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.
Congress amended the civil False Claims Act in 1986 to give the statute more teeth as a fraud enforcement tool. Thirty years later, FCA litigation is as active as ever with more than 800 new cases filed in 2016, which is the second highest number of new cases on record. Not only was 2016 a major year for FCA recoveries (the third-highest ever) but the year also saw major developments ranging from a massive increase in civil penalties and a landmark decision on the implied certification theory of liability. In a “Feature Comment” published in The Government Contractor, C&M attorneys highlight some of the most important settlements and decisions from 2016 on key issues—from liability to damages, qui tam provisions, and more.
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. Continue Reading OGE Finalizes Rule Regarding Solicitation and Acceptance of Gifts for Executive Branch Employees
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 “failure to certify” (which would have cost the court its jurisdiction) but was instead a “defective certification” that the prime could (and did) cure through its subsequent certification. Although the prime contractor had previously expressed “legitimate concerns as to the amount claimed” to the bankruptcy judge, the CFC concluded that the prime’s compliance with the bankruptcy court’s order showed the prime’s sponsorship was made in “good faith” and remanded to the agency for a final decision, after holding that the prime’s potential liability to the subcontractor (despite the discharge of liability in bankruptcy) was enough to satisfy the “modern” Severin doctrine.