Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts
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Eghbal Saffarinia, a former high-ranking official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG), was required by federal law to file annual financial disclosure forms detailing most of his financial liabilities over $10,000. One of Saffarinia’s responsibilities was the allocation of HUD-OIG’s information technology contracts. An investigation revealed that Saffarinia had repeatedly falsified his financial disclosure forms and failed to disclose financial liabilities over $10,000. The investigation also revealed that one of the persons from whom Saffarinia had borrowed money was the owner of an IT company that had been awarded HUD-OIG IT contracts during the time when Saffarinia had near-complete power over the agency operation.Saffarinia was indicted on seven counts, including three counts of obstruction of justice. A jury convicted Saffarinia on all seven counts, and the District Court sentenced him to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Saffarinia appealed his conviction, arguing that the law under which he was convicted did not extend to alleged obstruction of an agency’s review of financial disclosure forms because the review of these forms is insufficiently formal to fall within the law’s ambit. He also argued that the evidence presented at trial diverged from the charges contained in the indictment, resulting in either the constructive amendment of the indictment against him or, in the alternative, a prejudicial variance. Finally, Saffarinia challenged the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found no basis to overturn Saffarinia’s conviction. The court held that the law under which Saffarinia was convicted was intended to capture the sorts of activity with which Saffarinia was charged. The court also found that the government neither constructively amended Saffarinia’s indictment nor prejudicially varied the charges against him. Finally, the court found that the evidence presented at Saffarinia’s trial was sufficient to support his conviction. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the District Court. View "USA v. Saffarinia" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between two tribally owned businesses, AQuate II, LLC and Kituwah Services, LLC, both of which compete for federal contracts under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program. AQuate alleges that Kituwah and its employee, Jessica Myers, stole trade secrets related to a government contract that AQuate had won in the past. AQuate claims that Myers, a former employee, breached her employment agreements and violated both the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 and the Alabama Trade Secrets Act. Kituwah, however, argues that it is shielded by tribal sovereign immunity, while Myers contends that her employment contract mandates that any claims against her can only be brought in a designated tribal court.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama dismissed the case, finding that Kituwah had not waived sovereign immunity for the trade secrets claims and that the claims against Myers should be resolved in the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town court, as stipulated in her employment contract. AQuate appealed the decision, arguing that the tribal court did not exist.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. The appellate court found that Kituwah had waived sovereign immunity for claims related to the federal contracting program and could be sued. Regarding Myers, the court determined that the district court failed to consider whether the clause naming the allegedly nonexistent tribal court as the appropriate forum was valid and enforceable. The case was remanded for further consideration. View "Aquate II, LLC v. Myers" on Justia Law

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Frederic P. Zotos, an attorney residing in Cohasset, Massachusetts, filed a qui tam complaint against the Town of Hingham and several of its officials. Zotos alleged that the town and its officials posted speed limit signs and advisory speed plaques that did not comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations. He further claimed that the town applied for and received reimbursements for these signs and plaques from both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Zotos asserted that the town fraudulently induced the federal government to pay it roughly $3,300,000 and the Commonwealth to pay it approximately $7,300,000.The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Zotos's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court concluded that the qui tam action was not barred by either claim or issue preclusion. However, it found that Zotos's claims fell short of the False Claims Act (FCA) and Massachusetts False Claims Act's (MFCA) requirements. Specifically, it ruled that Zotos failed to sufficiently plead that the alleged misrepresentations were material to the federal government's and the Commonwealth's respective decisions.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that Zotos's complaint did not adequately allege that the defendants' purported misrepresentations were material. It noted that the essence of the bargain under the Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP) and the Chapter 90 program was that the defendants incurred permissible costs on projects that were duly reimbursed. The court concluded that Zotos's allegations amounted to ancillary violations that, without more, were insufficient to establish materiality. View "United States ex rel. Zotos v. Town of Hingham" on Justia Law

