Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s 12th Annual Intelligence Community Legal Conference to discuss acquisition reform with some of the top government attorneys in the intelligence community. Much to my surprise, the majority of the conversation focused on bid protests and the impact that protests have on federal procurements. During my time as a government attorney defending against bid protests, I gained valuable insight into how the government works to defeat them and what contractors can to do improve their chance of success. Some of these lessons are shared below.  Continue Reading Bid Protests: An Insider’s Perspective

GOVOLOGYWe are excited to bring you another webinar that we are hosting with Govology and presented by Maria Panichelli! We are happy to provide friends of Cohen Seglias a 25% discount off of this webinar when they register using the code protest25. This is a live webinar that includes on demand recordings that you will be able to access even if you cannot make the scheduled time. We think you will find this webinar to be not only informative but also a useful tool! Continue Reading Everything You Need to Know About Protests: Govology Webinar

On March 9th, 2016, join Maria Panichelli and Amy Kirby for their two seminars, “The Fundamentals of the Far Part 1, 2 and 3,” and “Debriefings, Bid Protests and Size Status Eligibility,”as part of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center of Delaware‘s (PTAC) two part seminar event, Two Seminars on the Same Day, One Price.

For more information on these seminars, please click here.

Continue Reading Procurement Technical Assistance Center of Delaware: Two Seminars on the Same Day

Ed DeLisle will present his seminar, “Navigating the Protest and Claims Processes as a Small Business,” on February 9th at the National 8(a) Association 2016 Winter Conference in Orlando, FL.

The conference is a two day event held on February 9th and 10th and will focus on federal and legal updates and how to navigate the ever-changing world of federal contracting. The nation’s top legal firms and the industry’s best consultants will be there to help 8(a) certified and non-8(a) certified businesses gain the valuable education, promotion, and federal contracting information they need to further advance their level of experience and achieve a higher degree of success.

For more information, and to register for the National 8(a) Association Winter Conference, please click here.

Edward T. DeLisle is Co-Chair of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Ed frequently advises contractors on federal contracting matters including bid protests, claims and appeals, procurement issues, small business issues and dispute resolution.

Please join us on NoveNVSBE logomber 18th and 19th for Maria Panichelli’s three seminars at the 2015 National Veterans Small Business Engagement in Pittsburgh, PA. To view the dates and times of Maria’s seminars, and to register, visit the NVSBE website Continue Reading The 2015 National Veterans Small Business Engagement

Join EBidd DeLisle and Maria Panichelli for their presentation for TargetGov and the Government Contracting Institute on November 2, 2015 in Linthicum Heights, MD. Continue Reading Bid Protests, and Size/Status Eligibility Challenges: In-Depth Look at the Most Important Processes in Government Contracting

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Please join us for Maria Panichelli‘s webinar for Govology on October 29, 2015 at 1:00PM EST.

In today’s extremely competitive federal contracting market, understanding bid protests and the procedures relating to protests can make the difference between getting the contract, or getting left out of the race altogether.  Continue Reading Debriefing, Bid Protests, and Size & Status Investigations

By: Joseph A. Hackenbracht

From August 2, 2002 until July 14, 2004, Todd Construction, a general contractor located in Oklahoma, was awarded five indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contracts by the Savannah District of the Corps of Engineers for design and construction of projects in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Each contract was for a period of up to three years and together the task orders issued under the contracts could have added up to $65,000,000. On two of the task orders, each of which was for less than $500,000, Todd received unsatisfactory performance evaluations; it challenged those ratings.

Back in 2008, we reported (see our earlier blog article) about a decision by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Todd Construction, L.P. v. U.S., 85 Fed.Cl. 34, 2008, where the Court held that it had jurisdiction to hear a challenge to a performance rating. In that case, Todd submitted a CDA claim asserting that it received an erroneous performance evaluation. The Court concluded that the challenge constituted a “claim” within the meaning of the Contract Disputes Act, thereby giving the Court jurisdiction of what amounted to a non-monetary dispute.

In the years that followed, Todd proceeded on a legal odyssey in what came to be known as Todd I, Todd II, and Todd III. Todd’s counsel battled with government attorneys in written brief and after written brief over nuances regarding one’s ability to challenge a performance evaluation. In 2009, the Court issued Todd II, finding that plaintiff’s must “do more than recite the elements of a cause of action; they must make sufficient factual allegations to ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.’” Todd v. U.S., 88 Fed.Cl. 235 (2009). The Court then granted Todd the opportunity to amend its pleadings. In Todd III, decided in 2010, the Court of Federal Claims concluded that, even after revising its complaint, Todd failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and dismissed Todd’s challenge of its rating. The Court also found that Todd lacked standing to bring the action because there was no discernable injury from the alleged errors in the evaluation. Todd v. U.S., 94 Fed.Cl. 100 (2010).

