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On February 17, 2021, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Boynton, Acting Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, provided opening remarks at the Federal Bar Association’s annual Qui Tam Conference. Both emphasized the key role of the FCA in combating fraud against the Government, and noted an anticipated increase in FCA enforcement actions in the coming years, particularly related to the Government’s pandemic response. In addition, Senator Grassley offered a preview of potential legislative changes to the False Claims Act, and Boynton outlined DOJ’s enforcement priorities for the coming year.

Continue Reading Senator Grassley and Senior DOJ Official Discuss Potential False Claims Act Changes and Enforcement Priorities

As the recent SolarWinds Orion attack makes clear, cybersecurity will be a focus in the coming years for both governmental and non-governmental entities alike.  In the federal contracting community, it has long been predicted that the government’s increased cybersecurity requirements will eventually lead to a corresponding increase in False Claims Act (FCA) litigation involving cybersecurity compliance.  This prediction may soon be proven true, as a December 2020 speech from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Granston specifically identified “cybersecurity related fraud” as an “area where we could see enhanced False Claims Act activity.”  This post discusses recent efforts to use the FCA to enforce cybersecurity compliance — and, based on those efforts, what government contractors may expect to see in the future.
Continue Reading Cybersecurity and Government Contracting: False Claims Act Considerations

Earlier this week, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in The Boeing Company v. United States that clears the way for resolution of Boeing’s substantive challenge to a controversial FAR provision that can give the government windfall recoveries in Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) matters.  The Federal Circuit decision is notable for three reasons.  First, in rejecting the government’s argument that Boeing had waived its right to attack the relevant FAR provision, the court clarified the circumstances in which a contractor will be found to have waived its rights to object to FAR provisions.  Second, in concluding that the Court of Federal Claims had jurisdiction to consider the dispute, the court provided a useful primer on the three different kinds of jurisdiction available under the Tucker Act.

Finally, the Federal Circuit’s remand means the Court of Federal Claims will now address Boeing’s substantive challenge to FAR 30.606, which directs contracting officers to ignore offsets that save the government money when calculating the impact of changes to a contractor’s cost accounting practices.  Boeing’s argument that this provision amounts to a breach of contract and an illegal exaction will now be resolved on the merits.


Continue Reading Federal Circuit Rejects Government’s Waiver and Jurisdiction Defenses, Paving the Way for a CAS Showdown at the Court of Federal Claims

Late last year, a spokesman for the Department of Defense announced without fanfare that the agency would increase audits of certified cost or pricing data under the Truth in Negotiations Act (“TINA”).  While the full effect of that enhanced focus on TINA compliance remains to be seen, a recent decision by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”) provides helpful guidance for navigating upcoming TINA audits and defending against defective pricing claims, particularly in situations involving an on-going program where documents contain both facts and judgmental estimates.

Continue Reading With Potential New TINA Audits on the Horizon, the ASBCA Provides a Helpful Primer on Defending Against Defective Pricing Claims

As the COVID-19 virus extends its global reach, defense contractors may be called upon to begin implementing their contracts’ mission-essential services plans. These plans, required by DFARS 252.237-7023, facilitate mission-essential functions in extended crisis situations, including pandemics, which are explicitly noted in the DFARS. As the coronavirus outbreak continues, defense contractors should check whether their contracts include this clause and assess their readiness to implement the requirement if DoD requests activation of the company’s plan.
Continue Reading The Show Must Go On: Mission-Essential Services During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The False Claims Act has long protected relators from retaliation for preparing a qui tam complaint.  But what if an employee “blows the whistle” on a garden-variety problem — for instance, a laboratory that she believes is falling short of standards in a federal funding agreement?

Continue Reading Blowing the Whistle on a Breach of Contract? D.C. Circuit Addresses Scope of FCA’s Anti-Retaliation Rules

On Monday, the Supreme Court significantly altered how government agencies will treat confidential commercial information protected from disclosure by Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) — an issue that recurs repeatedly with respect to information submitted by contractors to government agencies.  Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481 (U.S. June 24, 2019). The Court overturned 45 years of lower-court precedent requiring that the submitter show both that the information was not publicly disclosed, and that its release would cause substantial competitive harm.  The Court’s decision seemingly expands the scope of Exemption 4 by removing the “substantial competitive harm” requirement. However, the effect of this apparent expansion is unclear, because the Court suggested but did not resolve whether Exemption 4 also requires a new element: a showing that the submitter’s information was provided under an assurance by the government that it would keep the information confidential.

Notwithstanding the question left open by the Court, Food Marketing points the way to several steps that contractors can take to protect their commercial and financial information from release under the new interpretation of Exemption 4.


Continue Reading Supreme Court Shakes Up FOIA Exemption for Confidential Information

As previously discussed on this blog, the Supreme Court announced last year that it would resolve a circuit split over when a relator needed to file a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  Earlier this month, the Court decided in Cochise Consultancy Inc. v. United States ex rel. Hunt, that relators can — in limited circumstances — take advantage of the FCA’s 3-year “alternative” statute of limitations, which means they may file their complaints up to four years after the default 6-year period has expired.

Now that the dust has settled, it is worth stepping back to take stock of the ruling’s practical effect.  We believe that Cochise will have limited impact on most qui tam actions, although it leaves some important questions open.  For FCA aficionados, the ruling by Justice Thomas also foreshadows a plain-reading, textual approach to future questions that may arise.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Extends Statute of Limitations for Relators in FCA Cases, in Limited Circumstances

This week, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released formal guidelines (“the Guidelines”) for awarding credit to entities that cooperate in False Claims Act (“FCA”) investigations. Frequently hinted at by DOJ officials in recent speeches and public statements, the Guidelines have been eagerly anticipated by practitioners in the FCA space.

Despite the build-up, the Guidelines are hardly revolutionary in many respects, as they largely memorialize existing discretionary practices for awarding cooperation credit that are well familiar to practitioners in the area. Nonetheless, the codification of the Guidelines in the Justice Manual may prove to be a significant development, especially if this more formal policy statement results in greater transparency and consistency in settlement discussions with DOJ. Unfortunately, the Guidelines leave unresolved certain key questions, and whether DOJ ultimately achieves its objective of promoting increased disclosure and cooperation will depend substantially on the manner in which the Guidelines are implemented.
Continue Reading New DOJ Cooperation Credit Guidelines a Welcome Sign, but Key Questions Remain Unresolved

The motivating force behind the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733 (“FCA”) is its provision for qui tam enforcement, which authorizes private parties (aka relators) to initiate FCA cases on behalf of the United States. Id. § 3730(b)(1). Immediately after re-invigoration of the FCA in 1986, scholars and litigants questioned the constitutional validity of statutory authorization for relators to sue on behalf of the U.S. government. After 15 years of litigation, this debate withered, but has been recently re-invigorated.

This post summarizes four principal challenges to the constitutionality of qui tam enforcement, and then discusses two recent events in which these challenges have reappeared: the confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee William Barr and a cert petition that asks the Supreme Court to rule on qui tam constitutionality.
Continue Reading Debate Over Qui Tam Constitutionality Resumes After 20-Year Hiatus