As GSA Multiple Award Schedule contractors know all too well, Schedule contracting involves a complex web of customer-tracking, reporting, and price-adjustment requirements.  Those of us who navigate these often byzantine rules understand why many in the industry have called for the adoption of an alternative approach to verifying price reasonableness.

For the last several years, GSA has been piloting just such an alternative:  the Transactional Data Reporting (“TDR”) program, through which the government collects transaction-level data on products and services purchased through the Schedule to make data-driven decisions that save taxpayer dollars.  GSA has been running a TDR pilot program for several years to test the potential for a new regulatory regime, though the program sometimes has been the source of criticism and controversy.  Now that controversy has heightened further:  GSA’s Office of Inspector General published an audit report on June 24, 2021 that is sharply critical of the program, only to see GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (“FAS”) Commissioner publicly reject the report’s conclusions and defend TDR’s effectiveness.

Time will tell whether the TDR rule becomes the new standard for GSA Schedule contracting.  But the latest round of controversy suggests that the current maze of requirements are not going away any time soon.


Continue Reading The End of CSP and PRC Requirements? — GSA’s TDR Pilot Program Faces Further Internal Criticism

Last week, the GSA Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) released a Report explaining how GSA decided to abandon previous plans to build a new suburban campus for the FBI, and instead demolish and then rebuild the J. Edgar Hoover (“JEH”) building in Washington, D.C.  Although much of the coverage of the Report has focused on the role of the White House in the decision-making process and the GSA Administrator’s failure to acknowledge that role in testimony before Congress, the Report also highlights the Office of Management and Budget’s (“OMB”) strict approach to the budget scoring rules found in OMB Circular A-11, Appendices A and B.

Continue Reading OIG Report Chronicles Recent Attempts To Construct FBI Headquarters Through Public-Private Partnership, Highlights Proposed Use of Federal Capital Revolving Fund

Last year, we wrote about a trial court’s decision to dismiss a False Claims Act (“FCA”) complaint regarding alleged Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) non-compliances because the relator failed to plead fraud with “particularity” under Rule 9(b).  That decision offered a sweeping rebuke of speculative FCA claims, and emphasized why it can be difficult to present a valid FCA claim based on a potential violation of a complex regulatory scheme like the TAA.

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously affirmed that decision in United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation Aids, Inc., — F.3d — , 2018 WL 3567836 (7th Cir. July 25, 2018).  In doing so, the Seventh Circuit provided additional guidance about various topics, including the Rule 9(b) standard for implied certifications and the power of the materiality defense.  Our takeaways are below.
Continue Reading Alleged Sales of Non-TAA-Compliant Products Under GSA Schedule Contracts Are Not False Claims, 7th Circuit Holds

On July 25, the GSA’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published a report summarizing its audit of the GSA Transactional Data Reporting (“TDR”) pilot program.  That ongoing pilot program, which we have covered previously and have been tracking since the beginning, allows participating Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract-holders to report government-sales data each month, in exchange for relief from regulations that would require them to disclose their commercial sales practices.  According to the OIG report, however, GSA cannot objectively measure whether the TDR program is working as intended, because the pilot lacks specific objectives and performance targets.  Moreover, the data that GSA has collected from TDR participants is “not available for . . .  evaluation of the pilot.”  Although the Federal Acquisition Service (“FAS”) disagreed with some of the report’s findings, the report suggests that the TDR program remains a work-in-progress.

Continue Reading OIG Report Criticizes GSA’s TDR Pilot Program

On February 22, 2018, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a Final Rule to address common commercial supplier agreement terms that it contends are inconsistent with federal law. The purpose of this rule is to streamline negotiations over commercial supplier agreements (“CSAs”), end-user license agreements (“EULAs”), Terms of Sale (“TOSs”) or similar sets of standard terms and conditions. Significantly, the rule reverses several controversial provisions from the Proposed Rule and an earlier class deviation by reverting the order of precedence and eliminating the burdensome requirement of providing the full text of all provisions. Less controversially, but nonetheless important, the Final Rule also formalizes GSA’s longstanding position that certain terms and conditions are unenforceable under federal law.

Continue Reading GSA Issues Final Rule Governing Negotiations of Common Commercial Terms

A U.S. District Court recently dismissed a False Claims Act (FCA) qui tam action alleging that numerous GSA Schedule contractors violated their obligations under the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), resulting in the submission of false claims under the “implied certification” theory of FCA liability.  As discussed further below, the court’s decision — United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation Aids, No. 13-C-08185, 2017 WL 1036575 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2017) — is important for at least two reasons:

  1. The court found that “often” it is “tougher” to satisfy the heightened pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) when FCA allegations are based on an implied certification theory.
  2. The court held that, when dealing with conduct arising from a “sprawling federal procurement statutory and regulatory framework” (like the TAA), general allegations of non-compliance may support a breach-of-contract claim, but are insufficient in an FCA case. Rather, “specific allegations” about the fraudulent scheme are needed.

This decision comes at a particularly opportune time for contractors, given the likelihood of increased TAA and Buy American Act (BAA) enforcement during the Trump Administration and the corresponding potential uptick in whistleblower FCA activity involving these country-of-origin issues.
Continue Reading Common Sense Prevails: “Tougher” To Satisfy Rule 9(b) Standard in “Implied Certification” FCA Case Arising from GSA Schedule Contractors’ Alleged TAA Non-Compliance

Recently, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) issued a proposed rule to codify a class deviation regarding GSA’s approach to common Commercial Supplier Agreement (“CSA”) and End User License Agreement (“EULA”) terms.  We have previously addressed the class deviation here and in an article for the Coalition for Government Procurement available here.  While the Proposed Rule apparently is intended to assuage contractor concerns about the class deviation, it falls short of this goal, so contractors must remain vigilant if and when the Proposed Rule is finalized and GSA begins to attempt to implement it through contract modifications.  Comments on the Proposed Rule are due by August 1, 2016.

Continue Reading GSA Doubles Down on CSA/EULA Deviation

Last month, we discussed Information Technology (IT) Schedule 70, one of the largest contract vehicles administered by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). GSA now is evaluating whether Schedule 70 should be made more accessible to certain small contractors, new IT providers, and other, similarly situated firms.
Continue Reading GSA Seeks Input on Eliminating IT Schedule 70’s Two-Year Experience Requirement

If comments at a recent public meeting are any indication, the General Service Administration’s proposed Transactional Data Reporting rule may be in danger of stalling before it even gets started. The proposed rule, announced to great fanfare last month, has been trumpeted by GSA as a “new vision for Federal purchasing.” During an all-day public meeting held at GSA headquarters, however, the proposal was the subject of pointed criticism from industry and government stakeholders alike. Some complaints were perhaps not unexpected given the dramatic changes envisioned by the rule, but the objections from both public and private sources could force GSA to rethink its proposed approach before moving forward with a final rule.
Continue Reading Doubts Raised About GSA’s New Vision for Federal Contracting

March has been a busy month for the GSA in its efforts to implement what it has touted as a “new vision for Federal purchasing.” On March 5, 2014, GSA announced a proposed rule to reform pricing practices and contractor reporting requirements under multiple award schedule contracts. In its latest move, on March 20, 2015, the GSA issued a proposal to streamline the negotiation of Commercial Supplier Agreements, which are commonly used in acquisitions of software and other information technology. Such agreements typically contain standard contract terms that GSA regards as inappropriate in the context of a sale to the government. As a result, protracted negotiations with GSA are often necessary to reach agreement on acceptable terms before software and other items can be offered for sale on the Federal Supply Schedule.  
Continue Reading Another Proposal from GSA: a Class Deviation for Commercial Agreements