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On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a six-pronged plan to combat COVID-19, which Crowell previously discussed here.  One prong of the plan is to protect the economy, an aspect of which is the streamlining of the existing Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan forgiveness process.

Under the PPP, loans to small businesses can be

The Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a final rule, effective September 10, 2021, that updates the Federal Acquisition Regulation to conform to two changes regarding small business subcontracting, namely by providing examples of what does—and what does not—constitute good faith efforts to comply with a small business subcontracting plan, as well as when indirect costs must be used in commercial subcontracting plans.

The NDAA at issue:  Section 1821 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 (section 1821(c) of Pub. L. 114–328; 15 U.S.C. 637) requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to amend its regulations to provide examples of activities that would be considered a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with a small business subcontracting plan.

SBA Implementation:  SBA issued a final rule at 84 FR 65647, dated November 29, 2019, to implement section 1821 of the NDAA for FY 2017.  SBA added a non-exclusive list of examples of what could and could not be considered good faith efforts to comply with a small business subcontracting plan at 13 C.F.R. § 125.3(d)(3).

Proposed Rulemaking:  DoD, GSA, and NASA published a proposed rule on June 3, 2020, at 85 FR 34155, to implement section 1821 of the FY 2017 NDAA.

Key Change of the Rule:

As noted above, SBA updated 13 C.F.R. § 125.3(d)(3) in 2019 to provide contracting officers guidance on evaluating whether a prime contractor made a good faith effort to comply with its small business subcontracting plan.  The final rule updates FAR 19.705-7, Compliance with the subcontracting plan, to provide similar examples of activities that contracting officers may consider when evaluating whether the prime contractor made a good faith effort to comply with its small business subcontracting plan.  Per commentary in the rule, this change provides contracting officers with consistent and uniform examples to identify and hold large prime contractors accountable for failing to make a good faith effort to comply with their subcontracting plans.

Similar to the SBA final rule, FAR 19.705-7(d) now discusses the corrective actions available to contracting officers when a contractor fails to make a good faith effort to comply with the subcontracting plan and that, in this context, “a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with a subcontracting plan is a material breach, sufficient for the assessment of liquidated damages, and also for other remedies the Government may have.”  The final rule also updates FAR 19.705-6 to address the contracting officer’s responsibilities vis-à-vis a small business subcontracting plan, including initiating action to assess liquidated damages in accordance with FAR 19.705-7.

Commentary in the final rule makes clear that it does not implicate when a small business subcontracting plan is required—merely what activities would be considered a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with such a plan. That means that the rule does not change (1) whether a small business subcontracting plan is required in the acquisition of commercial items, including commercially available off-the-shelf items, nor (2) does it expand the applicability of the small business subcontracting plan requirement to contracts at or below the simplified acquisition threshold.
Continue Reading Assessing Good Faith Efforts to Comply with a Small Business Subcontracting Plan

The Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a final rule, effective September 10, 2021, that finally updates the methodology to calculate compliance with the limitations on subcontracting.

The NDAA:  Section 1651 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 (15 U.S.C. 657s) revised and standardized the limitations on subcontracting, including the nonmanufacturer rule, that apply to small business concerns.

Implementation in SBA’s Regulations:  The Small Business Administration (SBA) implemented section 1651 of the FY 2013 NDAA in a final rule published at 81 FR 34243 on May 31, 2016, which became effective on June 30, 2016.

Proposed Rulemaking to Update the FAR:  DoD, GSA, and NASA published a proposed rule at 83 FR 62540 on December 4, 2018, to implement regulatory changes made by the SBA.

Key Set of Changes Made to the FAR:

The final rule updates the methodology for complying with the limitations on subcontracting.  FAR 19.505 and FAR clause 52.219-14 provide that a small business concern subject to the limitations on subcontracting will pay no more than a certain percentage of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance to subcontractors that are not similarly situated entities.  As with 13 C.F.R. § 125.6, the relevant thresholds are set as follows:

  • For a contract assigned a services NAICS code, the small business concern must not pay more than 50% of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance to non-similarly situated subcontractors;
  • For a contract assigned a NAICS code for supplies or products (other than a procurement from a nonmanufacturer), the small business concern must not pay more than 50% of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance, excluding the cost of materials, to non-similarly situated subcontractors;
  • For a contract assigned a general construction NAICS code, the small business concern must not pay more than 85% of the of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance, excluding the cost of materials, to non-similarly situated subcontractors; and
  • For a contract assigned a special trade contracting NAICS code, the small business concern must not pay more than 75% of the amount paid by the Government for contract performance, excluding the cost of materials, to non-similarly situated subcontractors.


