Last week, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida held that a government contractor working under a fixed-price contract is not liable under the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) for higher than expected profits and “failing to notify the Government that the work could be performed less expensively and charged at a lower price” than the contract price. U.S. ex rel. Prime v. Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc., and Parsons Corporation, No. 10-cv-1950 (M.D. Fl. Aug. 23, 2013).
The nature of the contract was critical to the outcome of the case. In U.S. ex rel. Prime, two contractors, Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. (“PBS&J”) and Parsons, formed a joint venture for the project (the “JV”). The JV entered into a fixed price indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract with the Government, under which fixed price task orders would be placed. Prices on the individual task orders were lump-sum, determined in accordance with the agreed-upon labor rates multiplied by the number of days required to complete the work, and included a profit component. The labor rates and lump-sum task order prices were a product of lengthy negotiations between the JV and Government representatives. During those negotiations, which were transcribed, the Government noted the potential for the JV to increase its profit margin by injecting greater efficiency into its performance.
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