October 28, 2014 / 9:51 PM / 5 years ago

Columbia University to pay $9 million to end U.S. lawsuit over AIDS grants

Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is photographed after speaking at the Crain's Business Forum in Manhattan, New York September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Columbia University has agreed to pay more than $9 million to resolve a lawsuit by the U.S. government accusing it of submitting false claims in connection with grants the Ivy League school obtained to fund AIDS- and HIV-related work.

The settlement, announced by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Tuesday, will resolve a civil lawsuit unveiled the same day that sought damages and penalties under the federal False Claims Act.

The lawsuit centered on Columbia University’s role as grant administrator for its International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP), which received millions of dollars in federal grants.

The lawsuit said Columbia wrongly charged many grants for work that was not dedicated to the funded projects, even though it had an obligation to track its employees’ efforts from 2004 to 2012.

“We admire and applaud Columbia’s work in combating AIDS and HIV,” Bharara said in a statement. “But grantees cannot disregard the terms under which grant money is provided.”

The case stemmed from a whistleblower complaint filed in 2011 by Craig Love, who was ICAP’s director of finance from 2008 to 2011, the lawsuit said.

Under the settlement, which a judge approved Tuesday, Columbia admitted submitting inaccurate cost reports and mischarging grants, Bharara’s office said.

Columbia University Medical Center said in a statement that it was committed to full compliance with federal research funding requirements and regretted administrative shortcomings that occurred during a period of rapid growth at ICAP.

“New controls were implemented in 2012 to better support ICAP in continuing its widely respected public health mission,” Columbia said.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Ken Wills

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