US Dept. of Justice Sues AstroPower

October 24, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

The US Department of Justice has sued AstroPower Inc. (Newark, DE), seeking up to $7.9 million dollars in damages for 100 allegedly false claims related to how the company allocated indirect costs in their Department of Defense contracts.In papers filed in the US District Court in Delaware, the government claimed that from 1991 through 1995, "The United States paid for AstroPower to manufacture a product that it sold to commercial customers for profit."The dispute centers on the government's allegation that during that five-year period, AstroPower illegally charged $2.3 million in certain indirect costs against an aggregate $12.0 million in contracts with the Depart of Energy. The lawsuit charged AstroPower with three counts of false claims, false statements and unjust enrichment for claiming the costs in question were "properly allocable to government contracts, when in fact those costs were attributable to a commercial venture."AstroPower CEO Allen Barnett maintains that the lawsuit is without merit and claimed that the government had already approved the allocation in writing and stated that "the basis of it is a single individual in the Department of Defense's audit agency whose position has been that the government does not fund commercial development." Barnett also brought attention to the fact that his company is "the third-largest of the five largest US-based companies (in solar research and development). Of the five, three have been purchased by European companies, and the fourth has licensed its technology to Japan and Europe. They get help from their governments; we get sued by ours."