Articles Posted in Government Contracts

by
In 1942-1943, the Government contracted with the Oil Companies to purchase aviation gasoline, vital to the war effort, permitting a profit margin “between 6% and 7%.” The manufacture of avgas from crude oil uses a 98% purity sulfuric acid as a catalyst in alkylation, a process that dilutes the sulfuric acid such that it turns it into “spent alkylation acid,” which may be used to catalyze the alkylation process again following purification; produce non-avgas petroleum by-products; or be disposed of. If spent alkylation acid is used to produce other petroleum by-products, it becomes "acidic sludge," a secondary waste with a lesser percentage of acid content that can be used to manufacture fertilizer, burned, or disposed of. Unable to reprocess the increased amount of spent alkylation acid given the prioritization of production, the Companies dumped spent alkylation acid and acid sludge in California: 12 percent of the waste was spent alkylation acid, and 82.5% was acid sludge. In 1991, the Government and California sued the Companies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. 9601, for costs of cleaning up the disposal site. The Companies countersued. After years of litigation, the Claims Court granted the Companies partial summary judgment to prevent discovery into insurance settlements; denied the Government’s motion for leave to assert counterclaims in fraud; held that the Government was liable for clean-up costs for nonbenzol waste--$99,509,847.32, including accrued interest. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the Claims Court failed to allocate between recoverable and nonrecoverable costs, wrongfully admitted stipulations to calculate damages, and wrongly refused to allow proof of double recovery by insurance settlements. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs each entered into agreements to provide services to Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. government-funded broadcast service. The agreements were a series of individual purchase order vendor (POV) contracts that each plaintiff entered into over several years with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA. In 2014, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State issued a report that was critical of the BBG’s use of POV contracts, concluding that the BBG was using such contracts in some cases to obtain personal services. Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging that, along with other individuals who have served as independent contractors for VOA, they should have been retained through personal services contracts or appointed to positions in the civil service. If their contracts had been classified as personal services contracts or they had been appointed to civil service positions, they alleged, they would have enjoyed enhanced compensation and benefits. The Claims Court dismissed and denied their request for leave to file a proposed second amended complaint. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting several contract-based claims, seeking damages for the loss of the additional compensation and benefits to which Plaintiffs contend they were entitled. Plaintiffs have set forth no viable theory of recovery. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Claims Court entered judgment in favor of Starry on its bid protest claim, concluding that the Department of Health and Human Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously in canceling its solicitation seeking to procure certain business operations services. The Claims Court thereafter awarded Starry attorney fees at the rates actually billed to Starry by its counsel, finding that the “extreme measures that [Starry] was forced to pursue to vindicate its right to a rational and lawful federal procurement process, combined with the shocking disregard of the truth by” HHS, constituted a “special factor” justifying an award of fees above the EAJA’s “default rate” of $125 per hour. EAJA, the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A), provides that when a trial court finds that a “special factor” exists, it is authorized to increase the statutory attorney fee rate in certain cases brought by or against the government. The Federal Circuit vacated the award, holding that the Claims Court erred as a matter of law in holding that an agency’s improper or dilatory conduct during the administrative process that gave rise to the litigation between the parties can constitute a “special factor.” EAJA does not contain any reference to prelitigation activities. View "Starry Associates, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. The insurer filed suit. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement or action by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the risk corridors program was simply an incentive program. Because there was no contract, the insurer’s “takings” claim also failed. View "Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. Moda filed suit. The Claims Court granted Moda partial summary judgment as to liability, stipulated to be $209,830,445.79. Dozens of other insurers filed actions, with mixed results. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the statute, its regulations, and HHS’s conduct simply created an incentive program. View "Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. Moda filed suit. The Claims Court granted Moda partial summary judgment as to liability, stipulated to be $209,830,445.79. Dozens of other insurers filed actions, with mixed results. