So you want to acquire a government contractor? Makes sense, and you’re not alone. Over the past few years, the federal contracting landscape continues to evolve as a result of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), primarily involving the acquisition of small and midsize contractors by larger entities as a means to quickly expand into new federal markets. This trend is especially prevalent in the information technology (IT) market, where the acquisition of small or midsize IT firms with new capabilities can provide larger firms with shiny new toys to share with their roster of government clients to gain a larger share of the federal IT “pie,” if not create—almost overnight—new IT market leaders in areas such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, software, and predictive intelligence.
On August 6, 2014, plaintiff-relator Andrew Scollick filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against eighteen defendants for multiple violations of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) in connection with an alleged scheme to submit bids and obtain millions of dollars in government construction contracts by fraudulently claiming or obtaining service-disabled veteran-owned small business (“SDVOSB”) status, HUBZone status, or Section 8(a) status, when the bidders did not qualify for the statuses claimed. United States ex. rel. Scollick v. Narula, et al., No. 14-cv-1339 (D.D.C.). Unique in this case were not the claims against the contractors, who were alleged to have falsely certified their status or ownership. Rather, what set this case apart was that Scollick also named as defendants the insurance broker who helped secure the bonding that the contractor defendants needed to bid and obtain the contracts, and the surety that issued bid and performance bonds to the contractor defendants. Scollick alleged that the bonding companies “knew or should have known” that the construction companies were shells acting as fronts for larger, non-veteran-owned entities violating the government’s contracting requirements—and thus the bonding companies should be held equally liable with the contractors for “indirect presentment” and “reverse false claims” under the FCA.