It’s starting to feel like summer in Washington, DC and like most Washingtonians, the GSA and SBA are thinking about pools. So throw on some flip flops, grab a cold beverage, and let’s dive in to the 8(a) Multiple Award Schedule (“MAS”) Pool Initiative (and, obviously, prepare yourself for many, many more pool-themed puns).Continue Reading Let’s Go Swimming: Small Disadvantaged Business Growth Targeted by SBA and GSA 8(a) MAS Pool Initiative
Buying a small business government contractor may not be as simple as a standard acquisition. This is particularly true if the small business wants to continue to qualify for federal small business set-aside and sole-source awards during negotiations. The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) treats stock options, convertible securities, and agreements to merge (including agreements in principle), as having a “present effect” on the power to control a concern. So if a letter of intent is sufficiently firm to be considered an agreement in principle, the SBA’s regulations require such agreements be given “present effect” on the power to control a concern – deeming the two entities are immediately affiliated. In other words, the small business likely is no longer small (and, if it is a specialty small business concern, like woman-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned, it is likely ineligible for those programs as well) before the deal even is done. On the other hand, agreements to open or continue negotiations towards the “possibility of a merger or a sale of stock at some later date” are not considered agreements in principle, and are not given present effect. In practice what this means is that a letter of intent must be carefully drafted to ensure that it does not trigger the present effect rule before the parties are ready or willing to be considered affiliated.Continue Reading Buying or Selling a Small Business Government Contractor? Draft the Letter of Intent Carefully to Avoid Immediate Affiliation
Effective January 1, 2023, certification of veteran-owned small businesses (“VOSBs”) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (“SDVOSBs”) moved from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) Center for Verification and Evaluation (“CVE”), to the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Veteran Small Business Certification Program (“VetCert”). Previously, VOSBs and SDVOSBs only needed to be independently verified for VA sole-source and set-aside awards – for procurements by all other federal agencies, SDVOSBs could self-certify without an outside review. The final rule, published November 29, 2022, but effective January 1, 2023, shifts the venue to SBA while also implementing four key requirements from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, as discussed below.Continue Reading News For Veteran-Owned Small Businesses – SDVOSB and VOSB Certification Moves to the SBA in 2023
The federal government uses its contracting dollars not only to purchase the supplies and services it needs, but also to support broader policy goals. For example, the government has special contracting priorities for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs), as well as women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) and economically-disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs), and others, like the 8(a) business development program and small businesses more generally. In other words, these special types of businesses are able to compete for government contracts with a limited pool of competitors (and limited competition should yield a higher likelihood of business success for these small businesses). But access to these contracting priorities comes with a complex web of regulatory requirements unparalleled in the commercial sector. And one way to make sure that only eligible small businesses are receiving these special set-aside and sole-source awards is through what is known as a “status protest,” where it is alleged that the specialized small business does not actually qualify for the status and priority that is being claimed.Continue Reading Comparing Two Small Business Status Protests: Veteran-Owned Small Business CVE Protests and Women-Owned Small Business Status Protests—Different Processes but Similar Results
The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently released its annual Procurement Scorecard, demonstrating the federal government’s continued prioritization of small business contracting and subcontracting. In 2021, the government awarded $154.2 billion dollars in federal prime contracts – an increase of $8.5 billion over the prior year – with at least an additional $72 billion in small business subcontracts – a decrease of $10.8 billion from the prior year. These subcontracting figures continue the trend from prior years, which may lead to increased scrutiny of small business subcontracting plans to reverse the perceived decline. (In 2020, small business subcontracting decreased by an estimated $7.9 billion). Overall, the government yet again exceeded the service-disabled veteran-owned small business goal of 3%, and more than doubled the small disadvantaged business goal of 5%, but continued to struggle to meet the 5% women-owned small business and 3% HUBZone small business goals. The SBA released these figures in its FY 2021 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, available here.Continue Reading SBA Annual Scorecard Shows Federal Government Continues to Prioritize Small Business Contracting
The Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Office of Hearing and Appeals (“OHA”) rejected a small business government contractor’s 8(a) participation determination appeal as untimely, notwithstanding the contractor’s claim the termination letter at issue was sent to a junk email folder.
