A former Iraq-based General Electric executive claims he was fired after raising concerns that the company was violating federal anti-bribery laws.
Khaled Asadi says he objected to GE's hiring of a woman close to a senior Iraqi official in the summer of 2010 in order to "curry favor" with the Iraqi electricity ministry while bidding on $250 million contract. The move "could be damaging to GE's reputation and potentially violate the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act," according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed on Friday in federal court in Houston.
Soon after raising the issue with his supervisor and the GE ombudsperson, Asadi, who now lives in Houston and retains citizenship in both Iraq and the U.S., claims he was pressured to step down from a position he has held since 2006 and given an "extremely negative and troubling performance review," according to the lawsuit. He was eventually fired on June 24, 2011. Though Asadi signed an employment agreement requiring him to take any dispute to binding arbitration, he sued GE in court by citing the anti-whistleblower retaliation provision of the Dodd-Frank Act.
A spokesman for GE vigorously denied the accusation, stating that “Mr. Asadi's termination had absolutely nothing to do with any allegations he is making. Regarding our contracts in Iraq, GE followed all requirements and his allegations are false.”
The company was recently awarded contracts by the electricity ministry in Iraq for equipment needed to produce giant power plants, though it is unclear if they are related to the contract described by Asadi.
In 2010, GE paid $23.4 million to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by planning to pay kickbacks to Iraqi government agencies in order to win contracts to supply medical equipment and water purification equipment.
"Bribes and kickbacks are bad business, period," said Robert Khuzami, the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement chief at the time. "This case affirms that law enforcement is active across the globe -- offshore does not mean off-limits."
Watchdog To Slim Down?
The government's chief watchdog is in danger of losing its bite, warned the Government Accountability Office's Comptroller General Gene Dodaro in Congressional testimony on Tuesday.
Staff levels at GAO, which has uncovered corruption and billions of dollars in waste at government agencies, will dip below 3,000 for the first time in its 75-year history, said Dodaro. "We have carefully reviewed every aspect of our operations from a zero base to identify opportunities to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of our work and preserving our ability to assist the Congress in addressing the most important priorities facing the nation," he said. "However, given that staff costs now represent about 81 percent of our budget and the deep reductions already taken in our infrastructure programs, reducing the size of our workforce could not be avoided."
Grain Company Contests $27,000 Fine Over Teens' Amputated Legs
How much is an amputated leg worth? Not that much, apparently, to an Oklahoma company accused of unsafe work conditions at its grain storage facility, where two 17-year-old workers each lost a leg after getting caught in a conveyor auger last August.
After the tragic incident led to amputations for both Bryce Gannon and Tyler Zander, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration slapped Zaloudek Grain with $21,500 in penalties, which the firm is contesting. That's the statutory maximum for serious violations, according to regional OSHA administrator John Hermanson. According to the Enid News & Eagle, the company did pay a $750 fine from the state Labor Department for failing to have worker's compensation insurance.
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- The Heritage Foundation takes aim at Obama's nominee for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Marietta S. Robinson, because her appointment would "ensure a pro-regulatory majority through most of 2013, regardless of who is in the White House next year."