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Hercules Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit

May 17, 1998| From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Hercules Inc. announced Friday it will settle a decade-old whistleblower's lawsuit for $55 million, avoiding trial over allegations its nuclear rocket inspection system was riddled with flaws.

The settlement in the lawsuit filed by fired rocket inspector Katherine Colunga marked the second time in two months that Hercules and its current owner, Alliant Techsystems, have settled whistleblower lawsuits.

In March, Alliant announced it would pay $5.4 million to settle allegations filed by another worker, Robert Pratt, that managers at its Magna, Utah, weapons plant were overbilling the U.S. Navy for time spent complying with the provisions of an arms treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The Colunga lawsuit was filed after she was fired in 1987 after she questioned quality-control inspections for rocket motors that were manufactured at Hercules' plants in Clearfield and Magna.

The Wilmington, Del.-based company, a supplier of specialty chemicals and food products, sold its aerospace division, including the two plants, to Alliant TechSystems of Hopkins, Minn., in 1995.

Colunga filed the lawsuit in 1989 under the federal False Claims Act, a statute that allows citizens to sue contractors on behalf of the government. The federal government had declined to join in her suit.

Colunga alleged she was trying to expose fraudulent quality-control inspections during the production of nine missile systems--including the Trident, Pershing, ICBM and Titan--built by Hercules in Utah between October 1981 and April 1992.

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