description of the disposition of the complaint or tip;

e.                   whether a confidentiality agreement was in place for the employee, subcontractor, or other individual who submitted the complaint or tip;

f.                    whether the individual who submitted the complaint or tip was authorized subsequently to discuss the matter outside KBR; and

g.                   the names of any outside entities to which the complaint or tip was referred and the date it was referred.

 

3.                  Copies of all confidentiality agreements restricting employees in any way from reporting allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse, as well as the identities of any outside counsel or other parties who assisted with drafting such agreements; and

 

4.                  All policies and procedures relating to the use, application, enforcement, or waiver of confidentiality agreements in relation to internal complaints, tips, and investigations.

Please provide the requested documents and information by April 22, 2014.  If you have any questions about this request, please contact Peter Kenny or Krista Boyd of the Committee staff at (202) 225-5051.  Thank you for your cooperation with this request.

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

Elijah E. Cummings                                                       John F. Tierney

            Ranking Member                                                          Ranking Member

            Committee on Oversight and                                         Subcommittee on National Security

              Government Reform  

 

 

cc:        The Honorable Darrell E. Issa, Chairman

            Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

 

            The Honorable Jason Chaffetz, Chairman

            Subcommittee on National Security                                

 

[1]Lawsuit Brings to Light Secrecy Statements Required by KBR, Washington Post (Feb. 19, 2014) (online at www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/lawsuit-brings-to-light-secrecy-statements-required-by-kbr/2014/02/19/6e2a8818-9998-11e3-b88d-f36c07223d88_story.html).

[2]Id.

[3]See, e.g., House Committee on Government Reform, Hearing on Unprecedented Challenges:  The Complex Task of Coordinating Contracts amid the Chaos and Rebuilding of Iraq, 108th Cong. (June 15, 2004) (online at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-108hhrg96407/pdf/CHRG-108hhrg96407.pdf).  See also Letter from Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman to Chairman Tom Davis, House Committee on Government Reform (June 14, 2004) (online at https://webharvest.gov/congress110th/20081125182316/https://oversight.house.gov/documents/20040623112249-71664.pdf).

[4]Exhibit 14 to Reply in Support of Plaintiff-Relator’s Motion to Compel (Feb. 18, 2014), United States ex rel. Harry Barko v. Halliburton Co., et al., D.D.C. (No. 1:05 CV 01276).

113th Congress