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ABS Development Corp. (ASBCA Nov. 17, 2016) highlights the importance of providing a fully-compliant certification for CDA claims over $100,000—which includes, according to the Board, the requirement for contractors to provide an identifiable and verifiable handwritten signature or digital e-signature. As the contractor in ABS discovered, the Board considers “typewritten” signatures, regardless of font, to be insufficient.

In ABS, the Board dismissed for lack of jurisdiction certain contractor claims that had been “certified” by means of typewritten names (in signature-font) because a typewritten name “cannot be authenticated, and, therefore, is not a signature.” The Board made clear that the CDA’s purpose is to bind contractors by means of a signed certificate that “cannot be easily disavowed by the purported author.” The Board explained that a signature “is a discrete, verifiable symbol that is sufficiently distinguishable to authenticate that the certification was issued with the purported author’s knowledge and consent or to establish his intent to certify.” Because anyone could type another person’s name on a signature block, the purported author could
disavow the certification and the signature would be nearly impossible to authenticate.

As such, the Board held that a typewritten signature was invalid and rendered the certification essentially “unsigned.” Because an unsigned certificate “is a [jurisdictional] defect that cannot be corrected,” the Board rejected the contractor’s request to cure its mistake (by submitting a substitute wet-ink signature) and instead dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Of note, the ABS decision expanded on the Board’s 2008 decision of Teknocraft Inc., in which the Board clarified that the representative mark “ //signed// ” on a claim certification was likewise insufficient to satisfy the CDA’s jurisdictional requirements. Both decisions should serve as reminders to contractors of the importance of strict adherence to statutory requirements and the Board’s rules.

 

*Associate Laura Baker (not admitted in the District of Columbia; practice supervised by partners of the firm) also contributed to this post

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Photo of Steve McBrady Steve McBrady

Steve McBrady is a partner and co-chair of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group. He also serves as a member of the firm’s Finance and Strategic Growth Committees, where he has played a leading role in expanding client service offerings throughout the U.S.…

Steve McBrady is a partner and co-chair of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group. He also serves as a member of the firm’s Finance and Strategic Growth Committees, where he has played a leading role in expanding client service offerings throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

In recent years, Steve has received the National Law Journal’s “Winning Litigator” award as a lawyer who has “tackled some of the most widely watched cases of the year,” as well as the “D.C. Trailblazer” award, recognizing lawyers who have “made significant marks on the practice.” In 2018, he was named “Government Contracts MVP” by Law360.

Photo of Skye Mathieson Skye Mathieson

Skye Mathieson is a counsel in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. He works with and advises clients from diverse industries on a wide array of matters, including contract performance disputes (CDA claims and equitable adjustments), cost allowability…

Skye Mathieson is a counsel in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. He works with and advises clients from diverse industries on a wide array of matters, including contract performance disputes (CDA claims and equitable adjustments), cost allowability issues, defective pricing, fiscal law questions, prime-sub disputes, bid protests, internal investigations, and responding to DCAA audits. Prior to joining Crowell & Moring, Skye spent several years as a trial attorney at the procurement litigation division of the Air Force Headquarters for Legal Operations, where he pioneered the seminal “Laguna Defense” that is now widely raised and litigated at the Boards of Contract Appeals.

Photo of Charles Baek Charles Baek

Charles Baek is a counsel in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office, where he practices in the Government Contracts Group.

Charles represents government contractors in both litigation and counseling matters. His practice focuses on contract claims/disputes under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), litigation…

Charles Baek is a counsel in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office, where he practices in the Government Contracts Group.

Charles represents government contractors in both litigation and counseling matters. His practice focuses on contract claims/disputes under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), litigation before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA), federal regulatory and ethics compliance and due diligence, bid protests before the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and False Claims Act (FCA) investigations. His practice also includes state contracting due diligence and litigation before the Court of Federal Claims.

Photo of Laura J. Mitchell Baker Laura J. Mitchell Baker

Laura J. Mitchell Baker is a counsel with Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

Laura represents government contractors in litigation and administrative matters, including contract disputes with state and federal entities, suspension and debarment proceedings, mandatory disclosures…

Laura J. Mitchell Baker is a counsel with Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

Laura represents government contractors in litigation and administrative matters, including contract disputes with state and federal entities, suspension and debarment proceedings, mandatory disclosures to the government, prime-sub disputes, and False Claims Act investigations. Her practice also includes counseling on federal, state, and local government contracts, government contracts due diligence, and regulatory and compliance matters, as well as conducting internal investigations.