(CN) – A former Lockheed whistleblower can’t sue the company on behalf of the federal government after she signed a release to settle her claims by leaving the company, the 10th Circuit ruled.
Ruth Ritchie worked for Lockheed Martin for 25 years. She was evaluating databases when she suspected that the company was defrauding the U.S. Air Force with false records that increase incentive payments to Lockheed employees.
Lockheed investigated those claims, and Ritchie’s claims of retaliation against her for disclosing the alleged fraud, but the investigations showed no wrongdoing.
Ritchie then claimed Lockheed officials were sabotaging her work and giving her negative performance reviews. She signed a release from all court claims and accepted a financial settlement to leave the company.
Ten days later, she sued Lockheed anyway under the False Claims Act (FCA). The district court granted the company summary judgment and an award of court costs. Ritchie appealed both decisions.
Ritchie argued that her claims are not covered by the release she signed because the claims belong to the federal government. Judge Murphy of the Denver-based federal appeals court disagreed.
“This argument is undercut by the language of the FCA and Supreme Court precedent,” Murphy wrote. “The FCA states relators ‘may bring a civil action for a violation of the FCA for the person and for the United States government. Thus, the relator has an interest in some part of the civil action apart from the government.”