David McIntosh was awarded $990,00 as part of a $5.5 million settlement with the companies that produced backup batteries for the Humvee’s turret.
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger last month announced the settlement with M.K. Battery and several other companies, resolving allegations that they had violated the False Claims Act.
“It was never about the money,” the 49-year-old whistleblower from Stacy, Minnesota., “It was about doing the right thing and protecting the people who protect us.”
McIntosh’s lawyers in the FCA suit were Clayton Halunen and Susan Coler of Minneapolis.
According to McIntosh, the sealed acid batteries are supposed to turn the turrets on the Humvees if the engine gives out. But unknown to the Army, the manufacturing process was changed, cutting the battery’s life span by as much as 50 percent.
“Worst-case scenario, if the troops in a Humvee were in a firefight … they may have only half the power the Army was promised, which could mean life or death,” McIntosh said.
The False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq.) allows private persons to sue on behalf of the United States. The government then has time to investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene. Either way, the whistleblower can be awarded a portion of the recovered damages, usually between 10 and 20 percent.
McIntosh was a sales representative for M.K. Battery when he tried to persuade top company officials to alert the Army of the batteries’ short comings.
In 2007, after waiting 14 months for the company to report the issue, he called the Defense Department.
Three weeks later McIntosh was fired.
“They told me I was being terminated for insubordination,” he said.
He struggled for six years to find full-time work, he said.
“Battery companies tend to know each other,” he said. “I don’t know if I was blackballed, but it felt like it,” he told the Star Tribune.
He said the stress contributed to his divorce.
M.K. Battery and its parent company, East Penn Manufacturing, issued a statement last week saying they “denied that the batteries at issue did not meet the required specifications and the settlement with the government acknowledges that denial.”
Now that the False Claims Act part of the suit is settled, a second part of McIntosh’s suit regarding his termination is expected to go to trial next spring before U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank.
“We are not interested in settling that case,” McIntosh’s attorney Halunen said. “He wants to tell his story publicly at trial.”
A version of this post first appeared in Whistleblower Today and published here with permission.