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United States ex rel. Simmons v. Samsung Elecs. America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

July 1, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. ROBERT SIMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC., Defendant

For Robert Simmons, ex rel., Plaintiff: Nathan M Peak, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ashcraft and Gerel LLP, Landover, MD.

For United States of America, Plaintiff: Thomas H Barnard, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Baltimore, MD.

Page 576

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge.

Relator Robert Simmons (" Relator" or " Simmons" ) moves for an award of 22% of the $2.3 million settlement between the United States and Samsung Electronics America, Inc. (" Samsung" ), pursuant to the qui tam relator's share provisions of the False Claims Act (" FCA" ), 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(1). Relator's Mot., ECF No. 38. Simmons contends that his contribution to the Government's settlement with Samsung entitles him to 22% of the settlement proceeds. Relator's Mem. 1, ECF No. 38-1. The Government opposes Simmons's motion and files a cross-motion, arguing that an award of 16% of the settlement is appropriate. Gov't Mot. & Mem., ECF Nos. 41, 41-1. For the reasons set forth below, the cross-motions shall be granted in part and denied in part, and the Relator shall receive an 18% share of the settlement proceeds.

I. BACKGROUND

Simmons, who worked as a Solutions Architect at Samsung from June 2007 to July 2011, filed a qui tam complaint against Samsung and Summit Government Group, LLC (" Summit" ) on October 18, 2011, alleging that Samsung and Summit violated the FCA by submitting false claims for Samsung computer products

Page 577

sold to the United States under Summit's General Services Administration (" GSA" ) contract that were not compliant with the Trade Agreements Act. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1. Concurrently, pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), Simmons provided the Government with a " written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information [he] possess[ed]." 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2); Relator Statement 5, Gov't Mem. Ex. 1, ECF No. 41-3. During the course of its investigation, the Government twice met with Simmons: interviewing him on November 21, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland and again on February 7, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Relator's Mem. 5, 7; Gov't Mem. 2, 4.

On January 16, 2014, the Government partially intervened against Samsung and declined to intervene with respect to Summit.[1] ECF No. 16. On July 17, 2014, the Government and Simmons filed a joint stipulation of dismissal as to Samsung following the execution of a settlement agreement between Samsung, Simmons, and the Government. ECF No. 30. The settlement agreement provides that Samsung shall pay a settlement amount of $2.3 million to the Government, and that Simmons claims entitlement under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d) to a share of the settlement award. Settlement Agr., ECF No. 30-1. On August 15, 2014, I dismissed the original Complaint with prejudice and retained jurisdiction to decide Simmons's share amount. ECF No. 31. He subsequently filed a Motion for Immediate Award of Statutory Minimum Relator Share on August 27, 2014, ECF No. 32, which I denied as moot, ECF No. 37, after the parties filed a Joint Stipulation of Resolution, stating that the Government " informed the Relator that authority was granted to pay Relator the 15 percent of the $2,300,000 settlement with Samsung." ECF No. 36.

The parties continued to discuss a final resolution of Simmons's share, but failed to reach an agreement, although the Government paid Simmons $345,000, or 15% of the settlement. Gov't Mem. 1. Simmons, however, insisted that he be paid more. Subsequently, the parties filed the pending cross-motions regarding the appropriate share to which Simmons was entitled. Simmons filed a reply and opposition, ECF No. 42, such that his motion has been fully briefed. The Government did not file a reply, but the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2(a). Having reviewed the filings, I find that a hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. Upon careful consideration of the briefing and the exhibits submitted by the parties, I conclude that Simmons is entitled to an award of an 18% share of the settlement reached between the Government and Samsung.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under the FCA, when the Government intervenes and settles a qui tam case, a relator receives between 15% and 25% of the proceeds of the settlement of the claim. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(1). The FCA states that the amount awarded to the realtor is based on " the extent to which the person substantially contributed to the prosecution of the action," id., but otherwise does not specify any criteria for this determination. The parties acknowledge that the actual percentage awarded largely is left to the Court's informed discretion. See Relator's Mem. 13; Gov't Mem. 8.

Courts traditionally treat the 15% minimum statutory share as a " finder's fee." United States ...


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