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Consulting firm accuses city of L.A. of concealing evidence in DWP billing case

Consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is seeking at least $8 million from the city of Los Angeles over what it alleges were the city’s efforts to conceal documents and other evidence during legal proceedings, according to a new court filing.

L.A. sued PricewaterhouseCoopers several years ago over a new Department of Water and Power billing system, but dropped its lawsuit last fall.

Now, PricewaterhouseCoopers is asking the court to impose sanctions for what it calls the city’s “obstructionist discovery tactics,” including lying to the court and giving false deposition testimony, according to its motion filed this week.

The firm alleges “the city went far beyond the boundaries of legitimate adversarial conduct, consciously and persistently abusing the discovery process to hide its wrongdoing,” according to the filing.

California law allows courts to impose sanctions over discovery misconduct. A litigant who unsuccessfully asserts that another misused the discovery process can also face sanctions.

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Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the city attorney’s office, called PricewaterhouseCoopers’ motion “as substantively defective as it is untimely. The city will exercise its statutory right to seek reimbursement of the attorney’s fees it incurs in opposing the motion.”

In its motion, PricewaterhouseCoopers lays out a timeline of events going back to 2015, the year the city sued the firm over a new, faulty billing system. Separately, DWP customers filed a class-action lawsuit against the city the same year over the billing debacle.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was defending itself in the lawsuit brought by the city when lawyers for the consulting firm uncovered evidence in the DWP ratepayer case. The firm alleged in court documents that the city took part in a fraudulent scheme to control the outcome of the class-action lawsuit.

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City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office has denied that it was involved in or aware of the alleged scheme and has blamed two outside attorneys it hired. Those attorneys have denied wrongdoing, with one saying his work was done at the direction of the city attorney’s office, which Feuer’s office denies.

Meanwhile, FBI agents last summer raided the city attorney’s office and the DWP, seeking evidence related to both lawsuits. No charges have been publicly announced.