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The case involves Purpose Built Families Foundation, a Florida nonprofit that received federal grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve veterans and their families. In 2022, the Department notified the Foundation that activities and payments under five grants would be terminated or withheld due to "major fiscal mismanagement activities". The Foundation sued the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under the Administrative Procedure Act and received a temporary restraining order. Subsequently, the Department withdrew the challenged notices and the Secretary moved to dismiss the action as moot. The district court granted the motion.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court. The court held that the case was moot, as the Department's withdrawal of the notices meant the Foundation's claims could not provide meaningful relief. It also ruled that neither the voluntary-cessation nor the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review exceptions to mootness applied. The court stated that the Department's subsequent actions, including a more robust process and new termination notices, were materially different from the original notices. Therefore, a lawsuit challenging the new termination notices would involve materially different allegations and answers. The court concluded that the Foundation would have ample opportunity for judicial review of the legality of the new terminations, once the administrative process was completed. View "Purpose Built Families Foundation, Inc. v. USA" on Justia Law

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This case involves Avue Technologies Corporation ("Avue") and the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. Avue is a software development company that sells its software to private and government entities, which helps them automate administrative tasks while complying with statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements. Avue does not sell its software licenses directly to federal agencies. Instead, it sells annual subscriptions through third party Carahsoft Technology Corporation (“Carahsoft”), an authorized reseller that has a Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract with the General Services Administration (“GSA”).Avue tried to govern its relationship with end users of its software through an end-user licensing agreement ("EULA"), which is incorporated into the FSS contract between Carahsoft and the GSA. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") placed a task order for a subscription to Avue's software under the FSS contract. However, in 2016, the FDA chose not to renew its subscription, leading Avue to claim that the FDA had violated its EULA.The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals ("Board") dismissed Avue's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, stating that even if the EULA established a contract between Avue and the U.S. Government, the Board lacked jurisdiction because the EULA was not a procurement contract within the meaning of the Contract Disputes Act ("CDA"). Avue appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.The court disagreed with the Board's decision, stating that Avue only needed to allege non-frivolously that it had a contract with the U.S. Government to establish the Board's jurisdiction, and it didn't need to prove the existence of such a contract. The court held that Avue's allegation that it was part of a procurement contract was non-frivolous and sufficient to establish the Board's jurisdiction. Therefore, the court vacated the Board's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings on the merits. View "AVUE TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION v. HHS " on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed convictions against Whitney McBride and her company, Odyssey International Inc., for fraudulent conduct in obtaining a government contract. McBride was convicted of five offenses, including wire fraud, major fraud, and making a false declaration. She appealed the convictions, arguing that they should be vacated based on a Supreme Court case decided after her conviction, Ciminelli v. United States, which dealt with the interpretation of federal fraud statutes. She also contended that her conviction for making a false declaration should be vacated due to errors in the jury instructions.The court rejected her arguments, finding that she had waived her challenges to the convictions for conspiracy, wire fraud, and major fraud because she invited error by proffering the jury instruction she now disputed. The court also found that she waived her challenges due to her numerous procedural errors, including failing to argue for plain error on appeal and failing to meet the requirements of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. The court concluded that she had waived her arguments and affirmed her convictions. View "United States v. McBride" on Justia Law

