Conax Florida Corp., a government contractor based in St. Petersburg, Florida, has agreed to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging it violated the False Claims Act. Conax manufacturers various products for use by the U.S. military and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”), including inertia reels and voltage references.
An inertia reel device is used to secure aircrew members and locks under force of impact or rapid deceleration. Voltage references are electronic parts used in water-activated parachute releases designed to automatically separate parachutes from aircrew members who parachute into salt water, but are incapacitated.
According to a whistleblower case brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, Conax did not test the inertia reels in accordance with contract specifications and used non-conforming voltage releases. The whistleblower case was brought by two former Conax employees, Mark Hansson and Steven Schummer, in Ohio.
According to the Justice Department, Conax will pay $2,000,000 to settle the allegations, as well as provide 4,969 replacement electronic parachute releases worth approximately $2,400,000. As their reward under the qui tam provisions, the whistleblowers will share in $810,478 of the settlement proceeds.