United States ex rel. Hood v. Satory Global, Inc.

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation946 F.Supp.2d 69
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 11–774(RMC).
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, ex rel. William Robin HOOD, et al., Plaintiffs/Relators, v. SATORY GLOBAL, INC., Defendant.
Decision Date23 May 2013

946 F.Supp.2d 69

UNITED STATES of America, ex rel. William Robin HOOD, et al., Plaintiffs/Relators,

Civil Action No. 11–774(RMC).

United States District Court,
District of Columbia.

May 23, 2013.

[946 F.Supp.2d 72]

J. Michael Hannon, Daniel S. Crowley, Hannon Law Group, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs/Relators.

David A. Rosenberg, Ford & Harrison LLP, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, District Judge.

Plaintiffs William Robin Hood and Troy Maxon, information technology specialists, moved across the country to work for Satory Global, LLC in Washington, D.C. Plaintiffs were assigned to do work for the Department of Justice pursuant to a subcontract Satory held for information technology support services. They allege that, upon beginning work, they learned that Satory was fraudulently billing the Department of Justice by charging for time spent on private corporate development work instead of on the contract and by performing its subcontracting tasks in an inefficient, unethical way that guaranteed Satory future contracting work. When Mr. Robin raised concerns to his supervisor and to Satory management, he was terminated; Mr. Maxon contends that he was constructively discharged shortly thereafter. Plaintiffs then brought a qui tam suit under the False Claims Act and District of

[946 F.Supp.2d 73]

Columbia common law. After the United States declined to intervene in the case, Plaintiffs served the Complaint on Satory, which now moves to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss in part and deny it in part.

A. Plaintiffs Join Satory

Plaintiffs are two computer experts, William Robin Hood 1 and Troy Maxon, who were recruited for Satory 2 by a recruiting firm called Global IT Resources in July 2010. Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶ 3. Satory recruited them to work on a Department of Justice (“DOJ”) contract (“the Contract”) for which Satory was the subcontractor to Access Systems, Inc., the prime contractor. Id. The Contract was for “Information Technology (‘IT’) Support Services” and was a “Multiple Award Contract under which twelve prime contracts were awarded, each of which [was] an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity, Time and Material contract.” Id. ¶ 4. The contract had a “schedule of fixed unit price Labor Hour rates.” Id. Satory's work was performed at a DOJ building at 2 Constitution Square, N.E., in Washington, D.C. called “2Con,” where the DOJ Enterprise Services Staff–Infrastructure Development project (“ESS/ID”) was located. Id. ¶ 5.

Both Messrs. Robin and Maxon agreed to move to the Washington, D.C. area with their families to take positions with Satory in the late summer of 2010—Mr. Robin from Hawaii and Mr. Maxon from Oregon. Id. ¶¶ 14–16, 18–19. On August 5, 2010, Satory sent Mr. Robin an Offer Letter for a position as “Associate I” at a monthly salary of $11,166.66, plus benefits and a possible bonus. Id. ¶ 14; see also Def. Mot. Dismiss (“Def. MTD”) [Dkt. 16], Ex. 1 [Dkt. 16–1] (Robin Offer Letter).3 Mr. Robin's “initial role” was to be SharePoint Administrator with the “primary responsibility” of “support[ing] the [operations & maintenance] mission of the infrastructure delivery and shared services teams with [DOJ].” Robin Offer Letter at 1. The Offer Letter also listed various “[o]ther duties” and stated: “these activities and services may change.” Id. The second page of the Offer Letter, next to Employment Status, stated: “Your employment with the Company is ‘at-will’ and you will not be entered into a contract of employment.” Id. at 2. Mr. Robin was provided a Relocation Expense Reimbursement and Repayment Agreement, offering him $15,000 for relocation expenses. Compl. ¶ 14; see also Def. MTD, Ex. 3 [Dkt. 16–3] (Robin Relocation Agreement). The Relocation Agreement also included: “Employment is at-will at all times.” Robin Relocation Agreement at 1. Mr. Robin executed the Offer Letter on August 9, 2010 and the Relocation Agreement on August 10, 2010; the Relocation Agreement was countersigned by Haldane Smith of Satory on September 2, 2010.

Mr. Maxon signed a substantially similar Offer Letter on August 26, 2010, and a substantially similar Relocation Agreement on October 4, 2010. See Def. Mot.

[946 F.Supp.2d 74]

Dismiss, Ex. 2 [Dkt. 16–2] (Maxon Offer Letter); id., Ex. 4 [Dkt. 16–4] (Maxon Relocation Agreement). Mr. Maxon accepted Satory's offer to work as an “Associate II” at a monthly salary of $11,250, plus benefits, Maxon Offer Letter at 2, and he was offered $10,000 in relocation expenses, Maxon Relocation Agreement at 1. His initial role was to be “SharePoint Solutions Architect,” although the Offer Letter also included a non-exhaustive list of possible “[s]pecific assignments.” Id. at 1. As with Mr. Robin, both Mr. Maxon's Offer Letter and Relocation Agreement stated that his employment would be at will. Id. at 2, Maxon Relocation Agreement at 1.