Continue Reading SBA OHA Says Small Business on Notice of Email in Junk Folder: Appeal Untimely
As we head into the new year, it seems like a good time to check-in on the adjusted small business set-aside thresholds for 2022. As you may recall, the threshold are tied both to the micro-purchase threshold and the simplified acquisition threshold. While these rates are periodically adjusted for inflation, the thresholds remain unchanged going into 2022. Currently, the micro-purchase threshold is $10,000 and the simplified acquisition threshold is $250,000. Here’s what that means for small business set-asides:Continue Reading What Are the 2022 Small Business Set-Aside Thresholds?
The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) recently announced that, yet again, the federal government exceeded its small business contracting goal by awarding $145.7 billion dollars in federal prime contracts – 26.01% of the government’s total procurement spending – to small businesses last year, with at least an additional $82.8 billion in small business subcontracts. The SBA released statistics in its FY 2020 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, available here. Notably, while small business contracting increased $13 billion in prime contracts, small business subcontracting may have decreased by an estimated $7.9 billion. Other Scorecard highlights include that the U.S. government exceeded the service-disabled veteran-owned small business goal of 3% and far-exceeded the small disadvantaged business goal of 5%. The government failed, however, to meet the women-owned small business goal of 5% and the HUBZone goal of 3%.
Continue Reading Small Business Federal Government Contracting Dollars Continue to Increase
Many small businesses learn the hard way that a “bid protest” and a “size protest” differ in much more than name only. Whereas generally a “bid protest” challenges agency action taken in connection with a procurement and can be timely brought at the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) or in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) after award, a “size protest” challenges an offeror’s eligibility as “small” for a small business set-aside and must be filed with the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) within 5 days of contract award; otherwise, a disappointed offeror will forfeit its right to challenge the awardee’s size. While this consequential distinction may seem clear in a vacuum, a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”) demonstrates that distinguishing between a “bid protest” and a “size protest” may not always be so easy. Instead, the Federal Circuit’s decision leaves open the possibility that even when a timely size protest was not filed with the SBA, a disappointed offeror still may be able to challenge the contracting officer’s failure to refer an awardee of a small business set-aside to the SBA for a size status determination by filing a bid protest at the COFC.Continue Reading “What’s In A Name?”: Federal Circuit Holds Claims Court Blurred Distinction Between ‘Size Protests’ And ‘Bid Protests’ In Dismissal For Failure To Exhaust Administrative Remedies
According to a recent decision in United States ex rel. Scollick v. Narula, Case No. 14-cv-1339 (D.D.C. Nov. 6, 2020), the fraudulent inducement theory of False Claims Act (“FCA”) liability does not require plaintiffs to satisfy the “demanding” materiality standard set forth in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016). Though that may sound like good news for plaintiffs, it is not. The fraudulent inducement theory holds that fraud in a contractor’s proposal can taint every claim for payment it submits under the resulting contract, making them all “false claims” under the FCA. This bears hefty consequences if proven: the defendant could be liable for civil penalties on every single claim for payment submitted over the life of the contract, in addition to treble damages the government may have suffered as a result of the fraud. Perhaps in recognition of these severe consequences, the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia held that a plaintiff must plead and prove an even higher standard than Escobar materiality to establish fraudulent inducement liability—actual causation. Rather than alleging that misrepresentation by the defendant merely was material to the government’s decision to award the contract to defendant, the Scollick decision concludes that “a misrepresentation in the defendant’s bid must have caused the government to award the defendant the contract.” If the FCA materiality standard is “demanding,” then the actual causation standard is formidable.
Continue Reading “Would You Rather…” – Escobar’s Demanding Materiality Standard or Actual Causation?
Beginning October 15, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”), implementing the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), will begin requiring women-owned small businesses (“WOSBs”) and economically disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) to undergo a formal certification process to be eligible under the Procurement Program for Women-Owned Small Business Concerns (the “Program”). Thus, WOSBs and EDWOSBs no longer will be allowed to self-certify that they meet the Program requirements to compete for set-aside or sole source contracts, as has been the case for the last few decades. Instead, WOSBs and EDWOSBs now must apply for a formal government-issued certification at https://beta.certify.sba.gov/, which includes creating an account and uploading the necessary paperwork to establish eligibility. 13 C.F.R. Subpart C (§§ 127.300 – 127.356).
Continue Reading Women-Owned Small Business Self-Certification Ends October 15, 2020 When SBA Begins Requiring Formal Government-Issued Or Third-Party Certifications for Awards