Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
October 14, 2014, Decided
Civil Action No. 09-cv-2388 (KBJ)
[*78] MEMORANDUM OPINION
Relator Pencheng Si ("Relator") is a computer technician who once worked for Defendants Laogai Research Foundation ("LRF") and the China Information Center ("CIC") in the District of Columbia. Relator brings this action under the False Claims Act ("FCA"), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733 (2012), seeking to challenge the business practices of LRF and CIC (together, "Corporate Defendants") and their executive director, Harry Wu (collectively, [**2] "Defendants") with respect to Defendants' alleged misuse of federal grant funding.1 Relator's central contention is that, during the five years that he worked for Defendants, he observed them undertaking myriad acts that Relator believes violate the FCA, including making gross overstatements regarding the qualifications of Wu and other employees in grant applications, engaging in improper lobbying activities, and using grant funding for personal expenses. (See Am. Compl., ECF No. 43, ¶¶ 126-180.) The complaint also maintains that Defendants terminated Relator's employment in retaliation for his having unearthed and reported the purported misuse of grant funds. (Id. ¶¶ 181-186.)
Before this Court at present is Defendants' second motion to dismiss Relator's complaint with respect to this matter. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl. ("Defs.' Mot."), ECF No. 49.) This Court previously [**3] agreed with Defendants that Relator's initial complaint was deficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) and permitted Relator to amend his complaint, see Si v. Laogai Research Found., No. 09-2388, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118634, 2013 WL 4478953, at *1-2 (D.D.C. Aug. 21, 2013), which Relator has now done. In the instant motion, Defendants argue that the amended complaint too must be dismissed because Relator's renewed allegations continue to fall short of the requirements of Rule 9(b) and also fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for the purpose of Rule 12(b)(6). (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. ("Defs.' Mem."), ECF No. 50, at 12-23.)2
On September 30, 2014, this Court issued an order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss, and stating that the Court would release a subsequent memorandum opinion explaining [*79] the Court's reasoning. (Order ("Sept. 30 Order"), ECF No. 59.) The instant document is that memorandum opinion. In short, the lynchpin of the Court's ruling in this case is the fact that, although Relator appears to have gone back to the proverbial drawing board in crafting the amended complaint (his amended complaint is nearly double the length of his original pleading and provides more detail regarding [**4] Defendants' business practices and internal finances), the amended complaint nevertheless still lacks a sufficient factual basis for any plausible fraud claim under the FCA, and fails even to identify clearly how the alleged facts support each purported claim for relief. Therefore, Relator has not cured the deficiencies in the original complaint with respect to the FCA counts (Counts I-IV), and Defendants' motion to dismiss must be GRANTED with respect to those counts. As for Relator's remaining contention—that the termination of his employment constituted retaliation for engaging in protected activity in furtherance of the FCA (Count V)—the amended complaint does contain sufficient allegations to raise a plausible inference that Relator engaged in activity that the FCA protects and was fired for that reason. Consequently, Defendants' motion to dismiss is DENIED with respect to the retaliation count.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
71 F. Supp. 3d 73 *; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146079 **
PENCHENG SI, Plaintiff, v. LAOGAI RESEARCH FOUNDATION, et al., Defendants.
Prior History: Si v. Laogai Research Found., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118634 (D.D.C., Aug. 21, 2013)
amended complaint, alleges, Defendants', funds, retaliation, false claim, reimbursement, fraudulent, false statement, conspiracy, terminated, protected activity, presentment, counts, lobbying, knowingly, motion to dismiss, certification, quotation, cause of action, grant funds, conspire, marks, grant application, fraudulent claim, circumstances, spent, false certificate, alleged facts, misrepresentations