ClimateGate heading for the courts
If this goes to court it’ll get very ugly and I can’t see it ending well.
This is why I am so glad to report that Michael Mann – creator of the incredible Hockey Stick curve and one of the scientists most heavily implicated in the Climategate scandal – is about to get a very nasty shock. When he turns up to work on Monday, he’ll find that all 27 of his colleagues at the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University have received a rather tempting email inviting them to blow the whistle on anyone they know who may have been fraudulently misusing federal grant funds for climate research.
It turns out the US has a False Claims Act whereby whistleblowers get to keep a portion of any money recovered from individuals who get public money by making false statements. So it looks like ‘hide the decline’ will be tested in court. A clear explanation of the legislation and process can be found here.
The False Claims Act permits whistleblowers to sue in the name of the government as a “qui tam” plaintiff. Qui tam whistleblowers have used the FCA for decades to police (some would say hound) government contractors accused of obtaining government money by means of false statements. What’s the non-altruistic incentive for exposing fraud on the government? Successful whistleblowers can keep a share of the money that a federal judge or jury says should be paid back to the government, sometimes up to 30% of the recovery. Indeed, whistleblowers have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in these suits over the last 20 years.
There is no reason this legal tool can’t be used against unscrupulous professors, scientists, and “green jobs” hucksters who knowingly submit false statements to get government grants that fund their research, fuel their green-tech start-ups, and underwrite their proselytizing about supposed man-made climate change.
Importantly, false statements necessary to justify a False Claims Act suit don’t have to involve the same type of data-manipulation exposed in the current ClimateGate scandal. A climate-fraud FCA case could be made out of any type of false statement made in order to get or keep government money. Government grants and contracts typically involve a significant amount of ongoing certification of compliance with bureaucratic restrictions – think of a government contractor’s progress reports or a hospital’s never-ending stream of paperwork assuring that all is in order – and false statements in this paperwork may open the door to a lawsuit.
I had thought that people would first start suing the alt.energy firms looking at statements they had made in their prospectuses, but the first move I am aware of is going after the scientists themselves. As best I can see Michael Mann is in their targets, but Phil Jones should be worried too.
I’m hoping that no-one there realizes I have a US DoE grant and have had this (with Tom W.) for the last 25 years.
What is going to make this particularly interesting is that Mann will be sued in his personal capacity – his employer is a state-based organisation and can’t be sued under this federal legislation. I’m wondering if their litigation insurance would apply in this situation?
At the core of the case will be a whistleblower (one of Mann’s former trusted colleagues) v Mann (and perhaps others). On trial will be their working relationship, work practices and academic procedures. As I said above, this will be ugly and involve a lot of ‘he-said, she-said’ type argument. So overall I do have mixed feeling on this; the AGW lobby did bring it upon themselves, they played very hard with little regard for playing the man or the ball. But the collateral damage these actions will do to their home institutions and disciplines is also very high. Part of the problem is that the AGW lobby corrupted the governance mechanisms of their home institutions and disciplines in pursuit of their narrow self-interested objectives as opposed to playing within the governance mechanisms.