WASHINGTON (CN) – A company convicted of engaging in a broad conspiracy to rig the bidding process for government construction projects in Egypt must pay most of the legal expenses of the individual who first came forward with the accusations, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth overturns a previous ruling that allowed them to get off the hook for over $7 million in legal fees.
Lamberth held that Bill Harbert International Construction is obliged to repay relator Richard Miller’s legal bills, but did grant a 20 percent reduction in the fees to reflect the dismissal of certain claims.
Bill Harbert International Construction (BHIC) was convicted of “repeatedly and extensively fleecing the United States” in a “deceptive scheme to extract excessive funds from an agency that provides aid to third-world and developing countries,” a con the prosecution dubbed “anti-Robin Hood.”
The company’s scheme involved extracting commitments from other bidders on various construction projects in Egypt to either overbid or not bid at all. The joint venture “extracted $10 million in excess profits from the project, while the other participants received payments of $2.2 and $3 million for their role in the swindle.
The company argued it should not have to pay the legal expenses of Richard Miller, who originally brought the allegations to light, because some of the accusations in the cases that resulted from their conduct were dropped.
The court, however, found that Miller is a “prevailing party” even though some of the claims were dropped, entitling him to payment of legal expenses from BHIC.
The ruling also noted that “fees for time spent on claims that ultimately were unsuccessful should be excluded only when the claims are ‘distinctly different’ in all respects.”
Lamberth noted that he had “little doubt that all the claims brought by Mr. Miller are related under this standard.”