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Michael DeKort can finally acknowledge that he filed a whistle-blower lawsuit almost three years ago against his former employer, Lockheed Martin Corporation. The complaint had been kept under seal while the U.S. Department of Justice investigated DeKort’s claims that Lockheed and codefendant Northrop Grumman Corporation botched a job for the U.S. Coast Guard. But the judge who had been granting the Justice Department’s requests for more time finally decided that enough was enough, and unsealed the complaint in June. A Lockheed spokesman says that an internal investigation determined that DeKort’s claims were baseless, and that the company plans a “vigorous” defense. A Northrop spokeswoman declined to comment. While the Justice Department may still join the suit, it only does so in a minority of whistle-blower cases. At press time a department spokesman said it hadn’t made a decision. DeKort filed his qui tam suit under the False Claims Act in September 2006. He claims the defense contractors made errors in renovating eight Coast Guard patrol boats that compromised both crew safety and national security ["Attention Must Be Paid," January 2008]. The complaint, which was brought in federal district court in Dallas, also names a third defendant-Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a joint venture formed by Lockheed and Northrop to manage the project. The construction was part of the $24 billion Deepwater project designed to modernize the Coast Guard’s fleet. DeKort says the problems began in 2003, when he was lead engineer of the patrol boat job. He tried to point out mistakes, he says, but was ignored and then removed from the project. Instead of improving the 123-foot patrol boats, the complaint alleges, “shoddy and fraudulent” work left them completely inoperable. (DeKort adds in an interview that after Lockheed eliminated his job in 2006, he had to switch to another industry because no other defense firm would hire him.) According to the complaint, each boat is worth $30 million in prerenovation value and attempted improvements. It asks that the defendants return $240 million to the government-which could be trebled to $720 million under the False Claims Act. The act also allows a judge to award 25-30 percent of any recovery to the whistle-blower. DeKort’s lawyer, Sam Boyd of Dallas-based Boyd & Associates, says that he expects pretrial motions and discovery to last at least 18 months.

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