The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA” or the “Board”) recently issued an opinion addressing several important, and controversial, topics of interest to government contractors.  The lengthy opinion addressed key issues related to the Board’s jurisdiction over government claims and affirmative defenses based on alleged contractor fraud, the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) statute of limitations, and the impact of criminal plea agreements and civil False Claims Act settlements on contract disputes.

Continue Reading ASBCA Addresses CDA Jurisdiction Over Claims Involving Contractor Fraud

On December 3rd, the Department of Justice released its annual summary of recoveries in False Claims Act (FCA) cases.  Although down from last year’s $5.69 billion, this year’s recoveries of $3.5 billion demonstrate the power that the government wields to drive settlements of fraud allegations.  Of the $3.5 billion, $1.1 billion in recoveries are attributable to settlements and judgments in cases alleging false claims for payments under government contracts.  A good portion of these settlements likely were driven by claims of false implied certifications.

For many years, federal courts have grappled with the issue of whether factually accurate claims submitted to the government for payment can nevertheless be “false or fraudulent,” pursuant to an implied certification theory, because of an underlying violation of law.  On December 4th, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a case that should decide whether this theory of liability is valid.   Continue Reading High Court to Resolve Split of Authority on “Implied” False Claims

On February 23, 2022, Gregory E. Demske, Chief Counsel to the Inspector General for HHS’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”), provided opening remarks and answered questions during the Federal Bar Association’s annual Qui Tam Conference.  Mr. Demske spoke about OIG’s role in False Claims Act (“FCA”) enforcement and resolutions, and discussed enforcement priorities for the upcoming year.

Continue Reading Senior HHS Official Discusses Role of OIG in FCA Resolutions and Enforcement Priorities for 2022

This is the seventh in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth blogs described the actions taken by various government agencies to implement the EO during June, July, August, September, and October 2021, respectively.  This blog summarizes the key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during November 2021.

Although most of the developments in November were directed at U.S. Government agencies, the standards being developed for such agencies could be imposed upon their contractors or otherwise be adopted as industry standards for all organizations that develop or acquire software.

Continue Reading November 2021 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

Several federal courts have issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Biden Administration from enforcing its federal contractor COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  As discussed in our previous posts, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042 mandating that employees of federal contractors and subcontractors be vaccinated against COVID-19 and take various other workplace safety measures.  Executive Order 14042 relies on the president’s authority under the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (“FPASA”) to effectuate this policy.  Prior to issuance of the injunctions, contractors were required to have covered employees fully vaccinated by January 18, 2022.

Continue Reading Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Blocked Nationwide – UPDATE

Federal government contractors face many uncertainties as they implement President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. This includes the distinct possibility of civil lawsuits arising out of their implementation of the mandate, including potential allegations of invasion of privacy, wrongful termination, lost wages, discrimination, personal injury or other common law claims or statutory violations. At least one such lawsuit already has been filed. In that suit, dozens of aggrieved employees allege that the contractor’s vaccine mandate violates state law, and they seek an injunction and other relief. Other lawsuits are sure to follow.

But there is good news for contractors: Established legal doctrines should provide contractors some degree of protection—and perhaps complete immunity—against such lawsuits. In addition to the statutory protections afforded to contractors under the PREP Act, contractors may be protected from civil liability based on federal-law-based defenses that have been recognized and applied in analogous government contracting settings. In the coming weeks, as contractors navigate the many challenges associated with the vaccine mandate, they should carefully consider the risk of civil litigation, and, in order to minimize potential exposure in such lawsuits, proactively implement practices that maximize the likelihood that these doctrines and defenses will be applicable, as discussed below.

Continue Reading Are Federal Contractors Immunized From Vaccination Litigation? Mitigating The Risk Of Civil Liabilities Arising Out Of The COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

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(This article was originally published in Law360 and has been modified for this blog.)

