Firm that vetted Snowden reaches $30 mln settlement with US

Firm that vetted Snowden reaches $30 mln settlement with US

Firm that vetted Snowden reaches $30 mln settlement with US

A file photo taken on June 24, 2014 shows US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking to European officials via videoconference during a parliamentary hearing on improving the protection of whistleblowers, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, eastern France. AFP Photo

United States Investigations Services Inc, the private firm that vetted former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has agreed to a settlement worth at least $30 million, resolving U.S. claims connected to its background investigations. 

The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday that the settlement with USIS and its parent company, Altegrity Inc , will resolve claims that the firm failed to perform quality control reviews in connection with its background investigations. 

The Justice Department said the settlement is part of a broader deal struck as part of the bankruptcy proceeding for Altegrity, which filed for Chapter 11 in February. 

The deal resolves claims first asserted in a whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2011 that the Justice Department later joined. 

The case was separate from USIS's review of Snowden, who lives as a fugitive in Russia after leaking documents about the NSA's surveillance programs, or Aaron Alexis, the technology contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in 2014. 

Nevertheless, the lawsuit came amid heightened attention to the firm, which had been the U.S. government's largest private provider of security checks. 

"Shortcuts taken by any company that we have entrusted to conduct background investigations of future and current federal employees are unacceptable," Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Department's civil division, said in a statement. 

A spokesman for Altegrity declined to comment. 

The Justice Department said that from March 2008 through at least September 2012, USIS deliberately circumvented quality reviews of completed background investigations in order to increase its revenues and profits. 

The Justice Department said USIS engaged in practice internally called "dumping" or "flushing" in which cases were released to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and represented as complete when in fact they were not. 

The Justice Department contended that as a result, the government made payments to USIS it otherwise would not have. 

Under the settlement, the Justice Department said Altegrity and USIS have agreed to forgo their right to collect payments they claimed they were owed by the Office of Personnel Management valued at least at $30 million. 

The Justice Department's claims originated from a lawsuit filed in 2011 by a former USIS executive, Blake Percival, under the False Claims Act. 

The law that lets people collect rewards for blowing the whistle on fraud against the government. Percival's share of the settlement has not been determined. 

The case is U.S. v. U.S. Investigations Services, LLC, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 14-00726.