Wrist Slap for CEO Who Defrauded USAID out of Hundreds of Millions

Wrist Slap for CEO Who Defrauded USAID out of Hundreds of Millions

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

Former CEO Derish Wolff of Louis Berger Group, one of the country’s largest engineer contracting firms will be confined to his home for a year and have to pay a $4.5 million fine for helping to defraud the federal government out of hundreds of millions of dollars over 20 years. The fine represents a tiny fraction of the amount the company collected from the government. 

Wolff, 70, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Anne Thompson for leading a “conspiracy to defraud USAID by billing the agency on so-called ‘cost-reimbursable’ contracts—including hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts for reconstructive work in Iraq and Afghanistan” and for inflating overhead costs. 

Related: U.S. Blew $500k on Melting Afghan Buildings 

Federal prosecutors said the company, tasked with building roads and bridges in Afghanistan and Iraq, charged the government 140 percent of the actual cost for every project it did. That means that for every one dollar of work the contractor did, it received $1.40 extra. Louis Berger was paid more than $2 billon by the U.S. government for its infrastructure work in war zones. 

Prosecutors said that between 1990 and 2009, Wolff and his colleagues inflated the costs of their work for USAID by telling accountants to “pad time sheets with hours ostensibly devoted to federal government projects when it had not actually worked on such projects.” 

Related: Pentagon Won’t Verify $300 Million a Year in Afghanistan is Spent Properly

Beyond logging false work hours, the prosecutor said Wolff routinely instructed his subordinates to bill USAID for all of their overhead expenses—like rent at Louis Berger’s Washington office even though the D.C. office worked on other projects that had nothing to do with the federal government.

After two other company executives pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal government in 2010, Louis Berger Group agreed to make full restitution to USAID. It settled civil and criminal charges and had to pay $18.7 million in criminal fines and an additional $50.6 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by significantly overbilling USAID.

Chart of the Day: Dem Candidates Face Their Own Tax Plans

Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren participate in the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Democratic presidential candidates are proposing a variety of new taxes to pay for their preferred social programs. Bloomberg’s Laura Davison and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou took a look at how the top four candidates would fare under their own tax proposals.

Quote of the Day: The Health Care Revolution That Wasn’t

Benis Arapovic/GraphicStock
By The Fiscal Times Staff

“The fact is very little medical care is shoppable. We become good shoppers when we are repeat shoppers. If you buy a new car every three years, you can become an informed shopper. There is no way to become an informed shopper for your appendix. You only get your appendix out once.”

— David Newman, former director of the Health Care Cost Institute, quoted in an article Thursday by Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times. Levey says the “consumer revolution” in health care – in which patients shop around for the best prices, forcing doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms to compete with lower prices – hasn’t materialized, but the higher deductibles that were part of the effort are very much in effect. “High-deductible health insurance was supposed to make American patients into smart shoppers,” Levey writes. “Instead, they got stuck with medical bills they can't afford.”

Congressional Report of the Day: The US Pays Nearly 4 Times More for Drugs

A pharmacist holds prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D.  at a local pharmacy
REUTERS/George Frey
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The House Ways and Means Committee released a new analysis of drug prices in the U.S. compared to 11 other developed nations, and the results, though predictable, aren’t pretty. Here are the key findings from the report:

  • The U.S. pays the most for drugs, though prices varied widely.
  • U.S. drug prices were nearly four times higher than average prices compared to similar countries.
  • U.S. consumers pay significantly more for drugs than other countries, even when accounting for rebates.
  • The U.S. could save $49 billion annually on Medicare Part D alone by using average drug prices for comparator countries.

Read the full congressional report here.

Chart of the Day: How the US Ranks for Retirement

Ken Bosma / Flickr
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The U.S. ranks 18th for retiree well-being among developed nations, according to the latest Global Retirement Index from Natixis, the French corporate and investment bank. The U.S. fell two spots in the ranking this year, due in part to rising economic inequality and poor performance for life expectancy.