Kirby McInerney | Law Firm of Kirby McInerney LLP Announces $1.5 Million Settlement Resolving Whistleblower Claims that Athletic Wear Company Underpaid U.S. Import Duties
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Law Firm of Kirby McInerney LLP Announces $1.5 Million Settlement Resolving Whistleblower Claims that Athletic Wear Company Underpaid U.S. Import Duties

04/21/2016
Qui tam whistleblower to receive 20% of the settlement or $300,000

New York, N.Y., April 21, 2016 - Kirby McInerney LLP is pleased to announce that its client, a Hong Kong-based whistleblower, helped the U.S. government recover $1.5 million in allegedly underpaid U.S. import duties from Winds Enterprises, Inc. of California, and its affiliate, Winds Enterprises, Ltd. of Hong Kong, which manufacture and import athletic wear for popular brands in the United States.

The settlement resolves “qui tam” claims brought by the whistleblower, a former executive of Winds, under the False Claims Act in United States federal court in Seattle, Washington. The action was filed under seal in 2013. The settlement was announced earlier this week after the Court unsealed the complaint and the U.S. government intervened in the case.

Under the False Claims Act, parties who know about fraud, waste or abuse committed against the government - known as qui tam Relators - can file a complaint on behalf of the United States and be rewarded with a share of the recovery. In this action, the whistleblower will receive an award of 20% of the $1.5 million settlement, or $300,000.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleged that Winds submitted false customs declarations under-reporting the value of imports from China and Madagascar, thereby cheating the government of duties. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigated the allegations before reaching the settlement. Winds admits no wrongdoing in the settlement.

In a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Washington regarding the settlement, U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes stated that “[t]he undervaluing of imports not only defrauds our customs program, it skews the playing field for competitors. These types of qui tam lawsuits are an important tool for keeping the marketplace honest.”

“Our client helped the taxpayers recover a considerable sum from Winds,” said Kirby McInerney partner Mark Strauss. “This is an excellent example of how a courageous whistleblower can contribute to combating fraud against the government.”

If you know about a potential fraud against the U.S. government and wish to discuss your rights, you may contact attorney Mark A. Strauss by email at mstrauss@kmllp.com, by telephone at (212) 371-6600, or toll free at (888) 529-4787. There is no cost or obligation to you.