Last week, I attended the Federal Project Symposium presented by the Design Build Institute of America and the Society of American Military Engineers.  As always, DBIA and SAME provided insights into the rising number of federal project types utilizing design-build methodology and offered attendees cutting-edge access to the latest in design-build best practices.

As part of the Symposium, myself and Reggie Jones, a partner here at Fox Rothschild and the Chair of our Government Contracts Practice Group, were part of a panel presentation on the False Claims Act titled: A Design-Builder’s Guide to Government Lawsuits (and How to Avoid Them).  The panel also included Andrew Steinberg, a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Tanya Matthews, the President of TMG Construction Corporation.

The False Claims Act has become the primary and most effective tool in the government’s tool belt for clawing back money on federal projects based on allegations of fraud.  In fact, False Claims Act enforcement is at an all-time high, as the United States has recovered more money under the Act in the last four years than it did in the previous 150!  As we explain in the presentation, the key issue underlying False Claims Act enforcement is the standard of care being applied to contractors – thanks to a watered-down standard, the specific intent to defraud is no longer required.  Every day, we see contractors in hot water based on simple mistakes or just not knowing the rules.

In the presentation, we cover not only the ins-and-outs of the False Claims Act, but also provide practical advice on how contractors can implement a functional business ethics program and create a culture of compliance.  While the presentation has an eye towards the design-build industry, these are tips that every contractor that performs federal contracts needs to know.