Continue Reading FAR Conformed to the “New” Limitations on Subcontracting Methodology at 13 C.F.R. § 125.6

On July 29, 2021, the Small Business Administration announced in an FAQ that it is discontinuing any reliance on the Loan Necessity Questionnaires, which the SBA had required of each borrower, that together with its affiliates, received Paycheck Protection Program loans with a principal amount of $2 million or greater. As we’ve previously discussed,

On June 3, 2021, the district court judge in U.S. ex rel. Conyers v. Halliburton Co. et al., reversed on reconsideration a prior ruling that a kickback presumptively inflates a contract price under the False Claims Act (FCA). The court previously held that the government was entitled to a rebuttable presumption that kickbacks received by a former employee of the prime contractor, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), inflated the contract price under the False Claims Act. The judge revised that ruling, citing to a factual dispute over whether the kickback actually inflated the amount the government paid to reimburse KBR for its subcontract costs. The dispute centered on the falsity element of the FCA and whether KBR submitted, or caused to be submitted, a false claim for payment to the government. The revised decision is consistent with other FCA case law holding that falsity cannot be predicated on a presumption, and that the government must prove that kickbacks actually inflated the contract price.
Continue Reading District Court Reverses Course on Whether Kickbacks Presumptively Inflated Government Costs Under the False Claims Act

In this bullet point Olivia Lynch, Amy O’Sullivan, Michael Samuels, and Zachary Schroeder discuss a proposed Department of Defense rule requiring contracting officers to consider an offeror’s past performance as a first-tier subcontractor or individual partner of a joint venture under construction and/or architect-engineer services contracts.

In this bullet point, Olivia Lynch, Amy O’Sullivan, Michael Samuels, and Zachary Schroeder address the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals’ (OHA) recent decision in DSC-EMI Maintenance Solutions, LLC, SBA No. SIZ-6096. In the decision, OHA affirmed a size determination holding that a joint venture formed pursuant to SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program was other-than-small because

The Government Accountability Office sustained a protest (Innovate Now, LLC, B-419546, April 26, 2021) against an Air Force solicitation that required the protégé member of any mentor-protégé joint venture offeror to meet the same experience requirements as all other offerors.  Specifically, the RFP required that a joint venture offeror must provide a minimum

On April 21, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) inked its second civil settlement resolving allegations of fraud involving loans issued pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Sandeep S. Walia, M.D., a Professional Medical Corporation (Walia PMC), and its owner, Dr. Walia, agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and penalties to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA) tied to allegations that Dr. Walia falsely certified in a second PPP loan application that his medical practice had not previously received a PPP loan after it had already received one from a different lender.  Walia PMC also agreed to repay the second PPP loan for $430,000.  This latest settlement is a continued reflection of the heightened scrutiny of the PPP, and suggests that the FCA may quickly become a favored enforcement tool by the government in its continued pursuit of PPP-related fraud.
Continue Reading Avoiding Loan Forgiveness Is No Shield from False Claims Act Liability in Latest Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Settlement

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has added emergency loans for small businesses to its list of government programs vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. On March 2, 2021, GAO released its latest High Risk List identifying troubled federal government programs in need of significant improvement. The GAO concluded that the Small Business Administration (SBA) must demonstrate more robust integrity controls and better management practices over the PPP and EIDL programs. GAO’s findings put pressure on the SBA to ensure quicker adoption of GAO’s recommendations for improvements and keeps public focus on the need for SBA audits and investigations of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program participants.
Continue Reading GAO’s High Risk List Puts Spotlight on Emergency Loans For Small Businesses, Reinforcing Audit and Investigation Risk for PPP and EIDL Program Participants