Becton Dickinson & Co. Inc. has agreed to pay the U.S. government $3.3 million to settle a whistle-blower's lawsuit charging that its Hunt Valley-based Microbiology Systems Division overcharged the Department of Veterans Affairs on an $11 million contract for medical testing supplies.
The settlement ends a 1991 case involving whistle-blower David R. Siller, an Irving, Texas, employee of one of BD's former distributors, Scientific Supply Inc. He will receive a $561,000 share of the settlement.
Mr. Siller alleged that Becton failed to tell the VA, under the disclosure requirements of government purchasing laws, that the company had given private customers deeper discounts on volume purchases than it was giving to the government.
Becton officials stressed yesterday that the company had admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement and insisted that the firm would have won the case had they pursued it.
The contract, which ended in 1991, covered living diagnostic substances, test kits and test sets.
Mr. Siller filed under the whistle-blower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow a private citizen to sue on behalf of a government agency that is being defrauded.
The Justice Department took up Mr. Siller's case in 1992 and pursued it on the VA's behalf. The U.S. District Court in Baltimore threw it out in 1993, but Justice Department lawyers appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia and got it reinstated.
Mr. Siller had alleged that Becton had given the government discounts of about 40 percent from "inflated prices" on a list it had provided to the VA but that those charges still were much higher than discounted rates charged to "most any customer who was determined enough to insist upon them."