Office Depot, feds settle false claims case

Office Depot has paid a $4.75 million settlement to the United States over allegations that the company sold products to government agencies in violation of the Trade Agreements Act.

The Justice Department, in announcing the settlement today, said Office Depot sold products from China, Taiwan and other countries that do not have reciprocal trade agreements with the United States, in violation of a provision of the company's General Services Administration schedule contract.

"Federal contractors will be held accountable for their billing practices," said Peter Keisler, assistant attorney general at Justice's Civil Division, in a written statement. "This settlement is an example of the department's determination to ensure that federal funds are protected from fraud and abuse."

The case was originally filed in January 2003 under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by a company called Safina Office Products and two of its executives, Edward Wilder and Robert Hsi Chou Lee. The two executives and the company will get a a total of $712,500 of the settlement as their award under the law.

In May 2005, Justice reached a $9.8 million settlement with Office Max for similar allegations.

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