Multinational conglomerate Honeywell International agreed to pay $3.35 million to settle allegations it sold defective material for bulletproof vests used by local, state, and tribal police departments, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday.
Between 2000-05, Honeywell sold a material it called “Z Shield” to bulletproof vest manufacturer Armor Holdings. The material was made from Zylon fiber manufactured by Japanese company Toyobo, according to the settlement agreement.
Z Shield deteriorated rapidly in heat and humidity, making it less protective against bullets—a problem Honeywell knew about, the DOJ alleged. The company violated the False Claims Act by selling the inferior material for the vests, which compromised the safety of law enforcement officers, the agency stated.
In 2021, Compliance Week profiled Aaron Westrick, who blew the whistle on false claims made by vest manufacturers that used Zylon in their manufacturing processes, in its series “Witness to Wrongdoing.” Westrick worked for Second Chance Body Armor, which was acquired by Armor Holdings in 2005.
The Honeywell settlement concludes the DOJ’s wide-ranging investigation into the Zylon vests, which included the recovery of $133 million across settlements with 17 entities and individuals throughout the body armor supply chain.
“It is completely unacceptable for a company to produce and sell faulty products that law enforcement officers rely on for their safety,” said General Services Administration Inspector General Carol Ochoa in a press release.
Honeywell denied the allegations in an emailed statement.
“Honeywell denies all liability as part of the settlement, maintains its position that it did not make any false claims, and views the modest settlement amount as a reasonable way to settle this long-standing litigation, which was expected to continue absent settlement,” the company said. “Honeywell has long maintained that the Z Shield ballistic material at issue in the lawsuit was safe and effective.
“In both the investigation and the litigation, the U.S. government did not identify a single instance where a vest containing Z Shield failed to perform as intended in the field.”