July 27 (UPI) -- The Department of Justice announced on Thursday that 3M Company will pay $9.1 million for failing to mention a defect in its Version 2 Combat Arms Earplugs when it sold them to the United States military.
"The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct," Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, of the Department's Civil Division, said in a press release.
The settlement falls under a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower under provisions of the False Claims Act.
The filer will receive over $1.9 million of the settlement as part of the reparations for faulty equipment. The lawsuit includes 3M's predecessor Aearo Technologies and alleges that they knew the earplugs were faulty.
"Settling the investigation into this discontinued product at this point allows the matter to no longer be a distraction to the business," 3M told UPI in an emailed statement.
"We take great pride in our products and this resolution is not an admission of liability, but simply a decision to move forward with our mission to provide high quality personal safety equipment products to our customers."
The case falls under United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability, the Justice Department said.
Combat earplugs are designed to provide normal hearing while closing and protecting eardrums from gunfire and explosions upon impact of the concussive sound. Many service members do not where them do to the loss of situational awareness.
"Today's settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed," said director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command Frank Robey.
"Properly made safety equipment, for use by our soldiers, is vital to our military readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military," Robey said.