Government Contracts Law

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) Medical Surgical Prime Vendor (“MSPV”) 2.0 Program (discussed previously here and here) has yet to make it off the ground, but in March 2021 the VA announced plans to eliminate the program by September 2023 and instead purchase from the Defense Logistics Agency’s (“DLA”) separate MSPV catalog. The VA and DLA MSPV programs are how the VA and DLA (separately) purchase most of their medical, surgical, and laboratory equipment for care centers across the country (and abroad, in the case of DLA). The VA and DLA have been exploring the possibility of consolidation since at least January 2019, but many vendors relied on the VA’s representations that it would not make any decisions on potential consolidation until at least 2025. So when the VA informed stakeholders of its new September 2023 target, Medline Industries, Inc. (“Medline”), one of the prime vendor awardees under the VA’s MSPV 2.0 Program, responded by filing a bid protest at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. On May 28, 2021, the VA and DLA decided to take corrective action, asking the Court for six months to re-evaluate the issues raised by the protest. It seems that the government did not have all of its ducks in a row prior to announcing the targeted transition.
Continue Reading Ducks (Not) in a Row – VA Agrees to Take Corrective Action in Transitioning MSPV 2.0 Requirements to DLA

All respirators approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”) now are “covered countermeasures” under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (“PREP”) Act provisions of the Public Health Service Act, and their manufacturers and distributors are eligible for immunity from suits for injury and death resulting from use of the masks in the public health response to COVID-19. The Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued an updated PREP Act declaration implementing this addition to the covered countermeasures eligible for PREP Act immunity, with retroactive effect to March 27, 2020.
Continue Reading PREP Act Update: All NIOSH-Approved Respirators Now Are Covered Countermeasures Eligible for Immunity

The novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic has given Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) contractors several powerful new tools in their toolbelts, and VA contractors should not leave available protections on the table. VA contractors, including those supplying medical devices under the MSPV-NG bridge contract and pharmaceuticals on a VA Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”), now can negotiate for extraordinary limitations on liability (in addition to some provided by statute), among other opportunities. Particularly for contractors providing goods and services used in the COVID-19 pandemic response, it is crucial to understand both new protections available and other changes to the rules of VA contracting.
Continue Reading COVID-19 Changes Contracting at the VA

There is more than $2 trillion on the line and the multi-trillion-dollar question is: Who’s minding the store?  On March 27, 2020, in response to the financial set-back created by the novel COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump signed into law the more than $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) – by far the largest economic relief package in U.S. history.[1]  The CARES Act’s purpose is to keep the U.S. economy afloat and provide relief to struggling Americans, large corporate sectors, and small businesses while the nation battles this pandemic.  With $500 billion allocated for big corporations, $377 billion for small businesses, and another $153.5 billion for healthcare, these relief moneys (like with most government funds) are sure to come with strings attached in the form of complex regulations and substantial oversight, with enforcement not far behind.
Continue Reading The CARES Act – Who’s Minding the Store?

Last week the White House issued two additional Executive Orders (“EOs”) related to EO 13909, the subject of our March 20, 2020 blog post: Presidential Executive Order Calls on HHS to Issue Priority Contracts and Allocate Scarce Medical Resources.
Continue Reading Presidential Executive Orders Delegate Additional Authorities To Respond To COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19 (a.k.a. the Coronavirus) is upon us and it looks like it is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.  In January, the Department of Health and Human Services declared the Coronavirus outbreak to constitute a Public Health Emergency, and on March 13, 2020, President Trump declared it a National Emergency.  The President noted that the spread of the virus “threatens to strain our Nation’s healthcare systems.”  As medical needs surge coupled with increases in state and city shutdowns to combat and contain the virus, a drain on government resources is almost certain.  As such, in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, many companies are looking for ways to help, and some are willing to do so at no cost through free goods and services to the United States Government in hopes of alleviating such strain.  Many companies, however, fear that such gifts might be prohibited under federal gift rules and the Antideficiency Act (an Act originating in the 1880s that, in some cases, prevents the Government from accepting voluntary services). This article explores how companies can provide free goods and services to the Government within the strictures of applicable statutes and regulations.
Continue Reading Gifting Goods & Services to the U.S. Government in the Wake of the Coronavirus Outbreak

On March 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law a Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) resolution repealing the so-called “blacklisting” rule, which would have imposed strict labor reporting and other requirements upon government contractors. This was followed by an Executive Order (“EO”) signed by President Trump the same day, effectively nullifying President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces EO that first called for the blacklisting rule.
Continue Reading UPDATE: Congress and Trump Administration Repeal “Blacklisting” Rule, Relieving Contractors from Strict Labor Reporting and Other Requirements

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)[1]—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.
Continue Reading What’s Past is Prologue: How The FCA’s Eventful Year in 2016 Will Affect Government Contractors

Every now and then, the FAR Councils issue a Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC) – an update to the Federal Acquisition Regulation implementing a number of changes. Often these changes are rather pro forma. But occasionally, you get a Circular with many different (and interesting) issues. FAC 2005-67, issued in late-June 2013, with rules becoming effective in June and July 2013, is one such circular. We thought it would be helpful to highlight five of these rules that raise interesting and timely issues, especially where they may signal additional changes yet to come.
Continue Reading Lots of Little Things – FAR Updates from the Federal Acquisition Circular

By David Gallacher

On March 30, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision imposing certain socio-economic contract requirements on subcontractors operating hospitals associated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers. See UPMC Braddock, et al. v. Harris, Civ. 09-1210 (PLF) (D.D.C. Mar. 30, 2013) (“UPMC Braddock”). Even though the hospitals’ subcontracts did not include these socio-economic clauses, the court applied the age-old “Christian Doctrine,” which assumes that certain contract requirements reflecting a “significant or deeply ingrained strand of public procurement policy” will apply to a Government contract even if those requirements have been omitted from the text of the actual contract. See G.L. Christian & Associates v. United States, 312 F.2d 418, 426 (Ct. Cl. 1963). Even though no court has ever before held in the 50-year history of the Christian Doctrine that this legal rule applies to subcontractors (Christian and its progeny apply only to prime contractors doing business directly with the U.S. Government), the court has now radically expanded the doctrine.


Continue Reading Playing Cards With a Government That Stacks the Deck – D.C. District Court Radically Expands The “Christian Doctrine” To Subcontracts

By John W. Chierichella

1. Understand the Basic Contract Requirement – Every contract lawyer will begin an assessment with a very simple, fundamental question, i.e., “What does the contract say?” Your obligation is to perform to the contract; nothing more; nothing less.
 

2. Identify Variances Between What the Contract Says and What You Actually Are Doing – If you are doing something other than what the contract actually says, you may be entitled to relief.


Continue Reading The ABC’s of Government Contract Claims – 10 Ways to Maximize Your Chance of Success