Welcome to Pillsbury’s Regulatory Playbook, where you’ll find news and insights on the regulatory trends that are driving markets and shaping businesses. Here, Pillsbury’s market-leading regulatory group illuminates critical developments at the intersection of law and policy. If you need to know what’s happening, why it’s happening and how to respond, consult the Playbook.
Civilian Board of Contract Appeals Releases 2018 Annual Report
This past weekend, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) released its fiscal year (FY) 2018 Annual Report. The CBCA docketed 409 new matters in FY 2018, a modest increase from 385 docketed in FY 2017. Prior to FY 2018, the Board had experienced docket decreases for each of the previous five years. Also, for the first time since FY 2014, the number of new cases docketed during the year exceeded the number of appeals that the CBCA resolved.
Natural Resources Agency Finalizes Updates to the CEQA Guidelines
At the end of November 2018, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) posted final adopted text for amendments to the regulations implementing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), known as the CEQA Guidelines. The final text is the result of over five years of development efforts by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research (OPR) and CNRA. The amendments combine changes to transportation impact analysis as directed by Senate Bill 743 (2013) with the most comprehensive update to the CEQA Guidelines since 1998, incorporating statutory changes, court decisions, and comments from public agencies, business and environmental groups, and other stakeholders through multiple rounds of public review. The wide range of issues covered in the amendments includes use of regulatory standards as significance thresholds; environmental baselines; a new metric for analyzing transportation impacts; climate, water supply and energy impacts; and numerous procedural and technical improvements.
GAO Publishes Fiscal Year 2018 Bid Protest Statistics
On November 27, 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published its annual report on bid protest statistics. The GAO’s report, which is mandated by the Competition in Contracting Act, lists its key statistics for Fiscal Year 2018 bid protest activity. The GAO’s report also includes a chart providing similar bid protest statistics for Fiscal Years 2014-2018. This five-year snapshot provides some valuable insight into current bid protest trends and developments at the GAO.
Groundbreaking Changes Coming Soon to GSA Multiple Award Schedules
Over the next two years, the General Services Administration (GSA) plans to consolidate the agency’s 24 Multiple Award Schedules into a single schedule. The consolidation is part of GSA’s strategy to optimize the federal acquisition process. By FY 2020, GSA plans to have one set of terms and conditions, which should enhance consistency in the acquisition process. With one schedule contract, agencies can buy and vendors can offer a “solutions-based approach” including both products and services.
New Era of Aggressive Oversight Expected from House Democrats
The U.S. House of Representatives will be a hotbed of activity with respect to oversight of the Trump Administration and private sector stakeholders that are aligned with or have benefitted from the Administration’s policies over the past two years. House Democratic committee leaders are eager to shine a light on (and, inevitably, score political points related to) alleged malfeasance or corruption. Attention may come in the form of information requests and subpoenas, congressional hearings, committee investigations, and other forms of public inquiry.
The Qualified Opportunity Zone Program—Thoughts on the Long-Awaited Treasury Guidance
Section 13823 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, P.L. No. 115-97 (2017) added Sections 1400Z-1 and 1400Z-2 to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). These provisions created the Qualified Opportunity Zone (“QOZ”) program that has recently generated such a wave of media attention that one might surmise President Trump had sent an angry late-night tweet about it.
Pillsbury's Post-Election Outlook
The 2018 Midterm Election played out as most poll forecasters speculated. Although several races have yet to be decided, Republicans have retained control of the Senate, but lost at least 29 seats, allowing the Democrats to wrest back control of the House for the first time since 2010.
Below is Pillsbury’s assessment of some of the top issues where the incoming 116th Congress will likely be most active, including:- Congressional Investigations
- Financial Services
- Tax Reform
- Cybersecurity and Privacy
- Foreign Policy, International Trade, and Sanctions
- Energy and the Environment
- Transportation and Aviation
- Health Care
- State and Local Government
- Compliance, Ethics, and Campaign Reform
Human Trafficking Corporate Liability Under the New U.S. Development Finance Agency
Last month, Congress passed the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development, a historic piece of legislation creating a new development finance agency: the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). Aimed at helping developing countries prosper while advancing U.S. foreign policy goals and enhancing American national security interests, USIDFC will combine the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) with various private investments functions of the U.S. Agency for International Development. As the U.S. government agency tasked with helping American businesses invest in emerging markets, USIDFC is expected to continue OPIC’s work by providing financial support to investments in developing countries, including areas of the world that suffer from significant poverty and armed conflict. However, because human trafficking such as forced labor is often prevalent in these regions, current recipients of OPIC funding and new participants under the upcoming USIDFC’s financing initiatives may be subject to significant civil and criminal liability if compulsory labor is used in connection with their U.S. government-supported business ventures and investments.
2018 Election Night Guide
Pillsbury’s Political Law and Public Policy groups break down the need-to-know numbers for this year’s election. Pillsbury’s biennial Election Night Guide examines the potential outcomes for the 2018 Congressional and Governor’s races. Our Public Policy team is also preparing a post-election guide that will be useful in navigating potential changes in Congress.
CFIUS: China Deals That Can Still Be Done
Chinese investment in the United States is an important source of funds, and an attractive exit alternative, for many U.S. businesses. Under the Obama Administration, more than 90 percent of U.S.-China deals were clearing CFIUS. Since the Trump Administration took office, the clearance rate has fallen to under 60 percent.
Fall 2018 CFIUS Briefing
Many US-China deals are still getting done, but there is no question the challenges facing those deals has increased over recent months. Relatively few transactions have emerged from the CFIUS process since earlier this year; some have cleared and some have not. Our review of publicly available information indicates that the clearance rate for US-China deals since the Trump Administration took office has fallen from about 55% earlier this year to about 50%, but two very high-profile deals received approval (an acquisition by COSCO which involved a pier in Long Beach Harbor, and China Oceanwide’s acquisition of Genworth Financial). We continue to believe that careful selection of target assets, early risk assessment, and transparent filings with CFIUS will still allow many if not most deals to get through.
President Trump Signs FY 2019 NDAA
On August 13, 2018, President Trump signed the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (2019 NDAA), which includes $616.9 billion for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) base budget, $69 billion for overseas contingency operations funding, $8.9 billion for mandatory defense spending and $21.9 billion for nuclear weapons programs under the Department of Energy. We have written extensively on numerous provisions of this new law.
Congress Commissions Study of Bid Protests Filed at Both the GAO and COFC
We have previously discussed Congress’ efforts to reform the bid protest process through recent National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). In the Fiscal Year 2017 NDAA, Congress mandated a review of the bid protest process for Department of Defense (DoD) acquisitions, which led to a nearly year-long research study by the RAND National Defense Research Institute (RAND). The Fiscal Year 2018 NDAA provided for a number of reforms to the bid protest system, including enhanced debriefing rights for protestors. Much of these enhanced debriefing rights were implemented on March 22, 2018, by a Class Deviation issued by DoD. This year’s NDAA signals Congress’ continued interest in reforming the bid protest system to enhance the efficiency of the acquisition system.
New SIGAR Report Identifies “Waste, Fraud and Abuse” in Afghanistan
We recently reported on a Department of Defense (DoD) regulation effective April 13, 2018, that prevents government contracting officers from funding projects in Afghanistan that cannot be safely accessed and monitored by military or civilian personnel, as these projects raise a heightened specter of waste, fraud, and abuse. A new report (the “SIGAR Report”) from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the government entity charged with monitoring U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, effectively validates the concerns that gave rise to this regulation and suggests that government scrutiny of public spending in Afghanistan is likely to continue to intensify.
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