Companies in a range of industries that contract with the U.S. Government—including aerospace, defense, healthcare, technology, and energy—are actively working to assess whether or not their information technology systems comply with significant new restrictions that will take effect on August 13, 2020.  These new restrictions prohibit the use of certain Chinese telecommunications equipment and services, and a failure to comply can have dramatic consequences for these companies.  The new restrictions also will have an immediate impact on mergers and acquisitions involving a company that does—or hopes to do—business with the Federal government.  In this article, we highlight some key considerations for M&A practitioners relating to these restrictions.

Background

On July 14, 2020, the U.S. Government’s Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (“FAR Council”) published an interim rule to implement Section 889(a)(1)(B) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (“FY19 NDAA”).[1]  When the new rule takes effect on August 13, it will prohibit the Department of Defense and all other executive branch agencies from contracting—or extending or renewing a contract—with an “entity” that “uses” “covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential part of any system.”  The restrictions cover broad categories of equipment and services produced and provided by certain Chinese companies—namely Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hangzhou Hikvision, Dahua, and their affiliates.[2]

The new rule will be applicable to all contracts with the U.S. Government, including those for commercial item services and commercially available-off-the-shelf products.[3]  Companies with a single one of these contracts will soon have an ongoing obligation to report any new discovery of its internal “use” of certain covered telecommunications equipment and services to the Government within one business day with a report of how the use will be mitigated ten business days later.[4]  Further, although companies can seek to obtain a waiver on a contract-by-contract basis from agencies, these waivers must be granted by the head of the agency, and may only extend until August 13, 2022 at the latest.[5]

The new rule is the second part of a two-stage implementation of Section 889’s restrictions on covered telecommunications equipment and services in Government contracting.  It builds on an earlier rule that implemented Section 889(a)(1)(A) of the FY19 NDAA on August 13, 2019 by prohibiting an executive branch agency from acquiring certain covered telecommunications equipment or services that is a substantial or essential part of any system.[6]

The new rule is expansive in scope, and its effects will be felt far beyond the traditional defense industrial base.  Thus, mergers and acquisitions practitioners are well advised to become familiar with the rule and consider how it might impact any future transaction where an acquisition target does at least some business with the Government or has aspirations to do so in the future.

Continue Reading M&A and Section 889: Due Diligence and Integration Considerations

On November 6, 2019, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) aimed at resolving what OFCCP describes as a “decade of confusion.”[1] At issue is a long-standing question concerning the scope of OFCCP’s enforcement authority over health care providers participating in TRICARE, a federal health care program covering millions of military personnel, veterans, and their families. In particular, the NPRM requests comments on proposed regulations that would amend OFCCP’s definition of “subcontractor” and thereby remove TRICARE providers–and potentially other categories of providers–from OFCCP’s regulatory authority entirely. The deadline for filing comments is December 6, 2019.

Continue Reading OFCCP Proposes Rule Removing TRICARE Health Care Providers from Its Regulatory Authority

The FAR Council released an Interim Rule in August implementing part of Section 889 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.  In this briefing, we highlight points where the Interim Rule provides clarity; definitional issues that remain unresolved; and new procedural requirements that government contractors should track.

The Interim Rule covers the portion of Section 889, subsection (a)(1)(A), that prohibits the federal government from acquiring certain telecommunications equipment/services from Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies.  Specifically: “The head of an executive agency may not … procure or obtain or extend or renew a contract to procure or obtain any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.”

Section (a)(1)(A) took effect on August 13, 2019, although a 60-day window remains open for stakeholders to submit comments to be considered in the development of a final rule.  Comments on the (a)(1)(A) Interim Rule are due by October 15, 2019.

The second part of Section 889 implementation, sections (a)(1)(B) and (b)(1), go into effect on August 13, 2020. Regulations for those sections remain pending within the government, but the definitions and waiver process established by (a)(1)(A) will be instructive for those regulations as well. Continue Reading Section 889 Update: First Wave of Acquisition Prohibitions Take Effect