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Nicole Owren-Wiest is a partner and member of the Steering Committee of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Nicole is nationally ranked by Chambers USA in Government Contracts and a recognized leader in two of the most complex areas in government contracting: accounting, cost, and pricing, and intellectual property/data rights. With over 20 years’ experience, Nicole has a broad counseling and dispute-resolution practice and leads the Group’s cost accounting practice, which focuses on helping clients navigate the government’s complex cost and pricing rules, including the FAR Part 31 cost principles, the Cost Accounting Standards (CAS), and Truth in Negotiations Act/Truthful Cost or Pricing Data (defective pricing).

On October 28, 2022, the Department of Defense (DoD) amended the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) by issuing two final rules related to contract cost and pricing.  Specifically:

  • Requiring Data Other Than Certified Cost or Pricing Data – DoD issued a final rule to implement a section of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National

In Doubleshot, Inc., ASBCA No. 61691 (July 19, 2022), the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”) granted the contractor’s motion for partial summary judgment, denying the Government’s claim for unallowable costs to the extent that it was based on missing or unsigned employee time cards.  The ASBCA held that the contractor was not required to maintain time card records to support the allowability of labor charges beyond the retention period specified in the contractor’s cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts (including applicable time extensions). 

The contracts incorporated both the Audit and Records – Negotiation clause (FAR 52.215-2) and the Allowable Cost and Payment clause (FAR 52.216-7), which grant the Government the right to examine the contractor’s records reflecting all claimed costs and reduce payments for amounts that are unallowable.  Following the contractor’s delayed submission of two final indirect cost rate proposals, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”) did not begin auditing the proposals until eight months after the contractual obligation to maintain records had expired.  DCAA then questioned the contractor’s labor costs for which there was no time card support, even though the contractor was able to demonstrate that it paid its employees.  The Government’s claim and the contractor’s appeal followed. 

Continue Reading Too Late: Government’s Failure to Timely Audit Did Not Extend the Contractor’s Document Retention Obligations

In Tolliver Group, Inc. v. United States (Aug. 17, 2022), the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) granted the contractor’s request for summary judgment, awarding $195,890 in legal fees the contractor incurred to successfully defend against a False Claims Act suit brought by a whistleblower.  The court held that the cost principles in Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) Subpart 31.2 applied to the contractor’s fixed-price task order, and the contractor’s legal fees were allowable and payable under the contract.  This is the second time that the COFC addressed the contractor’s entitlement to legal fees, having previously held that the contractor could recover a portion of them under the Spearin doctrine (which we reported on here).  The Federal Circuit later vacated that award on jurisdictional grounds (reported on here) and remanded the case to the COFC.

Continue Reading When is the Price of a Fixed-Price Contract Not Fixed?

In ECC Int’l, LLC, ASBCA No. 60167 (Jan. 25, 2022), the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“Board”) held that it had jurisdiction to hear a contractor’s alternate theories of recovery that arose from the same operative facts and sought the same relief requested in its claim.  The contractor initially filed a certified claim for

On February 4, 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects (the “Order”) for federal construction projects valued at $35 million or more. The Order instructs federal agencies to require “every contractor or subcontractor engaged in construction” on projects valued at $35 million or more to “agree, for that project, to negotiate or become a party to” a Project Labor Agreement (“PLA”) with “one or more appropriate labor organizations.”

Federal agencies are authorized to grant exceptions to this PLA requirement under certain defined circumstances. The Order supersedes an executive order issued by then-President Obama in 2009, which had encouraged, but not mandated, the use of PLAs on construction projects valued at more than $25 million. The Order is characterized as a measure that will “promote economy and efficiency in Federal procurement” and advance “small business interests” and represents a noteworthy shift in United States federal labor policy, underscoring President Biden’s commitment to fulfilling his campaign promise to be the most labor-friendly President in history.

The Order applies to all “large-scale construction projects,” defined as a “Federal construction project within the United States for which the total estimated cost of the construction contract to the federal government is $35 million or more.” The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (“FAR Council”), in consultation with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, may adjust this threshold based on inflation. “Construction” is defined to mean “construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, modernization, alteration, conversion, extension, repair, or improvement of buildings, structures, highways, or other real property.” It appears that the Order does not apply to federally funded projects under the control of state and/or local governments.

Continue Reading President Biden’s Executive Order Mandates Project Labor Agreements for All “Large-Scale” Federal Construction Projects

In its recent decision, Cellular Materials International, Inc., ASBCA No. 61408 (Dec. 27, 2021), the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”) observed that whether a cost has been “incurred” for purposes of claiming allowable costs under FAR 52.216-7 is a fact-intensive inquiry.

Pursuant to its Government contract requirements, Cellular Materials International, Inc. (“CMI”)

In Tolliver Group, Inc. v. United States, No. 2020-2341, 2021 WL 5872256 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 13, 2021), the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the Court of Federal Claims’ (“COFC”) decision holding that the contractor was entitled to an equitable adjustment for damages caused by the Government’s breach of the implied warranty that satisfactory contract

In Section 839 of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) to prepare a report evaluating the implementation of Department of Defense (“DoD”) Instruction 5010.44 relating to Intellectual Property Acquisition and Licensing, including but not limited to, DoD’s establishment of a cadre of intellectual property (“IP”) experts

On November 4, 2021, the FAR Council issued a final rule replacing the FAR definition of “commercial item” with bifurcated definitions for “commercial product’’ and “commercial service.”  The rule implements Section 836 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019, and is also consistent with recommendations from the Section 809 Panel to implement

On October 22, 2021, the Court of Federal Claims (Court) unsealed a decision awarding contractor SecurityPoint Holdings, Inc. (SecurityPoint) over $100 million in damages for TSA’s infringement of SecurityPoint’s patent No. 6,888,460 (“the ‘460 patent”). The ‘460 patent concerns a system of trays that recycle through security screening checkpoints by use of movable carts, and