Contracting at the federal level is an industry worth one trillion dollars. That includes everything from technologically advanced defense systems to general construction projects. Regardless of their sector, a government contractor can earn a lot of money if they get a federal contract. But there are risks to federal contracts as well. Contractors need to comply with certain bidding practices, and their performance may be heavily scrutinized by government agencies like the Department of Justice. If accused of fraud, a contractor may face significant criminal and civil repercussions.
While there are several statutes that can be invoked regarding government contractors, the biggest key one is the False Claims Act. This act is a way of explicitly prohibiting every possible type of fraud in government contracting. The legislation also outlines explanations of what criminal and civil penalties are incurred if a person or company violates the rules. Other statutes that may be used include the Procurement Integrity Act, the Anti-Kickback Statute, and any of the statutes regarding mail and wire fraud. Because of this, government contractors who are accused of fraud may be charged with multiple different crimes.
Defending Government Contractors Accused of Fraud
Attorneys who defend government contractors need to be familiar with fraud-related laws. They also need to be experienced in dealing with the Department of Justice, federal prosecutors, and other federal agencies. An attorney can guide a government contractor through both criminal and civil investigations.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed without a background in law. An attorney can help you understand what you’re facing and what your options are. They can also help lay out the best defense possible if necessary. The ultimate goal is to prevent the termination of the contract or any unnecessary fines. Complying in good faith is usually the best way to defend yourself against allegations. But if any issues do arise, an attorney will be able to provide a strategy for tackling them.
One of the best things you can do when a problem arises is to conduct an internal investigation as quickly as possible. It’s important to acknowledge and correct any issues in your contract work. Doing this helps to prevent you from being held liable under the False Claims Act. You might need to do an internal investigation for any number of reasons. Maybe you discovered a problem with an audit, or you noticed an issue with a billing record, or you’ve been sent an inquiry from a federal agency.
A law firm can help you with an internal investigation. The experts can take you through each step of the investigation process to make sure that all of your records are adequately accounted for. They can also help you create investigation policies to apply if the issue ever occurs again in the future, along with emergency protocols for if your company is ever given a subpoena.
A federal investigation may come from outside your company. You might receive a subpoena from a federal agency, usually the DOJ. If this occurs, you’ll need to consult with your legal team about how to respond. A subpoena is usually the first that you’ll learn about the investigation, but if you’ve been given one, it means that the investigation has already reached deep levels.
Contractors need to understand certain key pieces when building their defense during a federal investigation.
They need to know which agencies are part of the investigation. The DOJ will typically lead the charge, but other agencies may conduct investigations as well.
They need to know which statutes are involved in the investigation. Nearly every case will involve the False Claims Act, but it’s important to know if other statutes are involved.
They need to know what caused the investigation. It may have been a whistleblower, or it may have been an independent action by the agency. Both of these have different investigative approaches.