October 4, 2013

David Haynes, the managing partner for The Cochran Firm, D.C., recently made a guest appearance on Cliff Schecter’s We Act Radio 1480 AM show to discuss possible claims arising from the tragic Navy Yard shooting. In a wide-ranging discussion (available on YouTube), Haynes addressed possible liability due to negligent security, inadequate background checks, and other issues. Burning questions remain as to how the mass shooter Aaron Alexis was provided a secret-level security clearance and allowed to work on a government facility given his prior history of multiple gun-related arrests, known mental health problems, and other behavioral issues.

If Alexis’s significant warning signs had been adequately flagged, the Navy Yard shooting may have been avoided. Individuals with multiple gun-related arrests and mental illness should not be permitted to purchase firearms, granted security clearances, nor permitted to work at sensitive government facilities.

During his appearance, Haynes discusses some of the issues that have come up regarding Alexis’s employer The Experts and USIS – the firm that performed the background check on Alexis. Hewlett-Packard terminated its relationship with The Experts. In a letter sent to The Experts CEO, an HP executive wrote that “[b]ased on what we now know about The Experts’ conduct, including its failure to respond appropriately to Aaron Alexis’ mental health issues and certain incidents recently reported in the press, H.P. has terminated its relationship with The Experts.”

The background check company USIS is under criminal investigation over whether it misled officials about the thoroughness of its checks. USIS, which also performed the background check on NSA leaker Edward Snowden, performs checks that are essential in determining whether an individual receives a security clearance. Virginia-based USIS is the largest background check provider for the federal government and owned by Altegrity Inc., a company which itself is owned by the global private equity investment company Providence Equity Partners LLC.

USIS was originally was known as the Federal Investigations Divisions of the Office of Personnel Management. This division was spun off to the private sector in 1996 as part of a general privatization initiative designed to reduce the size of the civil service. From the start, powerful Wall Street firms and private equity companies have been invested in USIS. Washington, D.C.-based private equity company The Carlyle Group LP and New York-based Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe LP originally invested in the company, which enjoyed a non-competitive federal contract for investigative work. USIS was also granted free access to databases that were not provided for competing companies. In 2007, Providence Equity Partners bought USIS for approximately $1.5 billion.

Click here to listen to managing partner David Hayne’s appearance on We Act Radio 1480 AM to discuss the Washington Navy Yard shooting.