Reporting and Disclosure

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This week’s episode covers annual reports from GAO and the ASBCA, a proposed rule regarding disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related financial risk, and new requirement to refer any suspected instances of human trafficking to suspension and debarment officials, and is hosted by Peter Eyre and Yuan Zhou. Crowell & Moring’s “Fastest 5 Minutes”

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In a major and largely unprecedented development for federal contractors, the White House announced on November 10, 2022 that the FAR Council will publish early next week a proposed rule that would, if finalized, require many federal contractors receiving more than $7.5 million in annual federal contracts to inventory and publicly disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on an annual basis.  Contractors deemed “major”—those that receive annual federal contracts in excess of $50 million—would be further required to disclose annually their Scope 3 GHG emissions and climate-related financial risk assessment process.  Beyond disclosures, and perhaps more significantly, major contractors would also be required to set emission-reduction targets to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and have those targets validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). This last element of the proposal is a notable departure—and escalation—from similar pending proposals from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which only propose to require GHG disclosures from regulated companies and funds, not substantive goals or changes.

Continue Reading Your Climate Disclosures or Your Contracts? Federal Contractors Face Unprecedented Proposed Rule for Mandatory Climate Disclosures

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Last month, in Seife v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit became the first appellate court to address a significant question left unanswered by the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media: what impact, if any, did the 2016 FOIA Improvement Act (“FIA”) have on FOIA Exemption 4?  The answer: a submitter of information ostensibly subject to Exemption 4 must demonstrate competitive harm—though not “substantial” harm—resulting from disclosure in order to invoke the exemption.

Argus clarified the applicability of Exemption 4, which protects from disclosure “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.”  5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4).  The Argus Court rejected the longstanding National Parks test, which applied Exemption 4 only where the submitter of such information could demonstrate “substantial competitive harm” resulting from its disclosure.  Instead, the Argus Court held Exemption 4 applied, at the very least, where the submitter of such information kept it confidential and submitted it to the government with an assurance of privacy.  Given the difficulties inherent in establishing “substantial competitive harm,” Argus was welcome news for contractors seeking Exemption 4 protection.  (We have previously written about Argus and the district court decisions that followed.) 

In 2016, Congress enacted the FIA in response to concerns that FOIA’s exemptions were being overused. The FIA amended FOIA to allow for an exemption’s invocation only if “the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption” or if disclosure is “prohibited by law.”  5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(8)(A).  Since Argus, multiple plaintiffs have argued the FIA effectively codified the National Parks test.  (Argus considered a FOIA dispute that commenced prior to the passage of the FIA; the Court there had no reason to address the question.)

Continue Reading Second Circuit Holds FOIA Exemption 4 Still Requires Showing of “Competitive Harm” Resulting from Disclosure, Though Not a “Substantial” One

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On August 25, 2022 the Defense Acquisition Regulations System published two new DFARS clauses prohibiting the award of covered Department of Defense (“DoD”) contracts to contractors that leverage resources in China unless those resources are disclosed.  Implementing Section 855 of the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act and effective immediately, the clauses are DFARS 252.225-7057 “Preaward Disclosure of Employment of Individuals Who Work in the People’s Republic of China” and DFARS 252.225-7058 “Postaward Disclosure of Employment of Individuals Who Work in the People’s Republic of China.” These clauses will be incorporated into DoD solicitations and contracts with an estimated value over $5 million unless a senior procurement executive waives the disclosure requirements due to national security interests.  The requirements do not apply to contracts for commercial products and commercial services, including contracts for commercially available off-the-shelf (“COTS”) items, or to contracts at or below the simplified acquisition threshold (currently $250,000).

Continue Reading DoD Rule on Reporting Employees in China Published and In Effect This Week

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On August 19, 2022, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (the “OFCCP”) published a Notice in the Federal Register to federal contractors of a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request from Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”) for disclosure of Type 2 Consolidated EEO-1 Report data submitted by all federal contractors and first-tier subcontractors from 2016 until 2020.  In order to determine whether this information is protected from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 4, which protects disclosure of confidential commercial information, the OFFCP requested that federal contractors whose information would otherwise be subject to this request submit objections to the OFCCP by September 19, 2022.  Type 2 EEO-1 reports are one of the mandatory submissions that multi-establishment employers file annually, consistent with their obligations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the OFCCP’s regulation. They consist of a consolidated report of demographic data for all employees by employer establishment, categorized by race/ethnicity, sex and EEO-1 job category.  Notably, the FOIA request at issue does not seek production of Component 2 compensation data included in the EEO-1 reports submitted by federal contractors and subcontractors in 2017 and 2018.

Continue Reading Federal Contractors Have Until September 19, 2022 to Object to Disclosure of EEO-1 Data Subject to Pending FOIA Request

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As of April 4, 2022, the federal government will stop using the Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Number Systems (DUNS) Number to uniquely identify entities and will fully transition to using the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). All entities will be using the UEI number for SAM and other government systems (including FPDS.gov, eSRS.gov,

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On July 8, 2021, DoD published a request for information (RFI) soliciting the input of interested parties on sustainability initiatives and climate-related disclosures. DoD’s request asks companies to comment on their voluntary efforts in measuring and disclosing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, and Supply Chain GHG and Risk Management, but could be a prelude to a mandatory disclosure scheme for defense contractors.

ESG and other disclosures pertaining to sustainability and climate are growing in importance for a wide range of companies, as investors, stakeholders, and customers increasingly are interested in and evaluating progress on sustainability-related disclosures and the business practices and plans underlying them. Companies are now under more pressure to demonstrate forward movement on ESG and other sustainability metrics, particularly in the areas of climate change, environmental justice, industrial chemical use, diversity and inclusion, and compliance and ethical business practices.

Over the last several years, more and more companies have voluntary published sustainability reports. However, there is an evident lack of standardization in these disclosures, and companies vary greatly in what they measure and disclose. Without a standardized ESG disclosure framework, investors, consumers, stakeholders and the government may be unable to reasonably evaluate and compare companies’ ESG practices and risks.

Continue Reading DoD Requests Public Input on Sustainability and Climate-Related Disclosures

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On January 3, 2012, the FAR Council issued a final rule to implement a congressional mandate that the public have access to all information (excluding past performance reviews) in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System ("FAPIIS"). FAPIIS was created in 2010 as a one-stop shop for contracting officers to review information about contractors’

On October 19, 2011, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) proposed a new rule to amend DFARS § 252.211-7007 to remove the $5000 threshold from reporting requirements for Government-furnished property.  The proposed rule would require contractors to report Government-furnished property to the DoD Item Unique Identification (“IUID”) registry regardless of value.  DoD states that the intent

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On April 13, 2011, the Obama administration released a draft executive order called “Disclosure of Political Spending by Government Contractors.” This executive order, if implemented, would instruct the FAR Councils to amend the FAR to require significant disclosures about contractor political contributions to be made as part of any proposal submitted by a firm seeking