5 Things You Should Know: All Small Mentor-Protege Program

In late 2016, the SBA rolled out a fantastic tool to help small business grow in the marketplace.

Here are five things you should know about the SBA All Small Mentor-Protégé Program:

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No Ostensible Subcontractor Affiliation With ANC Parent & Sister Companies, Says SBA OHA

An Alaska Native Corporation subsidiary was not affiliated with its parent company and two sister companies under the ostensible subcontractor affiliation rule, even though the company in question would rely on the parent and sister companies for managerial personnel, financial assistance and bonding.

A recent decision of the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals highlights the breadth of the exemption from affiliation enjoyed by ANC companies.

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Joint Venture Affiliation Exception Isn’t Unlimited, OHA Says

To encourage joint venturing, the SBA’s size regulations provide a limited exception from affiliation for certain joint venturers: a joint venture qualifies for award of a set-aside contract so long as each venturer, individually, is below the size standard associated with the contract (or one venturer is below the size standard and the other is an SBA-approved mentor, and they have a compliant joint venture agreement). In other words, the SBA ordinarily won’t “affiliate” the joint venturers—that is, add their sizes together—if the joint venture meets the affiliation exception.

Because of this special treatment, it can be easy for the venturers to assume that they are completely exempt from any kind of affiliation. But as the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals recently confirmed, however, the exception isn’t nearly so broad.

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SBA OHA: No “Unfair Competitive Advantage” Appeals

The SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals lacks jurisdiction to consider whether an entity owned by an Indian tribe or Alaska Native Corporation has obtained a substantial unfair competitive advantage within an industry.

In a recent size appeal case, OHA acknowledged that an unfair competitive advantage is an exception to the special affiliation rules that tribally-owned companies ordinarily enjoy–but held that only the SBA Administrator has the power to determine that an Indian tribe or ANC has obtained, or will obtain, such an unfair advantage.

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Expired 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Agreement Sinks JV’s Eligibility

An 8(a) mentor-protégé agreement, which expired one year after its approval by the SBA, did not protect the 8(a) protégé and its mentor from affiliation–and meant that their 8(a) mentor-protégé joint venture was an ineligible large business.

A recent size appeal decision of the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals is a cautionary tale for 8(a) protégé and their mentors, and highlights the importance of securing timely SBA reauthorization of 8(a) mentor-protégé agreements.

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SBA OHA Reaffirms (Some) Leniency to Start-Ups in Size Determinations

Under the SBA’s small business affiliation regulations, an otherwise small business can be deemed affiliated with a larger business when the firms share “substantially identical business or other interests.” Under this rule, affiliation will be typically be found, as a matter of law, when a small business concern derives 70% or more of its revenue from another firm.

Because most new businesses don’t start up with numerous clients or contracts, a mechanical application of the 70% rule could be disastrous for a new small business faced with an SBA size determination. Thus, the “start-up” exception to the SBA’s affiliation rules—which applies to relatively new businesses whose revenues from its alleged affiliate are insufficient to sustain business operations—can be the saving grace for a small business trying to earn business from the government.

So it was in a recent case decided by the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals.

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8(a) Mentor-Protege Joint Venture Agreements: Details Matter, Court Says

An 8(a) mentor-protege joint venture was not entitled to take advantage of the special mentor-protege exception from affiliation because the joint venture agreement lacked adequate detail.

In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims held that the SBA had reasonably determined the joint venture to be a large business because the joint venture agreement did not sufficiently address certain requirements.  The Court’s decision should be a warning for all 8(a) mentor-protege joint ventures: details matter.

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