Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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Boeing permissibly changed cost accounting practices for its Defense contracts simultaneously. Some changes raised the government's costs; others lowered those costs. The Defense Contract Management Agency, invoking Federal Acquisition Regulation 30.606, determined the amount of the cost-increasing changes and demanded that Boeing pay that amount plus interest. Boeing did so, then sued, asserting that the government, in following FAR 30.606, committed a breach of contract and effected an illegal exaction. Boeing argued that FAR 30.606 is contrary to 41 U.S.C. 1503(b), which requires that simultaneously adopted cost-increasing and cost-lowering accounting changes be considered together and that, by following FAR 30.606’s command to disregard the cost-lowering changes, the government unlawfully charged it too much. The trial court held that Boeing had waived its breach of contract claim by failing to object to FAR 30.606 before entering into the contracts and that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Boeing’s illegal exaction claim, which was not based on a “money-mandating” statute.The Federal Circuit reversed. A pre-award objection by Boeing would have been futile, as the government concededly could not lawfully have declared FAR 30.606 inapplicable in entering into the contract. A contractor is not required to pursue judicial relief before the award to avoid waiver. To establish Tucker Act jurisdiction for an illegal exaction claim, a party that has paid money over to the government and seeks its return must make a non-frivolous allegation that the government, in obtaining the money, has violated the Constitution, a statute, or a regulation. View "Boeing Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the government awarded Parsons a $2.1 billion indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for planning and construction work to be described in subsequent task orders. In 2005, the government issued a $34 million task order to complete an existing, concept-level design and construct the Temporary Lodging Facility and Visiting Quarters, at the McGuire Air Force Base. Design and construction were completed. The Air Force accepted the completed facilities for “beneficial use” in September 2008. In 2012, Parsons submitted a claim for approximately $34 million in additional costs that Parsons allegedly incurred in the design and construction process. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals awarded Parsons about $10.5 million plus interest.The Federal Circuit reversed in part after holding that the Board had Contracts Dispute Act jurisdiction 41 U.S.C. 7102(a)(1), (3). The court dismissed Parsons’ appeal as to its payroll claim and reversed the Board’s denial of recovery to Parsons for its claim to construction costs. On remand, the Board must award Parsons the difference between its cost in constructing a substituted design compared to the cost Parsons would have incurred in constructing a structural brick design. The court affirmed the Board’s conclusion that Parsons’ costs awarded by the Board were reasonable. View "Parsons Evergreene, LLC v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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The Navy began a program to design and build littoral combat ships (LCS) and issued a request for proposals. During the initial phase of the LCS procurement, FastShip met with and discussed a potential hull design with government contractors subject to non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. FastShip was not awarded a contract. FastShip filed an unsuccessful administrative claim, alleging patent infringement. The Claims Court found that the FastShip patents were valid and directly infringed by the government. The Federal Circuit affirmed.The Claims Court awarded FastShip attorney’s fees and expenses ($6,178,288.29); 28 U.S.C. 1498(a), which provides for a fee award to smaller entities that have prevailed on infringement claims, unless the government can show that its position was “substantially justified.” The court concluded that the government’s pre-litigation conduct and litigation positions were not “as a whole” substantially justified. It unreasonable for a government contractor to gather information from FastShip but not to include it as part of the team that was awarded the contract and the Navy took an exceedingly long time to act on FastShip’s administrative claim and did not provide sufficient analysis in denying the claim. The court found the government’s litigation positions unreasonable, including its arguments with respect to one document and its reliance on the testimony of its expert to prove obviousness despite his “extraordinary skill.” The Federal Circuit vacated. Reliance on this pre-litigation conduct in the fee analysis was an error. View "FastShip, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) awarded contracts for the opportunity to sell information technology services to various federal government agencies. Inserso did not receive an award; its total evaluated price was the 23rd lowest in a competition for 20 slots. DISA attached a debriefing document to its notice, including the total evaluated price for the awardees and some previously undisclosed information on how DISA evaluated the cost element of the proposals. Inserso sent follow-up communications, noting that several