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The MIT Report on Aaron Swartz

In 2013, Andrew Grosso served as outside counsel for the investigation by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology regarding its conduct and role in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. Also on the investigating panel were Prof. Hal Abelson and Prof. Peter Diamond of MIT. The indictment of Mr. Swartz accused him of multiple violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act concerning the downloading of academic articles from JSTOR, an Internet provider of such articles. Mr. Swartz committed suicide in January 2013 while the prosecution was pending. The resulting Report to the President of MIT was issued in July 2013. (See the Report.)

United States ex rel. Campbell v. Lockheed Martin Corporation


Brought on behalf of Albert D. Campbell, the former Cost Control Chief for Lockheed Martin on the company's LANTIRN or "smart bomb" program, under the qui tam provisions of the federal False Claims Act. The lawsuit charged Lockheed Martin with defrauding the United States government in nine military contracts valued at $4.5 billion, including violations of the Truth in Negotiation Act and the Foreign Military Sales program of the U.S. Department of Defense. Filed in May 1995 in federal district court in the Middle District of Florida, the firm litigated the case without government support for over a year before the United States joined part of the case in October 2001. The case settled in August 2003 for $38 million plus more than $2 million in attorneys fees and costs. (See Court Opinion denying Lockheed's Motion to Dismiss.)

United States ex rel. Marcus v. Tumbleweed Communications Corp.


The Firm filed a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of Kenneth Marcus under the federal False Claims Act against Tumbleweed Communications Corporation (now known as Axway, Inc.) for fraud against the General Services Administration and numerous other federal agencies. The suit concerned a GSA Multiple Award Schedule contract. The gist of the alleged fraud was that Tumbleweed misled the GSA concerning the usual and customary prices that it charged commercial customers for software products, resulting in GSA agreeing to a schedule of inflated product prices for the government agencies that purchased Tumbleweed’s software. (See Complaint.)

The case was settled in 2013 for $6.2 million, with Mr. Marcus receiving a whistleblower award of approximately $1.2 million. The case was filed in the District of Maryland: No. 08-cv-1006. (See the Press Release of the Department of Justice.)

Fitzhugh v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc.

2004 – 2011: SETTLED

In 2004, the firm filed the first of three law suits against Countrywide Home Loans and fourteen other defendants, including developers, on behalf of more than thirty low income, minority home buyers of condominiums at King's Crossing II in southeast DC. In February 2011, after more than six years of litigation, the case was settled under confidential terms. Evidence introduced during motion practice in support of the Plaintiffs' cases included: signatures of Countrywide underwriter who supposedly approved loans for FHA insurance was forged; a director of the Washington, DC office of ACORN signed blank downpayment forms at the request of a developer's employee that then appeared in Countrywide's loan files; loans sold to investors, including FannieMae, and insured by public and private insurers, including FHA, had equity and loan-to-value ratios calculated based upon non-existent ACORN gift funds; the roofs of the condominiums were in dangerous and substandard condition; and flooding occurred in the buildings with mold and mushrooms growing inside. (See Press Release.)

Feist v. Paxfire (Class Action)


The Firm is currently defending Paxfire, a small Internet company in the Southern District of New York in a class action alleging that Paxfire had unlawfully intercepted electronic communications of Internet users; had profiled the search histories of such users; and had sold such histories. Paxfire denied such wrongful conduct, and filed counterclaims against the plaintiff for defamation seeking more than $10m in damages. These counterclaim have been upheld by the Court on the plaintiff’s motion to dismiss. (See Transcript of the Court Hearing Denying Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims).

Confidential Arbitration


In a confidential arbitration proceeding, the Firm defended a small Internet company in a complaint brought by a large, multi-billion dollar cable company. The litigation concerned a contract dispute, and was tried to completion before a Panel of the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service (JAMS) in Chicago, Illinois. The judgment entered against the Internet company on the complaint was less than the company’s settlement offer, and less than 10% of what the complaint had demanded.

United States ex rel. Kite v. Brookhaven Memorial Hospital, et al.


The Firm defended a hospital based on Long Island, New York in a False Claims Act lawsuit brought in the District of New Jersey. The case was settled for approximately ten percent of what the complaint demanded, on a payment schedule spread out over seven years.

Armentrout v. NeuStar; Sullivan v. NeuStar


The firm filed suit on behalf of Douglas B. Armentrout against two Internet companies: NeuStar, Inc. the domain name registry for ".us;" and NeuLevel, Inc., the domain name registry for ".biz." Mr. Armentrout is a former vice president of NeuStar and CEO of NeuLevel. The firm then filed a second suit against NeuStar on behalf of Alan Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan is the former Director of the .biz Registry for NeuLevel. Taken together, the complaints charged the defendants with manipulating the companies' accounting records to defraud one of NeuStar's initial partners in the ownership of NeuLevel, this being Melbourne IT of Melbourne, Australia; and manipulating the termination of employees to deprive them of stock options to which they were entitled. Mr. Armentrout's complaint also alleged that the companies defrauded him of more than $3 million.

The cases were settled separately. The parties agreed to comment as follows: "The matters between the parties have been settled on a confidential basis to the satisfaction of all concerned." In addition, with regard to the case of Armentrout v. NeuStar and NeuLevel, "The parties are very satisfied with the settlement."

United States ex rel. Kessler v. American Postal Workers Union


Brought on behalf of Andrea Kessler under the qui tam provisions of the federal False Claims Act, the lawsuit charged the American Postal Workers Union with submitting false claims to the Office of Personnel Management in the operation of the Federal Employees Health benefits Program. Filed in federal district court in the District of Maryland, the case settled for $2 million.

Seldowitz v. Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State


Brought on behalf of a Foreign Service Officer under the federal Privacy Act, the suit charged that the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State used false documents to coerce the plaintiff, Mr. Seldowitz, into entering a civil settlement concerning allegations that he and his wife submitted false reimbursement vouchers to that Department. The case was tried without a jury after which the Court issued a written legal opinion exonerating Mr. Seldowitz of wrongdoing.