Maersk”s US subsidiary has agreed to pay the US government $31.9 million to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims to the United States in connection with contracts to transport cargo in shipping containers to support US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The government alleged that Maersk knowingly overcharged the Department of Defense to transport thousands of containers from ports to inland delivery destinations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It claimed that Maersk inflated its invoices in various ways. For example, Maersk allegedly billed in excess of the contractual rate to maintain the operation of refrigerated containers holding perishable cargo at a port in Karachi, Pakistan, and at US military bases in Afghanistan; allegedly billed excessive detention charges (or late fees) by failing to account for cargo transit times and a contractual grace period; allegedly billed for container delivery delays improperly attributed to the U.S. government; allegedly billed for container GPS-tracking and security services that were not provided or only partially provided; and allegedly failed to credit the government for rebates of container storage fees received by Maersk’s subcontractor at a Kuwaiti port.
The allegations were first filed in San Francisco by Jerry H Brown II, a former industry insider, under the whistleblower provisions of the US False Claims Act, which permit private individuals called “relators” to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of a settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant. The relator in this action will receive $3.6 million as his statutory share of the proceeds of this settlement.
The settlement with Maersk was the result of a coordinated effort among the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the Department of Defense; the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command; and the Defense Contract Audit Agency of the Department of Defense.