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Settlement Expected in Duke Case

Duke University is to settle a case brought against it by a whistleblower who alleged that the school knew that a researcher there was relying on falsified data to win grants, Retraction Watch's Ivan Oransky writes at Science.

Duke biologist Erin Potts-Kant was arrested in 2013 on embezzlement charges, which led to Duke uncovering "unreliable" data in more than a dozen of her papers and the retraction of 17 of her papers. In 2016, a former colleague of Potts-Kant's filed a whistleblower suit against her, her former supervisor, and Duke that alleged that fraudulent data was used to secure some $200 million in federal grants.

Oranksy now reports that the whistleblower, former Duke biologist Joseph Thomas, is waiting for the US Department of Justice to approve the settlement, the terms of which are expected to be announced at a hearing early next month. Joel Androphy, who works on such federal False Claims Act cases, tells Oranksy that cases like this typically settle for 1.5 to two times that can be proven to have been obtained through fraud. Under this whistleblower law, Thomas, Oransky adds, could receive up to 30 percent of that amount.

Androphy also says he wouldn't be surprised if Duke is also subjected to enhanced compliance for its grants.

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