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3M settles military earplug allegations

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. -- Maplewood-based 3M will pay $9.1 million to settle allegations that it sold defective earplugs to the military, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The federal government alleges the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 were too short to function properly on some users and that 3M (and predecessor earplugs manufacturer Aearo Technologies Inc.) knowingly sold them to the military anyway. 3M did not notify the military of the defect, the Justice Department alleged.

Allegations were brought forward by a whistleblower, who will receive $1,911,000 of the settlement. The action is authorized by the False Claims Act, which allows private parties with evidence of fraudulent activity against the U.S. to sue on the government’s behalf and receive a portion of the award.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, 3M said:

“Settling the investigation into this discontinued product at this point allows the matter to no longer be a distraction to the business, and frees former and current 3M employees from having to go through the inconvenience of a protracted investigation and litigation. We take great pride in our products and this resolution is not an admission of liability, but simply a decision to move forward with our mission to provide high quality personal safety equipment products to our customers.”

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