B. I & T Lab and Lab Migration

Instead of working as a SharePoint Administrator when he arrived, Mr. Robin was assigned by his supervisor, Joaquin Jesus Rosario, to “rebuild an existing development lab,” called the DevLab. Compl. ¶ 20. A development lab is “a computer environment in which contractors and DOJ personnel are able to test new software in a safe environment ... without worrying about interfering with ongoing operations.” Id. Mr. Robin completed the DevLab project in about three weeks. Id. ¶ 22. He was then assigned by Anne Isaacs, CEO, Founder, and Managing Partner of Satory, “to migrate the existing DOJ Integration & Test [‘I & T’] Lab” from another contracting firm in Alexandria, Virginia, to 2Con (the “Lab Migration Project”). Id. ¶¶ 13, 23. Mr. Robin was “frustrated with the menial work he was assigned” and displeased that he was not working as a SharePoint Administrator, and he complained to his recruiter at Global IT Resources and to Mr. Rosario. Id. ¶¶ 25–26.

Mr. Robin worked on the Lab Migration project in October 2010. In doing so, he “became aware of Satory practices that he considered to be unethical,” such as Mr. Rosario's instruction that Mr. Robin “not ... meet with any DOJ personnel or other contractors without one of Satory management present,” even though Mr. Robin needed to contact those persons to complete the Lab Migration Project. Id. ¶ 27. Satory employees gave Mr. Maxon “the same instructions.” Id. Mr. Rosario's “instruction made [Mr.] Robin's job as Project Manager for the migration of the I & T Lab to the 2Con building difficult, costly and inefficient,” and DOJ personnel and other contractors, frustrated with Mr. Rosario's “lack of competence,” began contacting Mr. Robin for help directly. Id. ¶¶ 28–29.

Mr. Rosario then “told [Mr.] Robin that Satory wanted to make sure that two servers in the Lab were configured so as to be dedicated to Satory, even though they were DOJ property and needed to be used by all contractors.” Id. ¶ 30. Mr. Robin objected because doing so “would be configuring a gateway into the I & T Lab and the 2Con lab, which would pose time-consuming obstacles to shared usage ... waste money, alienate other contractors, and benefit Satory with control of all lab projects to the financial detriment of DOJ.” Id. According to Plaintiffs, Mr. Rosario gave this direction “because under the DOJ Contract, a task order could be awarded without competition only if it met one of four exceptions,” including that “only one contractor can provide services,” and Mr. Rosario “hoped to position Satory to receive no-competition task orders.” Id. Mr. Robin completed the Lab Migration Project on November 6, 2010. Id. ¶ 31. A DOJ representative, Christopher Greer, then asked Satory to take over Lab Management for DOJ from another contractor and requested that Mr. Robin become Lab Manager. Id. ¶ 32. Satory was required to prepare a Lab Manager job description. Although Ms. Isaacs originally

[946 F.Supp.2d 75]

assigned a different Satory employee to define the Lab Manager job description, that person was unable to complete the task and was replaced by Mr. Robin. Id. ¶ ¶ 33–34.

C. Off–Contract Work at DOJ Facilities

According to Plaintiffs, in October 2010, Ms. Isaacs invited a Microsoft contractor, Carol Corneby, to meet with Satory at 2Con to “create a business proposal for Satory to present to Microsoft,” notwithstanding that Ms. Corneby “had no business with DOJ and was not working on the DOJ Contract.” Compl. ¶ 35. Satory personnel—including “Craig Foote, Ivory Banks, [Brian] Seitz, Barry Hartzberg, Anne Isaacs, Mary Egesdal, Silvana Nani, [Mr.] Rosario, [Jeff] Webb, and [Mr.] Robin”—and Ms. Corneby formed a “Working Group” that “worked for 10 hours a day, including weekends, for four to six weeks.” Id. ¶¶ 36–37. The Working Group's goal was to create “a proposal and presentation to present to Microsoft in the hopes that Microsoft would recommend Satory to Viacom and Iron Mountain as Microsoft Partners capable of delivering a quality Records Management solution.” Id. Even though they were “actively involved almost every day in the private Satory corporate business development effort during normal business hours,” the Working Group “billed 40 hours to the DOJ contract every week” through October, November, and December. Id. When Messrs. Maxon, Robin, and Seitz and Ms. Corneby “asked whether it was appropriate to be conducting private corporate Satory business in government facilities and using government resources, power, materials, and email,” Ms. Isaacs “instructed [them] to keep working and not worry about it.” Id. The collaboration among Ms. Corneby and the Satory personnel ended when Ms. Isaacs “tried to usurp” Ms. Corneby's “propriet[ary] solution” and present it to Microsoft herself. Id. ¶ 38.

Plaintiffs allege that Satory worked on other Satory corporate projects while using DOJ resources, on DOJ property. According to Plaintiffs, Satory “worked on a huge initiative to build the Satory Corporate Cloud...

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