5 Tips for Complying with New Section 889 Supply Chain Regulations

Justin A. Chiarodo and Robyn N. Burrows

As part of a recent wave of supply chain requirements, Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) imposed major new limitations on the use of certain Chinese telecommunications products and services in federal procurement, and recent implementing regulations mandate a range of compliance actions relating to the ban. This blog post provides practical guidance on the new rules and five compliance tips.

Ban against Procuring “Covered Telecommunications Equipment or Services”

The Department of Defense (“DoD”), General Services Administration (“GSA”), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”) recently released an interim rule implementing the first part of Section 889. This ban, which became effective August 13, 2019, sweeps broadly by prohibiting agencies from procuring the following “covered telecommunications equipment or services”:

  1. Telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei and ZTE Corporation;
  2. Video surveillance and telecommunications equipment used for public safety, surveillance of “critical infrastructure,” or national security purposes and produced by Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Dahua Technology Company;
  3. Telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by such entities for any purpose; or
  4. Telecommunications or video surveillance equipment produced or provided by an entity that the Secretary of Defense determines is owned or controlled by, or otherwise connected to, the government of the People’s Republic of China.

The ban includes all affiliates and subsidiaries of the listed companies. Continue reading “5 Tips for Complying with New Section 889 Supply Chain Regulations”

The Supreme Court Expands the Meaning of “Confidential” Information under FOIA Exemption 4

Robyn N. Burrows

The Supreme Court in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481 (U.S. June 24, 2019) recently relaxed the standard for withholding confidential information under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”)—a major win for contractors that regularly submit sensitive business information to the government.

Exemption 4 protects from disclosure trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential. For the past 45 years, courts have been guided by the stringent “competitive harm” test first enunciated in National Parks & Conservation Association v. Morton, 498 F.2d 765 (D.C. Cir. 1974). This test allowed an agency to withhold information as “confidential” only if disclosure would (1) impair the government’s ability to obtain necessary information in the future, or (2) cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained. Many businesses objected to this test as overly burdensome and causing confusion about the showing required to establish substantial competitive harm. Continue reading “The Supreme Court Expands the Meaning of “Confidential” Information under FOIA Exemption 4”

OFCCP’s New Voluntary Program Exempts “High-Performing” Contractors from Compliance Evaluations

Robyn N. Burrows

On February 13, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued Directive 2019-04 which establishes a framework for the Voluntary Enterprise-wide Review Program (“VERP”). Under this new program, OFCCP will work with “high-performing” contractors to achieve sustained, corporate-wide compliance with the laws and regulations OFCCP administers and enforces requiring nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity. Notably, participating contractors are removed from the pool of contractors scheduled for compliance evaluations.

Eligibility for Participation

Contractors can apply to the program beginning in fiscal year 2020. As part of the application, OFCCP will conduct compliance reviews of the contractor’s headquarters location as well as a sample or subset of establishments. Contractors must meet established criteria verifying basic compliance with OFCCP’s requirements and must further demonstrate their commitment to and application of successful equal employment opportunity programs on a corporate-wide basis. Continue reading “OFCCP’s New Voluntary Program Exempts “High-Performing” Contractors from Compliance Evaluations”

The Ninth Circuit Reluctantly Joins Majority of Courts in Mandating Escobar’s Two-Part Test for Implied Certification

Robyn N. Burrows

Over two years ago, the Supreme Court in Universal Health Servs. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016) upheld the implied certification theory of liability under the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”). Applying a two-part test, the Court stated that implied liability would attach where “at least two conditions” are satisfied: (1) the claim makes specific representations about goods or services provided and (2) the defendant’s failure to disclose noncompliance with a material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirement renders those representations “misleading half-truths.” Courts interpreting Escobar have disagreed as to whether this two-part test is the exclusive means for establishing liability under the implied certification theory, or whether other circumstances might also trigger liability. For example, several courts have noted that Escobar’s reference to “at least two conditions” implies that other, unspecified factors might also be sufficient to create an implied certification claim. The Fourth Circuit, along with several other district courts, have adopted this more liberal view. Most other circuits that have addressed this issue, however, have found the two-part test to be mandatory. The First, Third, Fifth, and Seventh Circuits, as well as many district courts, have either explicitly or implicitly held that Escobar’s two-part test is the exclusive means of establishing implied certification. Continue reading “The Ninth Circuit Reluctantly Joins Majority of Courts in Mandating Escobar’s Two-Part Test for Implied Certification”