Suspension and Debarment

On October 21, 2020 the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) published a Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking voluntary submissions of workplace diversity and inclusion training information and materials from federal contractors, federal subcontractors, and their employees. The RFI was published pursuant to Executive Order 13950, Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping (“EO”) issued on September 22, 2020, which prohibited certain “divisive concepts” in workplace trainings and instructed OFCCP to solicit information from federal agencies and contractors about the content of their training programs.  The EO also directed OFCCP to establish a hotline to investigate complaints received under the EO, as well as Executive Order 11246. The hotline, and a corresponding email address, were established on September 28, 2020. We provided a full description and explanation of the requirements of the EO here.

Under the new RFI, contractors may submit comments and other information to OFCCP by December 1, 2020, but any submission of information is strictly voluntary.  As discussed below, prior to making any submission, contractors should consider carefully the nuances of the EO and RFI and the potential implications of making a voluntary submission.


Continue Reading Department of Labor Requesting Information on Federal Contractor Workplace Diversity Training

On September 22, 2020, President Trump issued the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping (“EO”) establishing requirements aimed at “promoting unity in the Federal workforce,” by prohibiting workplace training on “divisive concepts,” including “race or sex stereotyping” and “race or sex scapegoating” as newly-defined in the EO.  The EO is broadly applicable to executive departments and agencies, Uniformed Services, Federal contractors, and Federal grant recipients.  The EO expands on a letter issued in early September by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) that directed all agencies to begin to identify contracts or other agency spending on trainings that include “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” or “un-American propaganda,” in an effort to ensure “fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States.”

Following the EO, on September 28, 2020, OMB issued a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (the “Memo”) with additional guidance aimed at assisting agencies in identifying diversity and inclusion trainings for agency employees that may be subject to the EO.  The Memo suggests that agencies conduct keyword searches of training materials for specific terms, such as “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” and “unconscious bias.”  Although the Memo primarily explains the terms of the EO, it also provides additional insight concerning the breadth of agency trainings that may ultimately be considered to violate the terms of the EO, which are described below.

Although the EO is likely to be subject to legal challenge (as more fully discussed below), federal contractors, including subcontractors and vendors, could be subject to the compliance requirements outlined below as soon as November 21, 2020.
Continue Reading President Trump Issues Executive Order Prohibiting “Divisive Concepts” in Federal Contractor Trainings

The government has released its long-awaited annual report on federal suspension and debarment activities, and the data reflect a number of trends and developments that should be of keen interest to federal contractors and grantees.  The report, which is published by the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (“ISDC”), shows that suspension and debarment remain potent tools that are used frequently across the executive branch, even if the total number of exclusion actions dipped slightly from the previous year.  But more importantly, the report also demonstrates that federal agencies are adopting increasingly sophisticated approaches to managing suspension and debarment actions, a trend that presents both opportunities and potential pitfalls for the contracting community.  Below we highlight the five biggest takeaways from this year’s ISDC report.

Continue Reading Suspension & Debarment Update: Five Takeaways from the ISDC’s Annual Report

Changes are coming to the suspension and debarment practices of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and contractors should ready themselves for an uptick in suspension and debarment activity as a result.  That’s the takeaway from a new audit report released last week by the SBA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) criticizing aspects of the agency’s suspension and debarment practices.  Although the SBA’s suspending and debarring officials (SDOs) for Financial Assistance Programs (FAP) and All Other Programs (AOP)[1] disputed certain OIG findings about existing practices, the agency was largely receptive to the OIG’s recommendations.  As a result, it appears that the SBA soon will be adopting a series of changes aimed at formalizing its suspension and debarment policies, expediting its processing of debarment referrals, and devoting additional resources to suspension and debarment actions – all of which is likely to drive an increase in exclusion actions.
Continue Reading Suspension & Debarment Update: SBA to Sharpen Suspension & Debarment Procedures

Two recent developments in Albany suggest that New York is poised to kick its debarment activity into a higher gear. First, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order pointedly reminding state entities of their authority to debar non-responsible contractors and directing all state entities to ensure that contractors remain “responsible” throughout the term of their contracts. Second, the New York legislature recently enacted a bill to reform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which included far-reaching provisions that allow MTA to debar any contractor that exceeds 10% of the contract cost or time for a construction project. Together, these developments indicate a move towards greater scrutiny of contractor performance, and they highlight the significant consequences of not meeting compliance and performance obligations.

Continue Reading New York Executive Order and Legislation Signal Increased Debarment Activity

Keen observers of federal suspension and debarment practice have noticed a recent change at the Department of Labor (DOL):  After years of inactivity, DOL’s discretionary suspension and debarment program suddenly came to life in 2017 and has been issuing suspensions and debarments at a steady clip ever since. [1]  Now, according to a recent announcement, DOL is poised to turn up its suspension and debarment activity yet another notch.  Starting this month and continuing through April 2020, DOL will be instituting a pilot program aimed at promoting and expediting its suspension and debarment activity, with the stated goal of “reduc[ing] the processing time on discretionary suspension and debarment actions from months to days.” 
Continue Reading Suspension & Debarment Update: Department of Labor Announces New Pilot Program

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently issued the latest ruling in a long-running Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) dispute involving materials related to a government-mandated monitorship of the compliance and corporate governance systems of Siemens Aktiengesellschaft (“Siemens”), the German multinational conglomerate.  See 100Reporters LLC v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 2018 WL 2976007 (D.D.C. June 13, 2018).  The remarkably detailed opinion reinforces that documents prepared by a monitor, including a monitor’s plans and work product, may be subject to disclosure under FOIA and sheds light on precautions that can be taken to ensure monitorship documents remain protected to the fullest extent possible.
Continue Reading Monitoring The Monitor: Recent Ruling Sheds Light on Applicability of FOIA to Monitorship Documents

Federal contractors who require employees to sign confidentiality agreements—including those selling only commercial products or in small quantities—need to examine their agreements closely. For the last two years, the government has sought to prohibit confidentiality agreements that restrict employees’ ability to report fraud, waste, or abuse to “designated investigative or law enforcement representative[s]” for federal agencies authorized to receive that information.”[1]  Most recently, the Department of Defense issued a new class deviation on November 14, 2016 prohibiting DoD from using funds from recent appropriations to contract with companies using overbroad confidentiality agreements.[2]  While these restrictions may not be new, the deviation’s broad application and significant consequences mean that contractors should give close scrutiny to ensure any agreements with employees comply with the prohibition.

Continue Reading Confidentiality Agreements Continue To Pose Potential Compliance Trap for Contractors

Each year, the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC) reports to Congress on the status of the Federal suspension and debarment system.  With its mission of assisting agencies to build and maintain efficient and effective suspension and debarment activities, the ISDC is uniquely situated to provide comments and insight on the status of suspension and debarment practices generally. 
Continue Reading ISDC Reports a “Plateauing” in Suspension and Debarment Activity

On March 28, 2015, the Department of State (“State”) issued a proposed rule to update various procedural aspects of the agency’s suspension and debarment actions.  The proposed rule appears intended to streamline the suspension and debarment process and reinforce the independence of the agency’s suspension and debarment official (“SDO”).  Yet despite these laudable aims, the proposed rule raises substantial questions about the scope and implementation of the contemplated changes.

The proposed rule would amend the debarment-related portion of the Department of State Acquisition Regulation (“DOSAR”), State’s agency-specific procurement regulations.  While many of the proposed changes are technical or administrative in nature, two are worthy of particular mention.


Continue Reading A Job Half-Done? Questions Remain Following State Department’s Announcement of New Debarment Procedures