VA Vendors Beware: Mind the Company You Keep; It’s Time for a Compliance Checkup

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acquisitions are about to get a lot more attention – from the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and possibly Congress, as well. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published a report (GAO-19-157SP) updating its “High Risk List,” which lists 35 government agencies and programs that may be particularly vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, adding “VA Acquisition Management” to the list of the usual suspects. If, as Aesop opined, “a man is known by the company he keeps,” then the VA has now joined a notorious group. VA vendors should be aware of this development, because any attempt by the VA to “get well” will likely come with heightened compliance obligations for VA vendors. Continue Reading

OH SNAP! Supreme Court to Take on Meaning of Key FOIA Exemption

On January 11, 2019, the Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari over an Eighth Circuit decision involving Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), which protects from public disclosure “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.” This marks the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving this important exemption. Continue Reading

“Nanny” Government Rebuffed in Prosecution of Former Barclays Trader

Once again, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) efforts to hold a trader accountable for misrepresentations made during negotiations met with stiff resistance from the courts. On March 4, 2019, Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California granted Robert Bogucki’s motion to dismiss the indictment in the middle of his criminal trial, ruling that the Government failed to prove that Bogucki’s statements could not possibly amount to fraud because there is no expectation of truth in the discussions between Bogucki and his customer. Judge Breyer’s ruling parallels the Second Circuit’s highly publicized 2018 repudiation of the DOJ’s attempts to prosecute Jessie Litvak, a former bond trader, for similar misrepresentations made in connection with trading residential mortgage-backed securities. Continue Reading

“Buy American” Updates: Trump’s Executive Orders, Government Reports, and Other Updates

Few phrases sum up the Trump administration’s policy goals better than “Buy American.” We hear it in advertising; we hear it in the State of the Union; and we find it littered throughout government buying priorities. Here is a short primer on some recent developments out of the White House regarding the oft-invoked (and often misunderstood) requirement to “Buy American,” including a new Executive Order issued just last month. Continue Reading

More Opportunities On the Horizon for Small Businesses Seeking to Sell Cloud Computing to the Government

Each year, the Government purchases more and more cloud computing from contractors.  But while many small businesses can provide cloud computing, the current rules associated with small business set-aside contracts prevent agencies from awarding prime contracts with a large cloud computing component to small businesses. Continue Reading

Where is the Love? Exchanges Sue SEC Over Market Access Fee Pilot Program

Three prominent trading exchanges did not exactly show their government overseer the love this Valentine’s week.  On February 14, 2019, the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) filed a petition for review to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”), seeking review of a controversial transaction fee pilot program, slated to take effect in April.  The Cboe and Nasdaq literally followed suit a day later, with nearly identical petitions.  The petitions seek a ruling that the pilot program is unlawful under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Administrative Procedure Act and a permanent injunction barring the SEC from implementing the pilot program.  Continue Reading

Recovering After the Shutdown: Proposed Legislation to Guarantee Back Pay for Government Contractors

After 35 days of the government shutdown, one of the (many) issues currently facing companies who contract with government agencies affected by the shutdown is if, when, and how, they must pay their employees upon the reopening of the government. Continue Reading

District Court Determines that the Eleventh Time is NOT the Charm

The United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently issued a decision unsealing a False Claims Act case over the objections of the government, the relator and the defendant.[1] In United States ex. Rel. Brasher v. Pentec Health, Inc. No. 13-05745, 2018 WL 5003474 (E.D.P.A. Oct. 16, 2018), a case initially filed five years ago, the government filed a motion to continue the seal – which happened to be its eleventh such motion – arguing that additional time was necessary, in part, to finalize its decision whether to intervene in the action, as well as to pursue settlement options. The Court disagreed. Continue Reading

FINRA ANNOUNCES 2019 REGULATORY PRIORITIES

On January 22, 2019, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) released its annual priorities letter highlighting its regulatory program’s points of emphasis for the coming year. The most immediately recognizable difference between this year’s edition and previous ones is that its traditional title, “Examination Priorities,” has been updated to include “Risk Monitoring,” the process by which the self-regulatory organization initially identifies problem areas through surveillance, firm reporting, surveys, questionnaires, and examination findings.

FINRA’s 2019 “Risk Monitoring and Examination Priorities Letter” (the “Letter”) also discusses three entirely new priorities: online distribution platforms, fixed income mark-up disclosure, and regulatory technology. Finally, the Letter lists ongoing areas of focus, and alerts firms that it will continue to assess protocols to handle the risks posed by “bad actors” with problematic regulatory histories. Continue Reading

TRICARE: Defense Health Agency Issues Request for Information Regarding Formulary Management – Submission Deadline: February 5, 2019

The Defense Health Agency (DHA), which manages the TRICARE health care benefits, has issued a Request for Information (RFI) regarding inpatient-clinic administered pharmaceuticals formulary management. In other words, responding vendors have the opportunity to shape the standard list of drugs prescribed across all military medical treatment facilities (MTFs), as well as the broader program administering the list. Responses are due February 5, 2019. The RFI seeks commercial best practices in formulary management focusing on inpatient and medical benefit drugs, but also opens the door for responding vendors to describe their capabilities to train a formulary management staff, to develop approaches to formulary management, to compare program results, to maximize acceptance of an implemented program, and to utilize pharmacists in an inpatient setting. Continue Reading

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