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Current Blackwater contractors may continue to work in Iraq for Triple Canopy April 6, 2009

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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In what does not entirely come as a shock, instead of hundreds of former Blackwater securtiy contractors flooding home the United States or to their home countries upon the completion of their former contracts, it looks like many will simply stay under contracts with rival contractor Triple Canopy. Blackwater recently lost most of its Iraq related security contracts with the US Government, in large part due to significant bad press in the United States stemming from several shootings of civilians in Iraq.

I first read this news in a New York Times article titled “Ex-Blackwater Workers May Return to Iraq Jobs”  The topic is newsworthy on its own, but this article contained an unusual quote from a Blackwater spokeswoman:

An unresolved question is whether Blackwater, recently renamed Xe (pronounced zee), or any affiliated company will profit from the deal. Speculation inside the industry and the Iraqi government has focused on whether Triple Canopy might hire as a subcontractor a company called the Falcon Group, identified in a lawsuit brought by Ms. Burke as a Blackwater affiliate.

A Blackwater spokeswoman, Anne Tyrell, said that Blackwater had no relationship with Falcon Group, whose Web site describes it as an Iraqi-owned company with interests in security and reconstruction. “The people who provide security services abroad are independent contractors,”Ms. Tyrell said. “When their 60- to 90-day contracts with us expire, they can seek employment with whomever they choose.”

That statement is ironic because Blackwater has defended themselves from wrongful death lawsuits by former employees arguing against their classification as independent contractors.  So publicly, these contractors are independent contractors whom Blackwater has no control over, but in court they are direct employees when it suits them to limit benefit/liabilities. Maybe this spokesperson was uninformed, but these words do mean things, and you can’t have it both ways.

Plaintiff’s attempts to circumvent the Defense Base Act in negligence cases continue March 1, 2009

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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Reports of new attempts to pierce the protections afforded to employers under the Defense Base Act have been popping up throughout the news world.

The daughter of a Michigan man apparently killed by friendly fire is embarking on a wrongful death suit against KBR, who most disgustingly appears to have misled the family as to the nature of the employee’s death.

Also, see my previous posting regarding a this pending class action lawsuit against KBR.

Now, families of Blackwater security contractors recently lost their bid before a an Administrative Law Judge to sue Blackwater for wrongful death based on the contractors alleged status as independent contractors. I have neither read the opinion in this case, nor the briefs from either party, but I can imagine that Blackwater’s victory here was based on the traditional definitions of independent contractor agreements.

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U.S., Sixteen other countries agree to rules for private security contractors operating in war zones September 20, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The United States and sixteen other countries including Great Britain, Iraq, and Afghanistan have entered into an agreement purportedly to ensure that private military contractors in war zones opperate under some form of international law, rather than in a lawless void. The United States has some 8,000 private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan protecting civilian staff, diplomats, and business leaders.

The countries collectively produced a document called the “Montreux Document” defining obligations of private military contractors during armed conflicts.  The agreement also catelogues 73 good practices defining criterea to both vet prospective firms and direct their progress.

Private military contractor Blackwater Worldwide of North Carolina has been made infamous since the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in September of 2007 at the hands of Blackwater contractors. Since then there has been much international debate as to what jurisdiction, if any, has the authority to prosecute contractors if they are deemed to have commited a criminal act.

The Montreux Document, though the product of a three year joint initiative is not legally binding on the member countries nor on private contractors. It appears the debate will continue to rage on.

Security Contractor Blackwater Being Investigated For Tax Evasion? March 16, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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For more, see the March 12 post from the “Ataxingmatter’ Blog

House chairman asks agencies to probe Blackwater

In letters sent to the Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration, and Labor Department on Monday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested investigations into whether Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor involved in the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians last year, is complying with federal tax, small business and labor laws.The committee says that Blackwater might have failed to withhold $50 million in taxes from workers’ paychecks while receiving $1.25 billion in federal contracts since 2000.”I request that the Internal Revenue Service initiate an inquiry into whether Blackwater has complied with federal tax laws and take any appropriate action,” Waxman wrote in his letter to the IRS.In March 2007, the IRS concluded that Blackwater had improperly designated security guards working in Iraq as independent contractors and not company employees to sidestep its obligation to withhold taxes on wages, Waxman said in a public statement accompanying the letters.”As a result, Blackwater obtained small business contracts without competing with other qualified bidders that properly designated their guards as employees,” said Waxman. His committee reported that Blackwater has won at least 100 small business contracts totaling more than $144 million since 2000.Waxman also said that Blackwater refused to cooperate with a Labor Department audit to determine whether the security company violated equal employment opportunity laws.
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