3M Pays Out $9 Million for Defective Combat Earplugs

The contracting company 3M has agreed to pay out $9.1 million to settle allegations that it sold defective earplugs to the United States military.

The case alleged that 3M did not disclose to the Defense Logistics Agency that there were defects in the second version of the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs.

In a press release from the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said, “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”

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Despite the pay out, the claims made in the lawsuit are only allegations and no party was named liable. The case was brought forth through the False Claims Act. Whistleblower provisions in the act enable private parties to sue on behalf of the government if a defendant submitted false claims to procure money from the government. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers can share any compensation recovered from a successful lawsuit.

The Department of Justice said the whistleblower who reported the defects will be entitled to $1,911,000.

According to details from the settlement, 3M and Aearo Technologies, Inc. knew that the earplugs weren’t long enough to be properly inserted into a person’s ears. Due to the size, the earplugs could slowly loosen until they no longer cancel out sound. The military also claimed that the company never disclosed the defect when the contract was being finalized.

Speaking about the settlement, Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig, Jr. said, “This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for supplying substandard products, in particular products that could directly impact our service members’ health and welfare. DCIS protects the integrity of Defense Department programs by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively affect the well-being of our troops.”

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