2 Hughes Aircraft Whistleblowers Awarded $891,000
Sep. 10, 1996
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two women who told the government 10 years ago that Hughes Aircraft Co. was not properly testing microelectronic circuits used in fighter planes are getting an $891,000 reward.
The government announced Tuesday that Hughes will pay $4.05 million to settle a fraud suit brought originally by Margaret Goodearl and Ruth Aldred and later taken over by the government.
Hughes was convicted of criminal conspiracy on the same matter in 1992, largely based on the evidence of the two women, and was fined $3.5 million.
Aldred, who now lives outside San Diego, said through her lawyers that ``despite the toll it has taken, it was the right thing to do.''
Goodearl, now of Washington, D.C., could not be reached immediately by telephone.
``This completely vindicates Ruth Ann Aldred and Margaret Goodearl who made great personal and professional sacrifices to see justice done,'' said Mary Louise Cohen, a Washington attorney who represented them.
The women were supervisors at Hughes' microelectronic circuit division in Newport Beach, Calif. Their lawyer said they tried to bring the testing matter to the attention of management, but ``they were told to keep quiet and warned they might get fired if they didn't do so.''
They told government investigators about it in 1986. Afterward, said their lawyer, ``they were ostracized by their co-workers and supervisors. Aldred left Hughes in 1988, saying she had been relieved of all meaningful responsibilities. Goodearl was laid off the next year.
From 1985 to 1987, the Justice Department said, Hughes ordered its employees not to perform certain environmental screening tests, to pass circuits that had failed particular tests and to falsify documents to show the tests had been done properly.
The circuits are crucial parts of high-technology systems, including radar on the F-14, F-15 and F-18 fighter aircraft and guidance systems in missiles such as the Maverick, Phoenix, and AMRAAM.
Goodearl and Aldred filed their civil suit in 1990. The government intervened and took over the case later.
Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers bringing suit are entitled to a portion of the amount recovered by the government, not exceeding 25 percent. Hughes will pay a separate and additional $450,000 for the women's lawyers and the advocacy group, Taxpayers Against Fraud.
``If it had not been for the False Claims Act, which encourages as well as rewards whistleblowers, these women would have bene totally destroyed,'' said John R. Phillips, another of the women's lawyers.