5 Things You Should Know: Joint Ventures

In the age of consolidated contracts and increased competition, small business federal contractors are searching for a way to improve their odds of winning the next opportunity. One of the most important tools for doing so is to form a joint venture.

Here are five things you should know about small business joint ventures:

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Unpopulated Joint Venture Can Be “Manufacturer” For SBA Size Purposes

When a small business sells products to the government under a contract designated with a manufacturing NAICS code, the small business either must be the “manufacturer” of the products, or separately qualify under the nonmanufacturer rule. The nonmanufacturer rule, in turn, requires the prime contractor to have no more than 500 employees, whereas manufacturers may fall under larger size standards–some as big as 1,500 employees.

But what about an unpopulated joint venture that doesn’t itself manufacture any products, relying on the individual venturers to manufacture the solicited goods? Does it also have to comply with the 500-employee size standard under the nonmanufacturer rule? Or can the joint venture be deemed the “manufacturer” of the products in question?

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GAO Puts Substance Over Form in Past Performance Protest

Recently, GAO sustained a bid protest where an agency “unreasonably excluded” a joint venture’s proposal, which included all necessary information listed in the solicitation, from competition.

GAO held that it was unreasonable for the agency to exclude the joint venture merely because the joint venture’s proposal didn’t include a subcontract number for one of its past performance references. GAO held, in essence, that the missing information was irrelevant because it had no bearing on the type of work completed.

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GAO Denies Protest Challenging SAM Registration

One of the first things a prospective government contractor (including a joint venture) must do to be eligible for an award is to create a business profile in the System for Award Management (or “SAM”). Before making an award, in fact, the contracting officer is obligated to verify the prospective contractor is registered in SAM.

Not only must a business be registered in SAM, but its registration should be up-to-date. It’s an enduring myth of government contracting that a business’s SAM profile only has to be updated annually. But as FAR 4.1201(b)(1) instructs, an offeror’s SAM profile has to be updated as necessary to ensure that it is “kept current, accurate, and complete.”

What happens if a prospective awardee fails to update its SAM profile? Can a disappointed bidder challenge the basis of the award? The answer, according to GAO, is “it depends.”

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DoD Mentor-Protege Program: Major Changes Finalized

The DoD has issued a final rule making major changes in the DoD “Pilot” Mentor-Protege Program.  The rule took effect on March 23, 2018.

Among the major changes, DoD has both expanded and contracted the universe of potential proteges–and has included a mandatory certification that seems to completely misunderstand the SBA’s joint venture rules and processes.

Here is my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly from the final rule.

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Government Contracts Joint Ventures: Our New Handbook is Now Available

I am excited to announce the publication of Government Contracts Joint Ventures, the first in a new series of new government contracting guides we’re calling “Koprince Law LLC GovCon Handbooks.”  Packed with easy-to-understand examples and written in plain English, Government Contracts Joint Ventures should help you maximize your understanding of this important option for pursuing federal contracts.

What does the Handbook contain?  I’m glad you asked.

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Joint Ventures & OCIs: A Cautionary Tale

For small government contractors, joint ventures can be an important vehicle for successfully pursuing larger and more complex opportunities.  As the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protege Program enters its second full year, the popularity of joint ventures seems to be increasing significantly.

But joint ventures aren’t immune from the FAR’s rules governing organizational conflicts of interest. In a recent decision, the GAO held that an agency properly excluded a joint venture from competition where one of the joint venture’s members–through its involvement in a second joint venture–had assisted in the preparation of the solicitation’s specifications.

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