Top 10 Trends and Compliance Obligations in the Evolving World of Commercial Item Procurement

Blank Rome Partner Justin A. Chiarodo will be a presenter at BDO’s Winter 2019 Marketplace Outlook Update for Government Contractors, “Top 10 Trends and Compliance Obligations in the Evolving World of Commercial Item Procurement.” This live webinar will take place Thursday, February 28, 2019, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST.

For more information, please visit our website.

Who Is a Subcontractor under a Federal Government Contract?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Recently, clients have asked if they or a vendor or supplier are a “subcontractor” under a federal government contract. Sometimes the answer is easy—e.g., you are a subcontractor when a prime contractor contracts directly with a vendor or supplier (hereinafter “vendor”) to perform a federal contract. But the lines become less clear when a prime contractor does not inform the vendor that the subcontract is being entered into in furtherance of a federal government contract or where the vendor supplies goods that the prime contractor uses to perform commercial and government contracts.

Why Is Subcontractor Status Important?

Subcontractor status is important to prime and subcontractors. A federal prime contractor is required to flow-down multiple Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) clauses to its subcontractors. See FAR 52.212-5(e). The required flowdown clauses that receive the most attention implement three antidiscrimination laws: Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; 29 U.S.C. § 793; and Section 402 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, 38 U.S.C. § 4212. A prime contractor’s failure to flow down these clauses to its subcontractors could result in the prime contractor being held responsible and/or liable for its subcontractor’s noncompliance. Continue reading “Who Is a Subcontractor under a Federal Government Contract?”

What Is the Christian Doctrine and Why Should You Care?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

The Christian Doctrine

The Christian doctrine provides that a mandatory statute or regulation that expresses a significant or deeply ingrained strand of public procurement policy shall be read into a federal contract by operation of law, even if the clause is not in the contract. G. L. Christian & Associates v. United States, 312 F.2d 418 (Ct. Cl. 1963). The doctrine is an exception to the general rule that the government must put vendors on notice of contract requirements, whether expressly or through incorporation by reference. It also is an exception to standard commercial contracting practices and contract interpretation principles. The rationale for the doctrine is that procurement policies set by higher authority cannot be avoided or evaded (deliberately or negligently) by lower government officials. Continue reading “What Is the Christian Doctrine and Why Should You Care?”

Trade Agreements Act Enforcement Loses a Couple More Teeth

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Two recent judicial decisions involving the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) build on a trend reflecting a more favorable enforcement climate for contractors grappling with domestic preference regimes. Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a qui tam action that alleged fraud in connection with country of origin requirements imposed by the TAA. United States ex rel. Folliard v. Comstor Corp., 308 F.Supp.3d 56 (D.D.C. 2018) (finding the relator failed to adequately plead that the alleged TAA noncompliance was “material” to the Government’s payment decision). The decision marked a welcome early defeat of a False Claims Act case based on the enhanced materiality and scienter requirements of the Escobar decision (as we wrote about here).

Two recent federal court decisions appear to extend the trend of taking some of the bite out of TAA enforcement, and potential exposure for alleged noncompliance. Despite this welcome news, domestic preference programs remain a key legal obligation for government contractors (and an area likely to remain under scrutiny with the Administration’s professed focus on Buy American and Hire American initiatives). Continue reading “Trade Agreements Act Enforcement Loses a Couple More Teeth”

Department of Veterans Affairs Updates Pharmaceutical Federal Schedule Supply

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) National Acquisition Center (“NAC”), which administers the VA Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) Program, has already had a busy year. Among other procurement streamlining activities, the NAC currently is in the process of refreshing all nine (9) of its FSS solicitations to incorporate the most recent regulations and provide updates and clarifications.

Last month, the NAC updated the open and continuous Solicitation for Pharmaceuticals—Schedule 65 I B Pharmaceuticals FSS contract. The NAC issued Mass Modification 0006 and Solicitation Refresh 8. The Modification and Refresh update and incorporate procurement regulations and update or clarify FSS Program policy changes since the last refresh in February 2014, as amended. Refresh 8 applies to all companies submitting FSS proposals (for new contracts and renewals) after June 21, 2018. The Mass Modification is a standard bilateral modification to existing FSS terms and conditions, which the NAC is requesting manufacturers sign and return by July 30, 2018. Continue reading “Department of Veterans Affairs Updates Pharmaceutical Federal Schedule Supply”

Trade Agreements Act Compliance: Some Welcome News for Some Federal Contractors, But Will It Last?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a qui tam action involving allegations of fraud in connection with country of origin requirements imposed by the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”). United States ex rel. Folliard v. Comstor Corp., 308 F.Supp.3d 56 (D.D.C. 2018).

Comstor involved a False Claims Act (“FCA”) action filed by a serial whistleblower who alleged two contractors violated the FCA by selling non-TAA compliant products on their General Services Administration (“GSA”) Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contracts to federal government customers. Depending on the dollar value of the acquisition, most procurements are subject to either the Buy American Act (“BAA”) or TAA. Currently (2018), the BAA applies to supply procurements valued at or below $180,000. Accordingly, the TAA currently applies to such procurements valued in excess of $180,000. GSA has determined the TAA applies to FSS contracts. Continue reading “Trade Agreements Act Compliance: Some Welcome News for Some Federal Contractors, But Will It Last?”

Do Federal Supply Schedule Contracts Still Have Value?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Over the past several months, there has been a confluence of congressional and agency actions that will have a significant impact on Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract holders. These changes are so significant that they will likely cause companies with FSS contracts to question whether having an FSS makes sense. These changes could also cause companies to restructure the segments of their companies that are responsible for selling to the federal government.

Order Level Materials

In late January 2018, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) issued its Order Level Materials (“OLM”) final rule. This rule allows agencies to purchase supplies or services in direct support of a task or delivery order placed against FSS contract or Blanket Purchase Agreement (“BPA”). OLMs are subject to special ordering procedures. See GSAR 552.238-82. For example, the OLMs cannot have been known when an FSS contract or BPA was awarded. OLMs (excluding travel) cannot exceed 33.33 percent of the total value of the applicable task or delivery order. Whether an FSS holder is required to obtain competitive quotes for an OLM order depends upon the value of the order and the FSS holder’s purchasing system. Continue reading “Do Federal Supply Schedule Contracts Still Have Value?”