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Nkechi A. Kanu is an associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Crowell & Moring, where she is a member of the firm’s Government Contracts Group.

Nkechi’s practice focuses on government and internal investigations involving various regulatory matters, suspension and debarment proceedings, and False Claims Act litigation. In addition, she provides affirmative and defensive claims counseling to clients in connection with complex government contracts. Her practice also includes conducting compliance reviews, counseling on regulatory and compliance matters, and performing government contracts due diligence.

 

On Monday, August 13, 2018, President Trump signed into law the H.R. 5515, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019 NDAA), the earliest an NDAA has been signed in over a decade.  The FY 2019 NDAA includes several provisions relevant to contractors, including replacing the definition of “commercial item” with “commercial product” and “commercial services,” discouraging the use of lowest price technically acceptable contracting, and a clause designed to accelerate payments to small businesses.
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Recently, in United States ex rel. Hunt v. Cochise Consultancy Inc., the Eleventh Circuit widened a split in authority regarding the applicability of the tolling provision of the False Claims Act’s statute of limitations, holding that it is applicable to qui tam actions even when the government declines to intervene.  The court also found that the period is triggered by a government official’s knowledge of the fraud. 887 F.3d 1081 (11th Cir. 2018).  In so holding, the Eleventh Circuit disagreed with the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits’ interpretation of the statutory language and arguably extended the filing period for relators within its jurisdiction.
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On November 18, 2016, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a final rule revising the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (“Standards”)  applicable to the solicitation and acceptance of gifts from outside sources. See 5 CFR § 2635. The final rule imposes a duty to decline otherwise permissible gifts when the appearance of impropriety is present, adds new examples of how to apply the rules, codifies previous interpretations of the gift rule, and retains the $20 de minimis exception (despite pushback in comments to the proposed rule to raise the standard commensurate with inflation. ) Although Government employees are the primary subject of the final rule, the changes will have a direct impact on how contractors, referred to as “prohibited sources” can interact with Government officials.   It is important for government contractors to understand that being implicated by a Government official’s violation of these Standards can lead to various consequences, such as facing public embarrassment, a tarnished reputation in the marketplace, suspension and debarment, or penalties for violating the bribery or illegal gratuities statutes.

The rule becomes effective on January 1, 2017.
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In M.K. Ferguson Co. v. U.S. (Apr. 14, 2016), a case involving a pass-through claim compelled by the prime’s bankruptcy judge, the CFC denied the government’s motion to dismiss and held that the prime’s initial pass-through certification – which stated only that the prime was “authorized to certify the claim” – was not a