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Debarment and suspension are serious threats to government contractors and grant recipients.  These administrative exclusions from further contracts, grants, or federal assistance can be the equivalent of a death sentence for a company. Debarments and suspensions can also impact individuals: removing them from their employment, preventing reemployment in the industry, and making it difficult to obtain other federal assistance like federally backed mortgages. 

The government has taken an increasingly aggressive approach in debarring or suspending companies and individuals whether or not they have been convicted of any wrongdoing. Even a suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to suspend, propose debarment or, in less severe cases, issue show cause letters requiring contractors to demonstrate why they should not be suspended or debarred. And the deck is stacked in the government's favor in these proceedings with low burdens of proof and fast-moving, informal processes that make suspension and debarment relatively easy to effect and often difficult to challenge. 

Because of this new reality, suspension and debarment strategy requires careful consideration in a wide variety of circumstances, for example:

  • Proactively as an integrated component of their ethics and compliance programs, and before problems arise in order to establish credibility and tip the scales in favor of a "show cause letter" or similar informal inquiry short of a suspension or proposed debarment should problems arise in the future.
  • Proactively upon discovery of wrongdoing, but after mitigation efforts are in place to ensure the problem cannot reoccur, in order to keep the suspending and debarring official informed but minimize the risk of an immediate suspension or proposed debarment.
  • In connection with a mandatory disclosure of any significance to explain the circumstances, and impact a proposed debarment as a collateral consequence.
  • On behalf of individuals who are the subjects of mandatory disclosures, should the company be required to provide (or find benefit in providing) seasoned suspension/debarment counsel.
  • Reactively after a notice of proposed debarment, suspension, or show cause letter issues.

Suspension, debarment and show cause letter engagements – whether proactive or reactive – require political savvy, in depth experience with remedies coordination to anticipate the government's next steps, and particular knowledge of suspension and debarment defense. They also require the capacity to involve teams of experienced attorneys at a moment's notice to avoid the devastating consequences of suspension and debarment.

Our deep bench of experienced suspension and debarment defense lawyers helps clients deal with the most critical threat facing their businesses with the confidence that they are telling the "right story" to the regulators at the "right time" and in the "right way." We have favorably resolved suspension or debarment proceedings and, in many cases, eliminated threats through proactive outreach and coordination. We have represented individuals and businesses of all sizes before suspension and debarment officials and their counsel in most federal executive agencies and many state suspension and debarment officials. In recent years, our lawyers have handled suspension and debarment matters before a wide array of federal agencies, including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Defense Logistics Agency, Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Department of Justice, Department of Interior, Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Small Business Administration, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Department of Veterans Affairs. 

In addition, our suspension and debarment practitioners:

  • Have testified before Congress about suspension and debarment, caucused with Congressional staffers concerning suspension and debarment-related legislation.   
  • Routinely provide commentary and insights for journalists writing about suspension and debarment.  Helped form the compliance and ethics standards in the sentencing guidelines that suspension and debarment officials use in determining corporate "present responsibility."
  • Participated in the development of the suspension and debarment procedures in the FAR, and co-authored The Practitioner's Guide to Suspension & Debarment, which is often called the "debarment bible." 
  • Have successfully litigated suspension and debarment matters in federal district court. 

Our deep experience helps explains why many of the major suspension and debarment cases—and many smaller cases—in recent years have been handled by our lawyers.

Representative Engagements

  • Represented public company in General Services Administration suspension and debarment proceedings relating to alleged procurement improprieties; proceedings were favorably resolved in a matter of days after presentation to agency officials.
  • Handled suspension and debarment matter for public company that was proposed for debarment by the Transportation Security Administration; the matter was favorably resolved via an administrative compliance agreement.
  • Represented contractor in Department of Education suspension proceedings initiated as a result of underlying False Claims Act matter and allegations of failure to comply with mandatory disclosure rule; coordinated the representation of the company, as well as related proceedings against several key executives, resolving the matter without a debarment and with an administrative compliance agreement for the company.
  • Represented contractor in Air Force suspension and debarment proceedings relating to counterfeit products.
  • Represented construction company in Federal Aviation Administration suspension and debarment proceedings focusing on inaccurate certifications regarding use of disadvantaged business enterprises.
  • Represented environmental remediation company in suspension and debarment proceedings relating to violations of the Clean Water Act.
  • Appeared before the Department of Commerce suspension and debarment official on behalf of an individual proposed for debarment because of alleged procurement improprieties.
  • Represented government contractor in Army suspension and debarment matter relating to alleged violations of the Procurement Integrity Act.
  • Assisted multinational company in avoiding suspension and debarment for alleged Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations by successfully negotiating with both criminal and civil investigative agencies as well as the agency debarring official.
  • Converted a client's suspension and proposed debarment for alleged mischarging into an administrative agreement, which allowed the client to continue performing government contracts.
  • Represented contractor in a Navy suspension and debarment matter relating to allegations of pervasive time mischarging.
  • Represented contractor in a Department of Justice proposed debarment proceeding.

