Affiliation is quite possibly one of the scariest words to small business government contractors. And it is easily one of the most misunderstood concepts in SBA’s small business regulations. Perhaps the widespread fear and misunderstanding are due to the fact that there are so many potential bases for affiliation listed in SBA’s rules–or the fact that you can be found affiliated with another company even if SBA finds that none of the listed bases for affiliation are met. Or maybe its the fact that, while affiliationisn’t always a bad thing, it can lead to severe consequences, like preventing an otherwise responsible and eligible business from competing under set-asides contracts.
Either way, this “Back to Basics” blog will be the first of two blogs that will “unpack” this concept for you, hopefully, removing some of the mystery. This first blog will provide a general overview of affiliation and what it means for government contractors, while the second blog will focus on the different types of affiliation.
SBA’s Office of Hearing and Appeals (OHA) recently said that the SBA Area Office should have informed the protested concern of the issues its adverse size determination focused on before ruling against the concern’s size eligibility on that basis. In addition to its lesson on due process, OHA also took this opportunity to distinguish totality of the circumstances affiliation (the basis on which the Area Office found affiliation here) from ostensible subcontractor affiliation (the basis for affiliation alleged in the size protest). OHA vacated and remanded the Area Office’s decision.
Since the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program went into effect last Friday, there has been considerable confusion about eligibility and, in particular, what affiliation rules apply to program applicants. The affiliation rules are important for helping companies determine if they can seek out these important loans.
In this post, we’ll let you know which affiliation rules apply to the program’s applicants and explain some exceptions to the applicable affiliation rules.
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.
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.
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.