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the statute, its regulations, and HHS’s conduct simply created an incentive program. View "Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The VA sought bids for procurement of medical gases. Three bids were determined to be in the competitive range: RAS, Irish, and Progressive. Progressive won a bid protest in part. The Claims Court enjoined the VA from awarding the contracts to RAS and Irish, vacated the awards to those companies, and remanded the case to the VA. The VA filed a Motion, explaining its need to continuously supply medical gases and informed the court of its plan to award an emergency bridge. Without receiving a response from Progressive, the court stated that it “[did] not deem the proposed course of action to be non-compliant.” A series of motions followed, concerning Progressive’s “entitlement to compensation for the severe economic harm” and its deadline for seeking attorney fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(G). Later, the court denied Progressive’s request that it direct the VA to re-evaluate the bid proposals within the competitive range, rather than resolicit the contracts altogether. Meanwhile, the VA resolicited the contracts, applied the Rule of Two, and awarded contracts to RAS and Irish. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Progressive’s Rule 59(e) motion was untimely and the Claims Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Progressive’s 60(b)(6) motion. View "Progressive Industries, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established to rule Iraq pending transfer of authority to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). CPA awarded Agility a Contract to operate warehouses, providing that “[t]he obligation under this contract is made with Iraqi funds.” Agility acknowledged the impending transfer of authority and CPA’s scheduled dissolution. CPA authorized the IIG Minister of Finance to delegate contract administration to CPA’s Program Management Office (PMO). CPA administered Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), composed of various sources, including revenue from sales of Iraqi petroleum and natural gas. The IIG Minister delegated contract-administration responsibility concerning DFI-funded contracts to the PMO but did not give PMO contracting authority. Subsequent Contract task orders obligated U.S. funds. A U.S. contracting officer (CO) determined that Agility owed the government $81 million due to overpayment. Separately, Agility unsuccessfully sought $47 million for unpaid fees. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals dismissed Agility's appeals for lack of jurisdiction under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), 41 U.S.C. 7101–7109. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board’s CDA jurisdiction is limited to contracts “made by an ‘executive agency.’” CPA was not an executive agency under the CDA. CPA awarded the Contract and there was no evidence that it was novated or assigned to an executive agency. The government acted as a contract administrator, not as a contracting party. View "Agility Logistics Services Co., KSC v. Mattis" on Justia Law

by
Meridian contracted to construct the Chula Vista Project flood control project, including construction of concrete channels, relocation of a sewer line, and dewatering and water diversion. After commencing work, Meridian encountered problems relating to “a layer of dripping saturated dark clay material under which a clean layer of sand is producing water” with “the potential for serious structural damage.” The government issued contract modifications, including an increase in funds for larger pipe, addition of a reinforced concrete access ramp, investigation of soil properties, remediation of saturated soils, and additional sheet piling. The government directed Meridian to suspend work following structural failures and terminated the project following a final inspection. Meridian sued for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 601−613. The government conceded liability for certain costs relating to suspension of work, channel fill, and interim protection. With respect to other claims, the Federal Circuit affirmed in part. Meridian’s interpretation of the contract was not reasonable; the existence of subsurface saturated soil conditions was “reasonably foreseeable.” The Trade Court did not impose an improper requirement for investigation of site conditions beyond what a reasonable contractor would undertake. The court remanded for consideration of whether the parties reached a meeting of the minds on flood event claims and held that the Trade Court erred dismissing Meridian’s unpaid contract quantities claim, in light of conflicting information. View "Meridian Engineering Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The FBI is the sole tenant in a building under a lease between Cleveland Assets and the General Services Administration (GSA) that began in 2002 and was to expire in 2012. The lease has been extended multiple times. GSA has paid a penalty rate of $44.72 per rentable square foot (PSF) since its expiration. GSA must seek the approval of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure before obligating funds on the lease, by sending a prospectus of the proposed facility, including “an estimate of the maximum cost.” GSA prepared a prospectus for the Cleveland FBI office and considered a range of rental values, finally approving a maximum proposed rate of $26.00 PSF and an escalation clause for inflation. Both congressional committees approved the rate. GSA’s 2016 Request for Lease Proposals cited the "Congressionally-imposed rent limitation” of $26.00 PSF. Cleveland Assets sued, claiming that the Request exceeded GSA’s authority to solicit offers and that the rental cap was unreasonably low, imposed an undue restriction on competition, and shifted all risk to the contractor. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal by the Claims Court. The authorization statute, 40 U.S.C. 3307, is an appropriation, not a procurement, statute, so the challenge is not subject to Tucker Act jurisdiction. GSA’s choice of the maximum rental rate was not arbitrary or lacking a rational basis. View "Cleveland Assets, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law