Selected Publications and Presentations

Our attorneys are thought leaders in the suspension and debarment field. We speak and publish frequently on these topics as well as routinely provide commentary for journalists writing about suspension and debarment. 

Selected examples include:

View More

"Virginia Enacts Permanent COVID-19 Employee Health and Safety Requirements," Labor & Employment Law Alert - US (January 15, 2021). Contacts: Thomas P. Gies, Daniel W. Wolff, Katie Erno, Christine B. Hawes
Client Alert/Newsletter
"DoD and GSA Take Aim at Supply Chain Risks," Government Contracts Bullet Points (January 15, 2021). Contacts: Adelicia R. Cliffe, Kate M. Growley, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, Evan D. Wolff, Michael G. Gruden, CIPP/G, Christopher R. Hebdon
Client Alert/Newsletter
"Advancing America’s Dominance in AI: The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act’s AI Developments," Government Contracts Bullet Points (January 14, 2021). Contacts: Jonathan M. Baker, Adelicia R. Cliffe, Kate M. Growley, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, Laura J. Mitchell Baker, Michelle D. Coleman
Client Alert/Newsletter
"Government Contracts and the Biden Administration’s Priorities: Significant Changes Ahead?" Crowell & Moring Webinar (January 14, 2021). Presenters: Jonathan M. Baker, Robert A. Burton, Adelicia R. Cliffe, Kate M. Growley, Stephen J. McBrady, Nicole Owren-Wiest, Preston L. Pugh, Rebecca L. Springer, Craig Barrett, Paul Freeman, and Eric M. Ransom.
"SBA OIG Management Alert Raises Serious Concerns Over Paycheck Protection Program Loan Recipients on the Department of Treasury’s Do Not Pay List," Government Contracts Bullet Points (January 13, 2021). Contacts: Carlton Greene, Mana Elihu Lombardo, Olivia Lynch, Amy Laderberg O'Sullivan, Rebecca Monck Ricigliano, Jared Engelking
Client Alert/Newsletter
"National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021: Need-to-Know Provisions for Government Contractors," Government Contracts Bullet Points (January 12, 2021). Contacts: Charles Baek, Jonathan M. Baker, Adelicia R. Cliffe, Stephanie L. Crawford, Peter Eyre, Christopher D. Garcia, Kate M. Growley, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, Michael G. Gruden, CIPP/G, J. Chris Haile, Olivia Lynch, Nicole Owren-Wiest, Michael E. Samuels
Client Alert/Newsletter
"Cybersecurity Breach Turns Back the Clock - Confidential Information to be Filed in Paper," Government Contracts Bullet Points (January 12, 2021). Contacts: Stephen J. McBrady, Brian Tully McLaughlin, Lyndsay A. Gorton, Alexandra Barbee-Garrett
Client Alert/Newsletter
"SBA Issues Application Forms for New and "Second-Draw" PPP Loans," Government Contracts Bullet Points (January 11, 2021). Contacts: Mana Elihu Lombardo, Olivia Lynch, Stephanie Marcantonio, Amy Laderberg O'Sullivan, Paul J. Pollock, Michael E. Samuels
Client Alert/Newsletter
"Byte-Sized Q&A: Why is I-O-T so H-O-T?," Podcast: Byte-Sized Q&A (January 11, 2021). Contacts: Kate M. Growley, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, Evan D. Wolff
Client Alert/Newsletter
When It Comes To Bid Protests, Vendors Playing With Even Money At GAO Federal News Network (January 11, 2021)
Media Mentions

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Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with approximately 550 lawyers representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory and policy, and transactional matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes litigation, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro bono service and diversity, equity and inclusion. The firm has offices in Brussels, Doha, London, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Washington, D.C.

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