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”

Buy American, Hire American: Will It Impact a Government Contractor’s Ability to Store Data Offshore?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr. and Lyndsay A. Gorton

Buy American and hire American. The concept is easy, but the implementation can be far more complicated, particularly in the current government contracting world where waivers to those requirements have become common. In an attempt to strengthen the commitment to buying American and hiring American, on January 26, 2018, a bipartisan group of ten Senators sent a letter to President Trump urging him to “keep the promises” that he had made in April 2017 to buy American and hire American. The letter follows Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) introduction of the bipartisan BuyAmerican.gov Act of 2018 on January 9, 2018. This new legislation seems to be an effort to codify President Trump’s April 18, 2017, Buy American and Hire American Executive Order (the Executive Order), and slow what the BuyAmerican.gov Act Press Release calls the “excessive number of waivers” to the Buy American laws. Since President Trump signed the Executive Order, much has been written about the potential effects of that Executive Order. However, the potential impacts on government contractors who maintain or store data relating to their performance of federal government contracts have been largely disregarded. Continue reading “Buy American, Hire American: Will It Impact a Government Contractor’s Ability to Store Data Offshore?”

Navigating Violations in the Export Controls Minefield (Part 3 in a Series)

David Yang

In the first two parts of this series, we covered companies’ obligations under U.S. export control laws, such as the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) governed by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”), and military or defense exports governed by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) under the auspices of the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”), and common ways to mitigate your organization’s risk against violations. Unfortunately, no compliance program can prevent all violations, and this final part of our series addresses the key considerations your organization should keep in mind in the event you discover that an apparent violation may have occurred. How your company addresses apparent violations are as important as anything else, because they end up determining the repercussions that your organization may face from these and other enforcement agencies. Continue reading “Navigating Violations in the Export Controls Minefield (Part 3 in a Series)”

Risk Management in the Export Controls Minefield (Part 2 in a Series)

David Yang

As the recent Bright Lights USA case demonstrates, export violations continue to be met by aggressive enforcement actions by U.S. government authorities. In Bright Lights USA, the U.S. State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”) charged and fined a small manufacturer $400,000 for violating the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) by exporting, without obtaining a license, engineering designs and drawings abroad for minor vehicle spare parts (such as rubber seals, gaskets and grommets, etc.) in connection with bids sent to foreign manufacturers to produce the parts for Bright Lights to resell to its commercial and public sector customers. Although the parts were commercial items and many other similar parts in the category in which Bright’s Lights conducted business had transitioned off of the U.S. Munitions List, the company had failed to update its list for parts that were still controlled. The DDTC found that the violations had occurred in large part due to the company’s “significant training and compliance program deficiencies.” Continue reading “Risk Management in the Export Controls Minefield (Part 2 in a Series)”

How Is Your Domestic Preference Compliance? President Trump Signals More Scrutiny of “Buy American, Hire American” Practices

Justin A. Chiarodo and Stephanie M. Harden

President Trump signed an Executive Order yesterday, marking another step forward in his promotion of “Buy American” and “Hire American” policies. The Executive Order focuses on two areas: cracking down abuse of the H-1B guest worker program and promoting the purchase of American products in federal procurements. We tackle in this post the “Buy American” portion of the Executive Order, which is of particular importance to federal contractors. Continue reading “How Is Your Domestic Preference Compliance? President Trump Signals More Scrutiny of “Buy American, Hire American” Practices”

Managing the Export Controls Minefield (Part 1 in a Series)

David Yang and Christian N. Curran 

yangcurranDespite recent political shifts away from globalization, international trade remains a bedrock of the U.S. economy, and companies doing business in the United States must be cognizant of the intricate set of export control regulations promulgated by the U.S. government. In today’s rapidly changing economy, it is more important than ever for companies to thoroughly assess their connections to the international marketplace. While the Obama Administration took strides toward simplifying the export control process, U.S. export control regulations remain complex due to the multiple government stakeholders involved, resulting in varying interpretations, policies, and agendas. Export control violations can still carry serious ramifications for a company’s business practices both inside and outside the United States. Accordingly, the first of this three part series begins by identifying whether your business may be subject to the U.S. export controls regime. Our next two installments will then, respectively, address: (Part 2) practical strategies for addressing risk mitigation; and (Part 3) enforcement actions by the government. Continue reading “Managing the Export Controls Minefield (Part 1 in a Series)”