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Summary Judgment Granted for Caltech in False Claims Act Litigation

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We secured summary judgment for the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and three professors in a qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that Caltech defrauded the Department of Energy out of hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds.

“We really appreciate the court’s thorough and thoughtful order. As the court found, contrary to the relator’s allegations, the Department of Energy approved and praised Caltech’s actions in this case. We’re thrilled to have obtained this result,” said counsel for Caltech, Joseph Reiter, to the Daily Journal.

The case arises out of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP)—the nation’s largest research program dedicated to the development of artificial solar fuels—which Caltech has led for over ten years. The qui tam relator, Nathan Lewis, is a current Caltech professor and served as JCAP’s first Director. After Caltech removed Lewis as JCAP Director, he alleged that defendants had billed the DOE for nonconforming and unauthorized work, failed to disclose purported conflicts of interest, and made false certifications of compliance with contractual and legal requirements. Lewis asserted causes of action under the False Claims Act and separately claimed that Caltech had retaliated against him.

Hueston Hennigan obtained an early victory in October 2019 when the court granted our motion to dismiss. After Lewis amended his complaint, the case proceeded to discovery and substantial deposition practice, including a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of the DOE.

On April 23, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder granted Hueston Hennigan’s motions for summary judgment on all claims, representing a complete victory for all defendants.

As one of the most prestigious research institutions in the United States, this case is important to Caltech’s reputation and its relationship with the DOE and other federal agencies that it depends on for funding.

The Hueston Hennigan team included John Hueston, Moez Kaba, Joseph Reiter, Karen Ding, and Montae Langston London.

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