We are thrilled to kick off our new Government Contracts Navigator blog series, “Sustained Action: DEI in Government Contracting,” which shines a light on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress in the government contracts industry and at Blank Rome. As we wrote back in 2020, working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a one-time exercise but a practice—one to which we are committed for the long run.
We approach this effort fully embracing that we bring our own backgrounds, journeys, and perspectives to a complicated area, and that fostering an environment of mutual respect and the free exchange of ideas is critical to promoting the understanding of different viewpoints and implementing solutions that make a difference.
A Blank Rome team represented KPMG LLP in a successful bid protest before the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), in which KPMG challenged the award decision of the United States Air Force in a procurement for visible accessible understandable linked trusted (“VAULT”) subject matter expert support.
The federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) is one of the United States’ most effective tools to detect and prevent fraud against the Government. One reason the FCA is so effective is that it encourages the employees of an organization to come forward as claimants and receive a share of any financial recovery to the Government. Recognizing the central role of these whistleblowers in the FCA’s enforcement scheme, Congress included an anti-retaliation provision in the statute that protects them when they report suspected fraudulent conduct. Under the FCA’s anti-retaliation provision, employees, contractors, or agents can sue for damages on their own behalf if they are “discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment because of lawful acts done” in connection with a reported FCA violation. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(1). Likewise, nearly every state also affords some degree of whistleblower protection, either statutorily or in the common law.
Chambers noted that clients say that Justin “is a skilled and service-minded lawyer who cuts to the chase and avoids red tape” “He is an excellent leader and superb relationship partner” and that Dave “is a terrific lawyer who anticipates issues and is forward-thinking about his advice.”
To view all of Blank Rome’s Chambers USA 2022 rankings, please visit our website.
The Legal 500 United States 2022
Blank Rome was ranked as a “Recommended Firm” in the area of “Government: Government Contracts” and several of our Government Contracts attorneys were highly ranked and recommended in The Legal 500 United States 2022, including:
“Leading Lawyers”: The Legal 500’s Guide to Outstanding Lawyers Nationwide
Justin A. Chiarodo
“Next Generation Partners”: The Legal 500’s Guide to Up-and-Coming Lawyers Nationwide
Dominique L Casimir (Government: Government Contracts)
To view all of Blank Rome’s Legal 500 United States 2022 rankings, please visit our website.
The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (“ISDC”) has released its annual Section 873 Report to Congress for FY2020. The data in this report provides a big picture view of trends in suspension and debarment. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Debarments Increased in FY2020.
Debarments were up slightly, with 1,256 debarments in 2020 compared with 1,199 in 2019, bucking the downward trend of the previous six years. It is reasonable to expect that the increase in debarments will continue, particularly as the Government progresses in investigating CARES Act fraud.
2. Suspensions and Proposed Debarments Decreased.
Suspensions decreased, after a brief uptick in 2019, from 722 in 2019 to 415 in 2020, consistent with the general downward trend of years prior. Similarly, proposed debarments fell from 1,437 in 2019 to 1,317 in 2020. Interestingly, the ISDC attributes these decreases, “in part, to delays in mail service, travel restrictions, and postponements in court proceedings,” which means the FY2020 decrease is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than an actual Governmentwide downward trend in activity. And the decrease was not uniform: 13 of the 29 agencies reporting their FY2020 metrics actually increased the number of suspensions.
In late 2021, we were thrilled to welcome Elizabeth N. Jochum in our Washington, D.C., office as a partner in the Government Contracts practice. A skilled litigator and counselor with a significant background in white collar defense and investigations matters, Elizabeth joined Blank Rome from Smith Pachter McWhorter PLC, where she was a partner.
Elizabeth advocates for government contractors in bid protests before the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as well as handles appeals before the Armed Services and Civilian Boards of Contract Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She also represents contractors in size protests, determinations, and appeals before the Small Business Administration. Elizabeth advises prime contractors and subcontractors on a range of matters, including regulatory compliance, contract negotiation, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and change and claim preparation.
Now that she has settled in at Blank Rome, we took a few minutes to chat with Elizabeth to find out more about her background, interests, and approach to client service. Here are the highlights, so that you can get to know her!
Welcome (again) to Blank Rome! We are so excited to have you on our team! What brought you to Blank Rome?
Thank you! I am so thrilled to be here, the transition has been incredibly smooth thanks to how welcoming the firm and group have been to my clients and me. I was drawn to Blank Rome because of the government contracts group’s incredible reputation. I have also had the opportunity to work with several members of the group on various matters and speaking engagements so had no doubt they were exactly the kind of smart, business-minded, and collegial people I hoped to work with. I also wanted to offer my clients a broader range of support outside of government contracts—particularly on labor & employment and corporate issues. Blank Rome has incredible capabilities in those areas as well.
The ABA Section of Public Contract Law serves to provide balanced recommendations on procurement policy, provide a forum to engage with colleagues across all segments of the procurement industry, and gain insight into and develop unique perspectives of federal, state, and local public contract law. For more information, please visit the Section’s webpage.
We are thrilled to share that Stephanie Harden—a long-time and integral member of our practice group—has been elected to the partnership. For those who haven’t had the chance to connect or work with Stephanie—which we highly recommend!—we wanted to share the highlights of our virtual chat with Stephanie (edited for the blog) to help everyone get to know her better.
First of all, congratulations on your promotion! This is obviously the culmination of many years practicing in the field—but how did you first get interested in government contracts law?
Thank you! I’m very excited about this milestone and helping our clients succeed in my new role.
I spent one of my law school summers at GAO’s Office of General Counsel, where I was first exposed to bid protest litigation. I loved the fast-paced nature of bid protests and was interested in learning more about the field. After law school, I clerked for Judge Victor Wolski on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, where I learned about a host of government contracts issues and really solidified my interest in government contracts law. Being able to observe and learn from the Judge and the advocates practicing before the Court (both from the Justice Department and private bar) gave me a strong foundation for success.
Federal contractors have long provided various types of anti-harassment, nondiscrimination and diversity and inclusion, or D&I, training to their employees. After the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, D&I training has proliferated in workplaces across the country, including within federal agencies and in the contractor community.
In response to the widespread public protests for racial equality, many companies and executives issued public statements denouncing racism. Many also pledged millions of dollars to social justice organizations. In numerous workplaces, employees have taken the initiative to organize book clubs and discussion circles focused specifically on promoting open workplace discussions about race. Some employers have provided lists of resources for employees seeking to learn more about issues of race.
On Sept. 22, the Trump administration issued a bombshell executive order purporting to ban certain types of D&I training, leaving federal contractors scrambling to determine how best to comply, and how to identify and mitigate the new risks they now face.
President Donald Trump has been vocal about his views on the discourse of racial issues following the nationwide protests for racial equality that started at the beginning of the summer.
In June, the president rejected calls to rename military bases honoring Confederate generals. The Trump administration issued a memorandum on Sept. 4, directing agencies to identify:
all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on critical race theory, white privilege, or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil [and to] identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these un-American propaganda training sessions.
The executive order that followed three weeks later takes aim at contractor-provided workplace D&I training that the Trump administration considers divisive and objectionable.