A dispute over pipe quality continues to unfold outside the courtroom, as JM Eagle claims a person it calls a key witness in a whistle-blower lawsuit denies saying the firm took measures that intentionally compromised the quality of its pipe.
Brian Wang, a former longtime employee and plant manager, said in a sworn statement that he never said as whistle-blower John Hendrix asserts in his lawsuit that JM Eagle sacrificed quality by using cheaper ingredients, speeding up pipe extruders or failing to replace worn-out screws and barrels.
Wang worked for JM Manufacturing now JM Eagle from 1984 to June 2006, including as a plant manager at three of the company's 23 plants.
But Wang now says in a declaration released by JM Eagle on April 13 that he never said JM forced plant managers to speed up extruders, nor did the company use cheaper compound ingredients, as a way to increase profits.
This statement is false. I never acknowledged such a thing, nor did I ever give a statement saying such a thing. There was never any intent by me (or ever any instructions from management) to produce product which was poorly made or non-conforming, Wang said, according to a JM Eagle news release.
It has always been the goal of JM Eagle to find the most efficient and cost-effective ways to make pipe that conforms to industry standards, Wang said. I was never instructed by Barry Lin [the company's production director] or Walter Wang [the CEO] to run an extruder at a speed which would knowingly create poor quality or non-conforming pipe.
Brian Wang is not related to Walter Wang.
Brian Wang also addressed charges of cutbacks in maintenance. No one ever put any pressure on me as plant manager to use worn-out screws and barrels, he said.
The whistle-blower lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in 2006, but was placed under seal. Since the suit was made public Feb. 8, it unleashed a flurry of media reports.
Washington law firm Phillips & Cohen LLP, which specializes in whistle-blower cases, started the ball rolling Feb. 11 with a news release announcing the suit's existence. The announcement generated numerous news reports, including stories in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
JM Eagle fought back, holding a Feb. 18 news conference to announce that none of the governmental bodies that joined the suit had complained about actual leaking pipe. The firm also alleged that Hendrix, the whistle-blower who brought the suit, had offered a kickback deal to a pipe buyer.
In his lawsuit, Hendrix has denied the kickback allegations, which he called a pretext to fire him in 2005. Instead, he claims JM Eagle fired him in retaliation for his investigating and raising concerns about what he alleges are its practice of selling PVC pipe with substandard tensile strength.
JM Eagle on April 5 followed its kickback volley by announcing that the firm was offering a 50-year warranty on its water and sewer pipe. The warranty includes pipe that the company made in the past, which previously had been covered by a standard one-year warranty.
Attorneys at Phillips & Cohen could not be reached for comment about Brian Wang's sworn statement.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.