During the Iraq War, Harry “Hap” Barko, a former contract administrator for KBR/Halliburton in Iraq, discovered that KBR vastly inflated the costs of constructing laundry facilities and providing laundry services on at least three military bases. Barko’s case alleged that KBR and its subcontractors committed national defense fraud violations of the False Claims Act.
While litigating against KBR, Barko learned that KBR had been forcing all its employees with knowledge of fraud to sign non-disclosure agreements that threatened them with termination if they chose to reveal fraud allegations to anyone outside of the legal department. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed an enforcement action against KBR on April 1, 2015 and issued the first penalty against any company for attempting to silence a whistleblower in the U.S.. KBR was forced to pay a $130,000 penalty and agreed to cease this practice. The KBR enforcement action was widely applauded and served as the springboard for the series of related enforcement actions that followed.
In March 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed an order requiring Barko to pay over $58,000 in e-discovery costs from his False Claims Act case brought against KBR. The decision, won by a legal team supported by the National Whistleblower Center, set an important precedent limiting the amount of taxable e-discovery costs defendants can bill whistleblower and other plaintiffs.
Workplace secrecy agreements rising, whistleblower lawyers say
Court of Appeals August 11, 2015 Decision
United States ex rel. Barko v. Halliburton Co. et al., No. 1:05-CV-1276 (D.D.C.), March 11, 2014 order.
United States ex rel. Barko v. Halliburton Co. et al., No. 1:05-CV-1276 (D.D.C.), March 6, 2014 order.
United States ex rel. Barko v. Halliburton Co. et al, No. 1:05-CV-1276 (D.D.C.), December 18, 2014 order.
Blog posts about United States ex rel. Barko v. Halliburton Co. et al.