awardees in the small-business competition had also competed in the full-and-open competition as part of joint ventures or partnerships. Inserso asked whether those entities had received similarly detailed debriefings and expressed concern that, if so, the earlier debriefing would have provided unequal information giving a competitive advantage to some bidders. DISA stated that all unsuccessful bidders in both competitions were given similarly detailed information. The Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the government. Because Inserso did not object to the solicitation before the awards, when it was unreasonable to disregard the high likelihood of the disclosure at issue, Inserso forfeited its ability to challenge the solicitation. The court did not reach the issue of whether DISA’s disclosure prejudiced Inserso. View "Inserso Corp v. United States" on Justia Law

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Oliva worked for the VA, 2000-2016. In 2015, Oliva challenged the VA’s issuance of a letter of reprimand for Oliva accusing a supervisor of improperly pre-selecting an applicant for a position; Oliva claimed that his email constituted protected whistleblowing. Under a Settlement Agreement, the VA agreed to provide a written reference and the assurance of a positive verbal reference, if requested; Oliva’s Waco supervisor would not mention the retracted reprimand. Oliva was terminated from his employment in April 2016, for performance reasons. Oliva claims that the VA twice breached the Settlement: in March 2015, when Oliva applied for a position in the VA’s El Paso medical center the reprimand letter was disclosed and in February 2016, when Oliva applied for a position in the VA’s Greenville healthcare center a Waco employee disclosed that Oliva was on a Temporary Duty Assignment.The Claims Court held that Oliva’s complaint plausibly alleged breaches of the Agreement that resulted in the loss of future employment opportunities. Oliva sought $289,564 in lost salary and lost relocation pay of either $86,304 or $87,312. The Claims Court then held that Oliva had not stated plausible claims to recover lost salary or relocation pay. The Federal Circuit reversed. Oliva plausibly claimed that the alleged breaches were the cause of his lost salary. Oliva’s termination from his Waco job does not undercut that plausibility. View "Oliva v. United States" on Justia Law

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Ginnie Mae (GM), established by 12 U.S.C. 1717(a)(2)(A) to provide stability in the secondary residential mortgage market and promote access to mortgage credit, guarantees mortgage-backed securities (MBS). FMC, a private corporation, was an originator and servicer of government-guaranteed home mortgages and an issuer of MBS in GM’s program. GM learned of FMC actions that constituted the immediate default of the Guaranty Agreements. FMC undertook an investigation and provided the results to GM, while also complying with SEC requests. GM later terminated FMC from its program. The SEC initiated a civil enforcement action, which terminated in a consent agreement, without FMC admitting or denying the allegations but paying disgorgement and penalties. The Consent Agreement provided that it did not affect FMC’s right to take positions in proceedings in which the SEC is not a party but FMC agreed to not take any action or permit any public statement denying any allegation in the SEC complaint FMC later sued, alleging that GM had breached Guaranty Agreements when it terminated FMC from its program and denied violating those Agreements.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal. FMC’s breach of contract claims are precluded under the doctrine of res judicata. FMC’s action is essentially a collateral attack on the judgment entered in the SEC action. The SEC and GM are in privity for the purposes of precluding FMC’s claims and “successful prosecution of the second action would nullify the initial judgment or would impair rights established in the initial action.” View "First Mortgage Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) issued a solicitation for the procurement of information technology solutions for various agencies. DISA would award several indefinite-delivery/quantity contracts; task orders issued under the contracts would provide for either cost-reimbursement (CR) or fixed-price (FP) payment. DISA identified 116 labor categories (LCATs) that would likely be required for the work required by the task orders, described the duties associated with each LCAT, and identified the minimum education and experience requirements. DISA would make awards to the lowest-priced, technically acceptable proposals after considering: technical/management approach; past performance; and cost/price. Each bidder was to provide detailed information for all proposed CR labor rates. DISA would perform a cost realism analysis on the proposed CR labor rates and develop an average using the proposed CR rates and calculate the standard deviation for each labor rate.DISA determined that many of Agile’s proposed CR rates fell more than one standard deviation below average rates and that for these rates Agile had based its proposed rates on salaries paid to pools of workers who did not meet minimum requirements. Agile's final proposal yielded a “total evaluated price” that was not among the 20 lowest-priced, technically-acceptable offerors. Agile filed a protest, arguing that DISA