19 Aug 2014
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Update: Monrovia Unified Suing Office Depot for Pricing Fraud

MUSD is joining other districts around the state in a lawsuit against Office Depot that alleges pricing fraud, according to Superintendent Linda Wagner.

Update: Monrovia Unified Suing Office Depot for Pricing Fraud

The will vote Wednesday on a proposal to hire an attorney to represent the district in a lawsuit against national retailer , according to public records.

The details of the lawsuit--which an attorney for MUSD could not confirm--remain scant, as the suit is or will be filed under the California False Claims Act, according to a district agenda report.

"Monrovia Unified School District, other neighboring districts in the San Gabriel Valley School Districts' Self-Insurance Authority and other governmental entities will file or have filed legal actions against Office Depot, Inc. regarding fraud it committed in pricing," the agenda report states.

MUSD Superintendent Linda Wagner wrote in an email that the district is engaging in a legal action similar to a class-action lawsuit.

"There are a number of school districts who are entering in to a qui tam lawsuit against Office Depot. A qui tam lawsuit is similar to a class action lawsuit," Wagner wrote. "The concern is that there may have been improper pricing applied to the public agencies involved in the lawsuit."

The district is seeking the school board's approval of a retainer agreement with three different law firms, including the office of attorney Mark Kleiman. However, Kleiman told Patch in an interview that he could not confirm the existence of any suit against Office Depot.

"I can't dscuss whether any suit exists or not because I'm not legally permitted to," Kleiman said.

Speaking generally about the California False Claims Act, Kleiman said that lawsuits filed under that state law are sealed by a judge and cannot be discussed by parties involved in the case. The law is meant to give the government an opportunity to investigate whistleblower claims before companies can intervene, Kleiman said.

Mindy Kramer, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, said in an email to Patch that she "will look into this issue" and respond when she has more details.

Office Depot has faced allegations of price fixing from other governmental entities for years relating to contracts with the company that promised the lowest possible prices for supplies sold to the agencies, according to Business Insider.

Kleiman would not confirm that Monrovia Unified's suit is related to these past allegations, but court records list MUSD as a party in a California False Claims Act lawsuit brought by David Sherwin, the Office Depot employee who first accused the company of wrongdoing in 2008, according to Business Insider.

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