Total Fina SA and its affiliates have agreed to pay the federal government $14.6 million plus interest to resolve claims that the companies underpaid royalties owed on natural gas produced from federal and American Indian lands. The settlement between the United States and Total Fina, Total Oil and Chemical Co., Total Minatome Corp., Total Exploration Production U.S.A. Inc., Fina Oil & Chemical Co., Elf Exploration Inc. and Total E&P USA Inc. covers the period from August 1986 to the present. The agreement arises from a lawsuit filed by Harold E. Wright under the Federal False Claims Act. Under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the act, a private citizen may file actions on behalf of the U.S. government and share in the recovery of funds. Because Wright is deceased, his heirs will receive $23,000 as part of their share of the settlement. The Total settlement and numerous agreements with other energy companies in recent years have returned approximately $280 million to the federal government and Indian lessors, said Greg Gould, the Interior Department‘s acting deputy assistant secretary for Natural Resources Revenue.

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