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Evan R. Sherwood

Evan Sherwood helps government contractors to resolve disputes with the federal government, prime and subcontractors, and contractor employees. He has helped clients to successfully navigate large federal contract claims, cost/pricing audits, contract terminations, and related litigation and investigations. He looks for constructive solutions to disputes between contractors and their customers/business partners, so that companies can achieve their strategic goals.

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals has published its annual report for FY 2023, providing data regarding the number of appeals and contractor success rates at the Board.  The data illustrated a number of noteworthy points — and a few welcome trends — for the contracting community.Continue Reading Contractors Had a Strong Success Rate Before the CBCA in FY 2023

In keeping with the trend of increased attention on the False Claims Act’s (“FCA”) qui tam provisions, the Second Circuit recently weighed in on a seeming conflict between the statute and the relator’s obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FCRP”). Under Rule 4(m) of the FRCP, the court generally must dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff fails to serve the defendant with a complaint and summons within 90 days of filing. Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). But a relator bringing suit under the qui tam provisions of the FCA may not serve a defendant until the complaint is unsealed and “until the court so orders.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2). In cases brought under the qui tam provisions of the FCA, this creates the potential for questions regarding when the Rule 4(m) service-of-process clock begins to tick.

These questions seldom arise because courts ordinarily unseal a relator’s complaint and simultaneously order the relator to serve the defendant. In which case, the express order to serve the defendant plainly triggers the service-of-process clock under Rule 4(m). But what if the court unseals the relator’s complaint and then delays (or never issues) the order to serve the defendant? This was the question before the Second Circuit last month in U.S. ex rel. Weiner v. Siemens AG, No. 22-2656, 2023 WL 8227913, at 3 (2d Cir. Nov. 28, 2023).Continue Reading Tick-tock, the Court Starts the Clock: Deconflicting the FCA and Rule 4(m) of the FRCP

The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals has issued its annual report for FY 2023, shedding light on how often contractor appeals reach a successful result, and what agencies are most frequently involved in contract litigation.Continue Reading ASBCA Issues Annual Report, Providing Data on How Often Contractors Prevail

In Honeywell International, Inc., the ASBCA declined to dismiss a roughly $151 million claim by DCMA alleging a violation of CAS 410, holding that the government’s allegations were sufficient to state a claim for improper treatment of G&A expenses.  The Board’s decision provides guidance on how to interpret CAS 410 — a topic that is often addressed by auditors, but has rarely been the subject of written opinions by the courts or boards of contract appeals.Continue Reading ASBCA: Government Can Pursue $151 Million Claim Under CAS 410

Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit provided new guidance on the high burden that the government must carry to terminate a contract for default.  In Dep’t of Transp. v. Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc., the Federal Circuit held that the validity of a termination decision does not depend exclusively on the contracting officer’s reasoning — rather, the government must produce evidence during litigation to prove the contractor’s default under a de novo standard of review.  The Eagle Peak decision illustrates that, absent a threshold showing that the contracting officer’s decision was pretextual, contractors challenging a default decision should focus on developing the “clean slate” record needed to rebut the government’s allegations, rather than disputing the contracting officer’s rationale (or lack thereof) for termination.Continue Reading It Makes No Deference: Fed Circuit Confirms Proper Standard of Review in Default Termination Challenges

Contractors often assume that government auditors have special authority to interpret the Cost Accounting Standards.  That assumption is easy to understand — auditors frequently take the position that there is just one “right” way for a company to do its contract cost accounting, based on how other companies do things.  But contractors should know that CAS is flexible and generally gives them options about how to comply, based on the circumstances of their business.  In short, a contractor’s business judgment matters, and contractors can use it to push back on auditors who take an overly rigid view of CAS.Continue Reading So the Auditor Says You Violated CAS?  Remember, Your Business Judgment Matters When Determining Compliance

In legislation passed last week, Congress directed the FAR Council to issue new rules for contractor organizational conflicts of interest.  The legislation itself did not create any new OCI standards, but provided factors for the council to consider, focusing on conflicts of interest for companies that act as consultants to the government.

It is unclear at this point what the precise nature and extent of the resulting changes to the OCI rules may be.  But the new law makes it likely that there will be some fairly significant revisions.  Congress set a deadline of Summer 2024 for the new regulations, so the contracting community should be on the lookout for a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months, and should not hesitate to submit comments for the government’s consideration.Continue Reading New Contractor Conflict of Interest Rules May Be Coming Soon, with a Special Focus on Consulting and Advisory Contracts

As part of the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), Congress has given the Department of Defense authority to pay defense contractors for increased costs due to inflation.  Section 822 of the NDAA amends Public Law 85-804 (50 U.S.C. 1431) to allow contractors to apply for adjustments, while also giving the DoD wide discretion to grant or deny requests.  President Biden is expected to sign the FY23 NDAA soon, and Section 822 has the potential to be welcome news for contractors who have been battling inflation under multi-year, fixed-price contracts. 

As readers of this blog know from prior posts, DoD has issued position papers over the last year that attempt to address inflation with existing legal tools, but as a practical matter, the Department has provided few options for contractors impacted by rising costs.  The new NDAA provision could finally provide DoD with the legal support it needs to aid contractors struggling with inflation.  However, many questions remain about how this law will work and whether it will actually meet the growing needs of the defense industrial base.  In particular, Congress has not yet appropriated money to fund applications for relief, and DoD must prepare guidance for implementing the statute.  Both of these things will need to happen before contractors can apply for and potentially receive inflation-based price adjustments under this amended Public Law 85-804 authority.

This post discusses the amendment and analyzes the hurdles that remain between defense contractors and inflationary relief.Continue Reading Congress Offers Greater Hope for Defense Contractors Battling Inflation; Actual Relief Is Still Not Clear

With continued inflation putting pressure on the defense supply chain, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) has released guidance encouraging contracting officers to provide mutually agreeable relief to fixed-price contractors facing untenable costs.

DoD’s guidance, dated September 9, 2022 and available at the link here, follows a similar guidance earlier this summer which recommended that contracting officers consider including economic price adjustment clauses in new solicitations.  We previously wrote about that guidance here.Continue Reading DoD Releases Updated Guidance for Firm-Fixed-Price Contractors Grappling with Inflation

In response to industry-wide questions about price adjustments for economic inflation, the Department of Defense (DoD) has released guidance about when and how contracting officers may provide financial relief to contractors working on fixed-price contracts.  The guidance generally discourages contracting officers from granting adjustments under the Changes clause due solely to inflation.  But it does not completely close the door to adjustments, and it offers modest options for fixed-price contracts that contain an economic price adjustment clause.  Moreover, DoD encourages contracting officers to consider inserting economic price adjustment clauses in new solicitations.

This blog post summarizes DoD’s guidance, explains the mechanics of economic price adjustment clauses, and offers views about evaluating other grounds for relief.Continue Reading DoD Releases Guidance on Inflation and Economic Price Adjustments for Fixed-Price Contracts