Fans of the blog know that we’re wild about joint ventures: they allow small business contractors to use their size status while, at the same time, leveraging their joint venture partner’s experience and capabilities.
But joint ventures—particularly joint ventures under one of the SBA’s socioeconomic programs—can be tricky to create. For joint ventures between a small and a large company, the venturers first need an approved mentor-protégé agreement. And regardless, for the joint venture to qualify under a socioeconomic designation, that joint venture must have a compliant agreement.
But that’s still not enough to create a compliant joint venture. As a recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision explains, the small business venturer must unequivocally control the joint venture.
As of September 2019, the VA has updated its Verification Assistance Brief on SDVOSB joint ventures. The old assistance brief was last revised in 2017 and contained some incorrect information. To its credit, this update removes the wrong info and it contains some additional guidance that could be helpful for SDVOSB joint venture members.
Updating your joint venture agreement is essential to maintaining compliance with SBA’s regulations and failing to update could cost you contracts.
In Stacqme, LLC, SBA No. SIZ-5976 (Dec. 10, 2018), the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals held that a mentor-protege joint venture’s failure to update its JV agreement caused the agreement to be non-compliant with the SBA’s rules, and meant that the joint venture was ineligible for an SDVOSB set-aside contract.
The SBA takes its SDVOSB joint venture requirements very seriously, and even a relatively minor deviation or omission can be enough to render a joint venture ineligible.
Time and time again, the SBA’s Office of Hearing and Appeals has shown that it will strictly enforce the rules governing SDVOSB status. OHA’s stance on SDVOSB joint venture agreements is no different. A recent OHA ruling reinforces that SDVOSB joint venture agreements must abide by the letter of the regulation when it comes to required items in the agreement.
The VA’s Verification Assistance Brief for SDVOSB and VOSB joint ventures flat-out misstates the law regarding the manner in which joint venture profits must be split.
SDVOSBs and VOSBs often rely on Verification Assistance Briefs to guide them through the CVE verification process, and CVE analysts sometimes use Verification Assistance Briefs, too. Which begs the question: how many CVE-verified joint ventures are legally invalid?
SDVOSB fraud allegations, stemming from a “secret side agreement” between two joint venture partners, have resulted in a grand jury indictment against the companies and their owners.
According to a Department of Justice press release, an SDVOSB and non-SDVOSB executed a joint venture agreement that appeared to meet the SBA’s requirements, but later undermined the JV agreement with a secret agreement that provided that the non-SDVOSB would run the jobs–and receive 98% of the revenues.
SDVOSB joint venture agreements will be required to look quite different after August 24, 2016. That’s when a new SBA regulation takes effect–and the new regulation overhauls (and expands upon) the required provisions for SDVOSB joint venture agreements.
The changes made by this proposed rule will affect joint ventures’ eligibility for SDVOSB contracts. It will be imperative that SDVOSBs understand that their old “template” JV agreements will be non-compliant after August 24, and that SDVOSBs and their joint venture partners carefully ensure that their subsequent joint venture agreements comply with all of the new requirements.