Government Contractor Successfully Defends Its Senior Executive Compensation Costs

This post was written by Stephanie E. Giese.

The issue of senior executive compensation limits continues to be a contentious one for the federal government and its contractors. This may explain why the limit has not been raised since 2010 from the current amount of $693,951. In fact, the Obama administration has proposed lowering senior executive compensation limits to $200,000, the level it caps salaries for its own executives. Given the administration’s focus, this is an area where we are likely to see more litigation. The Appeals of J.F. Taylor, Inc., ASBCA Nos. 56105, 56322 (January 18, 2012) (“JFT”) is an example of such litigation that was recently decided in favor of the contractor.

The JFT decision is relevant to contractors subject to Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) 31.205-6(p), the federal limitation on the allowability of compensation for senior executives. This benchmark limitation is the maximum amount a contractor may seek reimbursement for under its government contracts, but does not limit the compensation an executive may earn. Further, the limit that applies to small-to-midsize government contractors may actually be lower than the benchmark limitation. Regardless of the size of the contractor, a contractor subject to FAR 31.205-6(p) must show that the executive compensation costs it charged the government are reasonable in order for the government to reimburse those costs. To evaluate reasonableness, Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”) conducts a statistical analysis considering factors such as industry, company revenue relative to other companies in the same industry, geographic location, and the executive position being evaluated.

The JFT decision offers arguments that may allow a contractor to resolve disputes with DCAA in annual Executive Compensation Reviews (“ECRs”) and to avoid potential litigation. In its JFT decision, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals held that DCAA’s methodology was “fatally flawed statistically”:

(a) as a matter of basic statistical analysis,

(b) because the method market priced JFT’s executive compensation at the median without adequate consideration of the company’s superior performance,

(c) because DCAA failed to evaluate the compensation of the JFT vice presidents based on the revenues of the whole company even though each vice president had companywide responsibilities for the success of the company, and

(d) because the method used does not yield auditable and reliable results.
 

Thus, JFT was not required to repay the government approximately $600,000 in disallowed executive compensation costs. A contractor should consider the fatal flaws cited by the Board as potential arguments to defend its own executive compensation costs.

Proposed Rule Seeks To Prevent Future Contractor Leaks of Personally Identifiable Information - The WikiLeaks Response

This post was written by Melissa E. Beras.

On October 14, 2011, just one week after the release of the "WikiLeaks Order," the Department of Defense (DoD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) proposed a rule that would require certain contractors to complete training that addresses the protection of privacy and the handling and safeguarding of personally identifiable information (PII). Specifically, the rule requires contractors who access government records, handle PII, or design, develop, maintain, or operate a system of government records on behalf of the government, to undergo training upon award of a contract and at least annually thereafter. Further, according to the rule, contractors would have recordkeeping requirements for documents indicating that employees have completed the mandatory training and would be required to produce those records upon government request.

In addition, the proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) text provides that the required privacy training must, at a minimum, address seven mandatory elements. Those elements include training on privacy protection in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, restrictions on the use of personally owned equipment that implicates PII, breach notification procedures, and other “agency-specific” training requirements. The proposed FAR text also provides alternative language for instances where an agency would prefer that the contractor create the privacy training package, as opposed to attending an agency-developed privacy training. Additional alternative language is proposed for instances where the government determines it is in its best interest for the agency itself to conduct the training. Moreover, the clause requires that it be flowed down to any subcontractors who: (1) have access to government records; (2) handle PII; or (3) design, develop, maintain, or operate a system of records on behalf of the government.

The proposed rule is a part of a broader effort to enhance cyber security. It follows the “WikiLeaks Order,” an executive order issued October 7, 2011, and formally titled “Structural Reforms to Improve the Security of Classified Networks and the Responsible Sharing and Safeguarding of Classified Information,” which directs governmental change to ensure that classified information is shared responsibly and safeguarded on computer networks in a manner consistent with appropriate protections for privacy and civil liberties. The order expressly states that agencies bear “the primary responsibility for meeting these twin goals.” The proposed rule also comes shortly after the DoD requested the extension of a pilot program through November 2011, which helps protect the networks of its prime defense contractors by sharing intelligence about threats to their data with these contractors.

Contractors interested in sharing their views on the proposed rule have the opportunity to comment. Written comments are due by December 13, 2011.

No Contractor Left Behind: The Proposed Standardization of Contractor Past-Performance Evaluations

This post was written by Leslie A. Monahan.

A proposed rule issued by the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on June 28, 2011 proposes to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) to provide a single set of standards for contract officers reviewing contractor past performance. In 2010, agencies were required to transition their various information systems for storing performance reviews into the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (“CPARS”), which would serve as a single performance feeder system governmentwide. Now, regulators seeks to continue implementing streamlining procedures by standardizing the evaluation factors and rating scales in past performance reviews.

The proposed changes stem from a 2009 Government Accountability Office report on the need for better performance information in making contract award decisions. The basis for the proposed rule also gained momentum with the issuance of an Office of Federal Procurement Policy memorandum concerning strategies for improving the assessment of contractor past performance.

Under the proposed rule, regulators plan to implement a five-point scale to standardize the contractor past performance evaluation process. In particular, contractors will be evaluated based on rating definitions found in CPARS guidance that range from exceptional to unsatisfactory. All evaluations are intended be tailored to the contract type, size, content, and complexity of contractual requirements.

According to regulators, while the proposed rule may be new, it only intends to codify in the FAR existing guidelines and practices, Further, the proposed language for the amended FAR provisions is language already used by Federal agencies. Contractors interested in commenting on the proposed rule must submit their comments by August 29, 2011.