2016 was a big year for the False Claims Act (FCA). Total government recoveries were up; total new matters filed were up; and total new government-led FCA matters were up. The Supreme Court issued multiple decisions relating to the FCA, including one—Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016)—which will have dramatic ramifications for litigation relating to the FCA’s materiality standard. The Supreme Court also denied certiorari in an important FCA case—U.S. ex rel. Purcell v. MWI, Inc., 807 F.3d 281 (D.C. Cir. 2015), reh’g en banc denied, cert. denied, 580 U.S. ___ (2017)—in which the D.C. Circuit held that when a defendant adopts an objectively reasonable or plausible interpretation of an ambiguous regulatory term and the agency has not warned the defendant away from its interpretation via authoritative guidance, the FCA’s scienter element cannot be established. (Note: We previously covered the Purcell decision on our FCA blog. You can view our article, here.) Although some of these developments may seem concerning, there is plenty of silver lining here for government contractors.
Reprinted from The Government Contractor, with permission of Thomson Reuters. Copyright © 2017. Further use without the permission of West is prohibited. For further information about this publication, please visit http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com, or call 800.328.9352.
It is a new year, which means New Year’s resolutions for roughly 50 percent of Americans. Most vow to lose weight or save more money. For many Government contractors, however, the focus in 2017 is cybersecurity in general, and specifically compliance with the Department of Defense’s final rule for safeguarding covered defense information before the December 31 deadline. See 81 Fed. Reg. 72,986 (effective Oct. 21, 2016).
In late December, New York State’s Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) released its revised proposed cybersecurity regulation (the “DFS Rule”). While the revisions pare back some of the DFS Rule’s original requirements and add some much needed flexibility, the regulation will still impose many new obligations upon a wide array of financial institutions doing business in New York. The DFS Rule will become effective on March 1, 2017.
[Note, this article was originally posted on January 12 to the Global Trade Law Blog and has been updated to reflect recent events.]
President Trump is making moves to renegotiate NAFTA, but has indicated that if negotiations fail, the United States may give notice of its intent to withdraw from the Agreement. Once in office he reiterated his comments from the campaign trail, stating if Mexico and Canada do not agree to a sufficient renegotiation, then he would submit notice under Section 2205 of NAFTA that the U.S. would withdraw from the Agreement. While the President is capable of writing, signing, and sending (or possibly tweeting) such a notification, that notification alone would not have a legal significance because withdrawing from NAFTA, ab initio, is not a power accorded the President.
The Agreement and underlying laws propose a number of paths by which the President may effectuate withdrawal from NAFTA. However, each of those paths require congressional cooperation or an act by Canada or Mexico to which the President may respond. Negotiating (or renegotiating) the Agreement is squarely within President Trump’s authority, though Congress would then need to implement the terms of the new or amended agreement.
On December 14, 2016, President Obama signed H.R. 5995 into law, removing the sunset provision from 41 U.S.C. § 4106 for jurisdiction over task order protests valued at more than $10 million. The GAO Civilian Task and Delivery Order Protest Authority Act of 2016 establishes permanent jurisdiction at the Government Accountability Office over protests of civilian task and delivery orders over $10 million under multiple-award IDIQ contracts.
Sheppard Mullin’s Government Contracts, Investigations & International Trade Group Wishes You and Yours the Happiest of Holidays in 2016 and Continued Happiness and Success In 2017.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer SA (“Embraer”) will pay the United States government $205 million to settle allegations that the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) by paying millions in bribes and falsifying accounting records. The United States government asserted that Embraer bribed government officials within the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, and Mozambique with millions of dollars to win government aircraft contracts. The government also alleged Embraer paid millions in falsely recorded payments in India through a fraudulent agency agreement.
Government contractors hoping to challenge a civilian agency’s award of a task or delivery order may be out of luck, at least temporarily. Prior to September 30, 2016, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) had exclusive jurisdiction over protests of civilian task and delivery orders valued at more than $10 million under multiple-award IDIQ contracts. The National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Year 2008 amended the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (“FASA”) to grant GAO this jurisdiction, Pub. L. No. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3, 237 (2008); the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012 then established a sunset date for this jurisdiction of September 30, 2016, 41 U.S.C. § 4106(f). Any such protests filed after September 30, 2016, are now outside GAO’s jurisdiction, regardless of when the underlying contract was awarded. 41 U.S.C. § 4106(f). However, contractors retain the right to protest military task and delivery orders valued over $10 million, 10 U.S.C. § 2304c(e), as well as civilian or military task and delivery orders which they allege increased the scope, period, or maximum value of the underlying contract, id. and 41 U.S.C. § 4106(f). The Court of Federal Claims’ jurisdiction, which is limited to civilian or military task order protests that allege increased scope, period, or maximum value of the underlying contract, is unaffected by the NDAA sunset provision. 10 U.S.C. § 2304c(e); 41 U.S.C. § 4106(f).
The SEC has launched a dedicated team to oversee FINRA, according to remarks by Marc Wyatt, Director of the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”). Congress has vested the SEC with the power to supervise FINRA, including the authority to inspect and examine. The new unit, named FINRA and Securities Industry Oversight (“FISIO”), is headed by Kevin Goodman, head of the SEC’s broker-dealer exam program. On Oct. 17, 2016, Wyatt spoke at the National Society of Compliance Professionals 2016 National Conference in Washington, D.C., where he made the announcement. According to Wyatt, the new FISIO team includes “roughly 40 people” throughout the country, and consolidates the SEC’s oversight of FINRA “into a single group.” The FISIO team will oversee FINRA to ensure “that it’s fulfilling its mandate in terms of evaluating its member broker-dealers.” On a separate panel at the event, Goodman noted that before FISIO, the SEC examined FINRA through “programmatic” exams focused on a particular FINRA operation (e.g., exams, enforcement, dispute resolution programs) and “oversight” exams that assessed “the quality of the individual examinations” that FINRA conducts on broker-dealers. According to Goodman, FISIO will “combin[e] those two functions into one,” which he described as “not only powerful but efficient as well.” Continue Reading
On September 29, 2016, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued regulations (the “final rule”) implementing Executive Order 13706, which requires federal contractors to provide paid sick leave to their employees. According to the DOL, federal contractors employ 1.15 million individuals—594,000 of whom do not receive paid sick leave. Thus, for contractors who do not currently provide paid sick leave to their employees, the final rule imposes significant administrative and financial burdens. Given the nuanced requirements of the final rule, however, even contractors who currently provide some form of paid sick leave to employees may find compliance with the final rule burdensome. Contractors should act now to either develop paid sick leave policies or determine what changes need to be made to their current paid leave policies to ensure they are in compliance with the final rule once it becomes effective.