violated the solicitation by expanding “its cost realism analysis to all labor rates in Agile’s [FPR], regardless of whether they were more than one standard deviation below the average.” The Claims Court concluded that DISA did not limit itself to only performing cost realism analysis on labor rates that were more than one standard deviation below the average. The Federal Circuit affirmed the rejection of the bid protest. DISA did not contravene the terms of the solicitation when it reviewed the supporting documentation for labor rates. View "Agile Defense, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2015, CPA’s predecessor was awarded Defense contracts to provide stevedoring and terminal services along the Eastern Seaboard, including Charleston. The contracts incorporated a Federal Acquisition Regulation provision that gave the government options to extend the term of the agreement for up to four one-year periods by giving “preliminary written notice of its intent to extend at least 60 days before the contract expire[d].” Such notice did not obligate the government to exercise the option. After the preliminary notice, the government was required to exercise the option itself within 15 days of the expiration date. On June 15, 2016, the government exercised the first-year option.During the extension period, CPA purchased its predecessor and began seeking revised pricings, asserting that it might default because the contracts were not profitable. On January 31, 2017, the government’s contracting officer sent an email to CPA, stating: The Government intends to exercise options at awarded rates … expects [CPA] to continue performing per the terms. A May 3, 2017, formal letter to CPA, stated the government's intent to extend the contract through 30 June 2018. CPA responded that the notice was untimely. The government pointed to the January 31 email as the preliminary written notice. In July 2017, CPA sought a declaration that the contract had expired and additional money for its performance under protest. A contracting officer denied the claims. The Board of Contracts Appeals and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The government satisfied the preliminary notice requirement; the email unambiguously provided preliminary written notice of the government’s intent to extend at least 60 days before the contract expired on May 1, 2017. View "Cooper/Ports America, LLC v. Secretary of Defense" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs each own a wind farm that was put into service in 2012. Each applied for a federal cash grant based on specified energy project costs, under section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009. The Treasury Department awarded each company less than requested, rejecting as unjustified the full amounts of certain development fees included in the submitted cost bases. Each company sued. The government counterclaimed, alleging that it had actually overpaid the companies.The Claims Court and Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the government. Section 1603 provides for government reimbursement to qualified applicants of a portion of the “expense” of putting certain energy-generating property into service as measured by the “basis” of such property; “basis” is defined as “the cost of such property,” 26 U.S.C. 1012(a). To support its claim, each company was required to prove that the dollar amounts of the development fees claimed reliably measured the actual development costs for the windfarms. Findings that the amounts stated in the development agreements did not reliably indicate the development costs were sufficiently supported by the absence in the agreements of any meaningful description of the development services to be provided and the fact that all, or nearly all, of the development services had been completed by the time the agreements were executed. View "California Ridge Wind Energy, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Electric Boat (EB) and the Navy entered into a contract for the construction of up to six nuclear-powered submarines. The Contract includes a “Change-of-Law Clause,” which provides for a price adjustment in the event that compliance with a new federal law, or a change to existing federal laws or regulations, directly increases or decreases EB’s costs of performance.In September 2004, OSHA issued a new regulation, "Fire Protection in Shipyard Employment." In February 2005, EB submitted a Notification of Change, stating that it anticipated that compliance would result in a cost increase exceeding $125,000 per ship. In June 2007, EB sought price adjustments across all six submarines. The Navy challenged the calculations. In April 2009, EB submitted a revised cost proposal. In May 2011, the Contracting Officer formally denied an adjustment of the contract price, citing discrepancies between the proposal and documents related to the OSHA change.. The memorandum stated that if EB decided to further pursue the adjustment, it should file “Requests for Equitable Adjustment’” by June 3, 2011. In December 2012, EB filed a certified claim, seeking a price adjustment. The Contracting Officer, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, and the Federal Circuit concluded that the claim was barred by the six-year limitations period, 41 U.S.C. 7103(a)(4)(A). EB knew of its claim by February 2005 and suffered some injury by August 2005. View "Electric Boat Corp. v. Secretary of the Navy" on Justia Law