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In this case, Fred Zackery sought access to confidential settlement agreements between the Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Gadsden ("the Board") and various carpet and chemical manufacturers. Zackery requested these agreements under the Open Records Act. The Board had sued the manufacturers, alleging they contaminated the Board's raw water intake. The Board settled with all the manufacturers and planned to use the settlement funds to build and maintain a new water-treatment facility.Zackery, a citizen of Gadsden and a local radio station manager, intervened in the lawsuit specifically to request disclosure of the settlement agreements. The trial court granted his intervention but ruled that the Board didn't have to disclose the agreements until it had accepted a bid for the construction of the water-treatment facility. This decision was grounded in Alabama's Competitive Bid Law, which is designed to guard against corruption and favoritism in awarding contracts for public projects.The Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the trial court's decision, affirming that the immediate disclosure of the settlements could interfere with the competitive bid process, potentially driving bids upwards and leaving fewer funds for the long-term operation and maintenance of the new facility. This situation, the court reasoned, could cause rate hikes for the Board's customers. Therefore, the court concluded that an exception to the Open Records Act justified nondisclosure of the settlement agreements until the competitive-bid process was complete. View "Zackery v. Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Gadsden" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, REV, LLC ("REV"), a veteran-owned small business that provides software consulting services, appealed a decision from the United States Court of Federal Claims regarding a bid process by the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA").REV participated in the VA's bid process for its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology-Next Generation (“T4NG”) program, aimed at replenishing the pool of Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) vendors. REV was successful in the first stage of the bid process, but was eliminated in the second stage and was not among the final awardees.REV filed a lawsuit against the VA in the Court of Federal Claims, arguing that the VA's evaluation process was arbitrary and capricious due to alleged flaws in the process, including the VA's evaluation of rival bidders' submissions. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed REV's claims, ruling that REV lacked standing to challenge the VA’s evaluation of rival bidders' submissions and the VA’s establishment of the competitive range. The court found that REV failed to show that it was prejudiced as it could not establish that it had a greater than an insubstantial chance of securing an award had certain awardees been excluded from the bid process.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit disagreed with the lower court's decision, holding that REV had standing to challenge the VA's evaluation of rival bidders' submissions and the VA’s establishment of the competitive range. The court reasoned that REV had shown a substantial chance that it would have been added onto the T4NG contract if not for the alleged errors, thereby satisfying the requirements for standing. The court reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "REV, LLC v. US " on Justia Law

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In April 2008, the Department of the Navy awarded a contract to Strategic Technology Institute, Inc. (STI) to provide various aircraft engineering and support services. The contract incorporated Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.216-7, Allowable Cost and Payment, and FAR 52.242-4, Certification of Final Indirect Costs. STI was required to submit its cost rate proposals for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 by certain deadlines. STI did not submit these proposals until 2014, upon request by the government. After receiving these proposals, the government conducted audits and found that STI's proposals included approximately $1 million in unallowable costs. The government issued a final decision, demanding payment of unallowable costs, penalties, and interests.STI appealed to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, arguing that the government's claim was barred under the six-year statute of limitations under the Contract Disputes Act. The Board rejected STI’s argument and held that the statute of limitations on any government claim for disallowed costs does not begin until the contractor submits the incurred cost proposal and provides sufficient audit records.STI then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court held that the event that started the clock for the statute of limitations is the submission of STI’s cost rate proposals in September 2014, not STI’s failure to timely submit the proposals. The court held that STI's liability for receiving overpayment was not fixed until STI submitted unallowable costs in the cost proposal. Therefore, the government’s claim could not have accrued until STI submitted its cost rate proposals. The court affirmed the decision of the Board. View "STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE, INC. v. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE " on Justia Law

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In this case, Nova Group/Tutor-Saliba (“NTS”) was awarded a construction contract by the United States Department of the Navy to build a new aircraft carrier maintenance pier at a naval base. The contract required NTS to demolish an old pier, design and build a replacement pier, and construct a new structure known as the Mole Quaywall, which would be designed by the government. During construction, NTS encountered unexpected subsurface soil conditions that complicated and increased the cost of the project. NTS sought additional compensation from the government alleging differing site conditions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims which had denied NTS's claim for additional compensation. The Court of Federal Claims found that NTS had not established a Type I differing site condition because the contract documents disclosed that NTS would encounter unpredictable subsurface conditions and possible obstructions. It also found that NTS had failed to prove a Type II differing site condition, as it had not demonstrated that any of the potential causes for hard driving were unknown or unusual in the region or materially different from comparable work. The Court of Appeals agreed with these findings and also ruled that the parol evidence rule had not been violated as NTS claimed. The Court of Appeals found that the parol evidence rule does not prevent a party from presenting evidence that a recital of fact in an integrated agreement may be untrue, and the challenged evidence was not introduced to modify any term of the contract. Therefore, the appeal by NTS was denied and the decision of the Court of Federal Claims was affirmed. View "NOVA GROUP/TUTOR-SALIBA v. US " on Justia Law