Mann v. Heckler & Koch Defense

In the Spring of 2008, Jason Mann blew the whistle on the firearms company Heckler and Koch Defense Inc. (“HKD”) for alleged attempts to defraud the U.S. and the Secret Service. Mann accused Wayne Weber, his supervisor, of committing fraud by intentionally submitting a bid for a firearm that did not conform to the Secret Service’s requirements. In addition to that, Mann claims that despite the concerns of several employees, including Mann himself, Weber went through unregulated, back-channels to land this firearm into the hands of the Secret Service. It wasn’t long after the Secret Service commenced utilization of HKD’s firearm that complaints of deficiencies were brought up, and evidently, the HK-416 rifles were rejected. Mann spoke up on Weber’s fraudulent attempts, and as a result he was placed on administrative leave and then his employment was terminated.

The case addresses the False Claims Act (“FCA”) retaliation actions filed by Jason Mann against his former employer, Heckler and Koch Defense, Inc. (“HKD”). In tandem with the district court, the 4th Circuit decided to reject Mann’s claim, stating that Mann did not fall within the realm of FCA protection.

In Mann’s case, the Fourth Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s rejection of protection for Mann under FCA. As a result, Mann did not see justice. As noted in the Whistleblower Protection Blog,

The Fourth Circuit opinion initially concludes that since HDK had disclosed that its rifles did not meet the Secret Service requirements, HDK did not commit any fraud…. Next, the Court said that the FCA does not protect whistleblowers from retaliation when they file retaliation lawsuits.

The National Whistleblower Center considers this decision erroneous and unfortunate, and urges the legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. government to continue to protect the FCA. The False Claims Act (“FCA”) should protect employees who file retaliation claims against their employers. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate on the basis of a complaint filed by an employee.

As the National Whistleblower Center’s amicus brief argues, “the legislative history of the FCA clearly shows that Congress intended to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.” This public policy gives the broadest scope of protection to employees who participate in official proceedings to enforce the law. In fact, the nature of the public policy against retaliation is “so strong that the U.S. Supreme Court has found protection against retaliation in laws that do not explicitly provide a remedy for retaliation.” The NWC’s brief warns that employees will be severely discouraged from blowing the whistle if the U.S. justice system fails to provide whistleblowers with their due protection.

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