Once Todd’s journey in the Court of Federal Claims came to an end, Todd had two choices: abandon pursuit of its claim or appeal the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Todd chose to appeal. On August 29, 2011, the Circuit Court issued its decision. The Circuit Court agreed with the lower court’s finding that, in the absence of a showing of prejudice or injury in fact, Todd lacked standing to challenge the alleged procedural violations in the agency’s evaluation. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s dismissal of the case for failure to state a claim. Todd Const. L.P. v. U.S., 656 F.3d 1306, C.A.Fed. 2011. The Court noted that the complaint did not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,” and that Todd failed to “plead factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” The Court of Appeals did confirm the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims to hear challenges of performance ratings since, it concluded, the ratings are “related to” the contract and the challenge is a claim under the Contract Disputes Act.

So, on a contract that was performed between 2003 and 2005, concerning a performance evaluation issued on July 23, 2006, that was challenged in a claim submitted in August, 2006, which was denied in a Contracting Officer’s decision dated April 25, 2007, that was the subject matter of the Complaint filed on May 25, 2007, Todd learned on August 29, 2011, that the merits of the government’s evaluation of its performance would go unchallenged and unreviewed. Although Todd could appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, there is no indication that Todd pursued the matter any further.

Decisions of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are precedent for both the Court of Federal Claims and the boards of contract appeals. Going forward, therefore, contractors can expect that both the boards and the Court will hear challenges of adverse performance ratings. However, in order to avoid the negative result suffered by Todd, contractors must plead the facts specifically and in detail, and identify individually which ratings are arbitrary and capricious and why they are erroneous. Contractors must also allege what the ratings should have been and that the outcome would have been different if the errors had not been made. In order to avoid dismissal based on standing, contractors must be ready to provide evidence that the negative rating has caused injury, or has prejudiced the contractor.

Based upon the above, contractors should consult with a professional to the extent that they wish to challenge a performance rating to assure themselves that the prerequisites of Todd I, II and III have been met.

Joseph A. Hackenbracht is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group.

By: Edward T. DeLisle & Maria L. Panichelli

SDVOSB Appeal of Rush-Link One Joint Venture, SBA No. VET-228 (2012), a recent Small Business Administration Office of Hearings and Appeals (“OHA”) decision that we discussed previously, demonstrates how a company’s internal corporate structure can impact that company’s eligibility to participate in the Service-Disabled Veteran Owned (“SDVO”) small business program.

SDVOSB Appeal of Rush-Link One concerned a joint-venture, Rush-Link One, which was 51%-owned by Link Contracting, Inc. (Link), a purported SDVO small business concern. Mr. George Carpenter, a service-disabled veteran, owned 55% of Link. Following the award of a SDVOSB set-aside contract to Rush-Link One, a competitor challenged the joint-venture’s eligibility for the SDVO program.

Pursuant to 13 C.F.R. § 125.10(a), a small business concern may qualify as an eligible SDVO only if the management and daily business operations of that concern are “controlled” by one or more service-disabled veterans. The regulations define “control” differently, depending upon the type of corporate structure employed. In the case of a partnership, one or more service-disabled veterans must serve as general partners, with control over all partnership decisions. 13 C.F.R. § 125.10(c). A limited liability company (LLC) is “controlled” by a service-disabled veteran only if one or more service-disabled veterans serve as managing members, with control over all decisions of the LLC. 13 C.F.R. § 125.10(d). In the case of a corporation, such as Link, the service-disabled veteran must prove that he or she has “control” over the corporation’s Board of Directors, thereby allowing him or her to make all major decisions on the company’s behalf. 13 C.F.R. § 125.10(e). Service-disabled veterans control the Board of Directors when either: (1) one or more service-disabled veterans own at least 51% of all voting stock of the concern, are on the Board of Directors and have the percentage of voting stock necessary to overcome any super majority voting requirements; or (2) service-disabled veterans comprise the majority of voting directors through actual numbers or, where permitted by state law, through weighted voting. 13 C.F.R. § 125.10(e).

Applying the above in Rush-Link One, the OHA concluded that the supermajority requirements in Link’s shareholders’ agreement abrogated the service-disabled veteran owner’s “control” of the corporation under 13 C.F.R. § 125.10, and rendered the concern and, therefore, the joint-venture, ineligible for participation in the SDVOSB program. The OHA found that, although Link was 55% owned by a service-disabled veteran, its shareholders executed a formal shareholders’ agreement which stated that “[e]xcept as otherwise provided herein or in [Link’s] bylaws, all decisions of the Shareholders shall be made by a majority vote. “Majority vote” was defined as one in which “seventy percent (70%) of the issued shares of the Corporation vote to pass the issue or matter.” The same paragraph of the shareholders’ agreement indicated that “[t]his provision shall supersede any contrary provision of [Link’s] bylaws or Articles of Incorporation (as they stand now or may subsequently be amended).” Accordingly, the OHA found that Mr. Carpenter’s 55% ownership of Link was insufficient to overcome the supermajority requirement set forth in the shareholders’ agreement, and, consequently, that he did not “control” Link’s board of directors or Link as a whole. Therefore, OHA concluded that Link was not a SDVOSB, and that Rush-Link one was not an eligible SDVOSB joint-venture.

Let this case serve as a reminder that internal corporate governance is critically important to SDVOSB eligibility. In our practice, it represents the single, most frequently cited basis for the loss or denial of SDVOSB status.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Practice Group.