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False Claims Case|Against SAIC Drags On

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge agreed to Science Applications International Corporation's request for additional, limited discovery in its nearly decade-long False Claims Act battle with the government.

The U.S. government sued SAIC under the False Claims Act nine years ago, claiming the company's organizational conflicts of interest (OCI) led it to submit false invoices for the technical assistance it provided in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) efforts to create scientific standards on recycling and reusing radioactive materials.

"The government contends 'that SAIC breached its OCI obligations under the 1992 and 1999 contracts by engaging in relationships with organizations that created an appearance of bias in the technical assistance and support it provided the NRC," Chief Judge Richard Roberts stated earlier this year in ruling that SAIC must face the claims.

Though a jury found SAIC liable for submitting false claims and breaching its contract with the government, the D.C. Circuit vacated the judgment for faulty jury instructions and remanded the case to U.S. District Court for further proceedings.

Judge Roberts, who denied either party summary judgment this past summer, partly granted the company's request for additional discovery Thursday.

"Because SAIC is entitled to limited additional discovery on the issue of the government's continuing use of any SAIC work product but is not entitled to a broader reopening of discovery, its motion will be granted in part and denied in part," the judge wrote.

SAIC's argument hinges on whether it knowingly broke the law by consulting with British Nuclear Fuels in 1992 and Bechtel Jacobs Corp. in 1999.

The government claims that SAIC's "relationship with British Nuclear created a potential conflict because the project involved the recycling and release of radioactive materials that would become subject to NRC regulation after leaving the DOE facility and entering into interstate commerce," according to the ruling from the D.C. Circuit.

The government also contends that SAIC's work for Bechtel Jacobs "closely overlapped with the company's work for the NRC."

SAIC's business relationships with Alaron Corp., the Association of Radioactive MetalRecyclers, and Plazma Hearth Process also came into question.

In addition to granting SAIC limited additional discovery, the judge set a scheduling conference for April 2014.

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