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Project on Government Oversight





August 4, 2010 


After over a decade of litigation, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a District Court’s jury instructions that had significantly limited POGO’s ability to defend itself in a civil suit brought against POGO by the Department of Justice (DOJ).  The Court of Appeals struck down DOJ’s argument that POGO’s intent in providing a public service award should not be considered by the jury—a position that prevented POGO from even using the word “whistleblower.”

After producing multiple reports, public comments, and congressional testimonies on the collusion of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) with the oil industry to no avail, in 1997 POGO filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against the 15 largest oil and gas companies for defrauding the government by underpaying royalties owed for drilling on public lands. When POGO shared the proceeds of a settlement from that lawsuit with whistleblowers, DOJ alleged POGO had improperly supplemented the whistleblowers’ government salaries. Those proceeds were a small percentage derived from a settlement that returned over $440 million to the federal government.

It should be noted that while DOJ has pursued POGO for over a decade, they had declined to prosecute the senior MMS employees who were identified by the Inspector General as having grossly violated conflict-of-interest rules.

“This unanimous court decision, on the heels of reforms at MMS, is such welcome news,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight. “We hope this is the final chapter of this ordeal.” POGO has been represented in this case by the Brand Law Group.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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