Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Avi Kumin participated yesterday in oral argument before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in a qui tam fraud and whistleblower retaliation case filed by firm client Max Cloninger against his former employers, defense contractors DynCorp Aviation and Northrop Grumman. The oral argument, relating to the defendants’ pending motions to dismiss, was reported on in a Law360 article entitled “DynCorp, Northrop FCA Suit Is Precise Enough, Court Told.” Mr. Cloninger alleges that the contractors violated the False Claims Act when they “grossly mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars of government property” and also “devised numerous fraudulent schemes” to cover up the property losses and mismanagement, in their work on the U.S. Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office in Afghanistan.
At the heart of the matter currently is the issue of whether the allegations in Mr. Cloninger’s Complaint sufficiently state a legal claim for relief and provide defendants with sufficient notice of the legal allegations. Attorneys for the defendants argue that the Complaint, despite containing 119 pages of detailed allegations, fails to meet legal standards. According to Law360, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon’s few comments during oral argument appeared sympathetic to Mr. Cloninger’s position that the case should proceed.
The case also revolves around Mr. Cloninger’s claims of retaliation for opposing the companies’ fraudulent conduct. Mr. Kumin presented the oral argument with respect to four employment law claims, noting the allegations in the Complaint that defense representatives acknowledged that his employment would not be continued because he had “rocked the boat too much” with his objections to the company’s questionable property management practices.
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