Trump Order Presents Opportunity for Blowing the Whistle on Buy American Violations
By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team
On April 18th, President Trump signed Executive Order 13788, calling for the federal government to “scrupulously monitor, enforce, and comply with Buy American Laws, to the extent they apply, and minimize the use of waivers.” There are numerous laws and regulations, generally referred to as “Buy American” laws, that require or express a preference for domestic goods and services to be purchased and used by those who contract with the federal government. Contractors are required to certify their acceptance of and compliance with these requirements.
Violations of the Buy American laws are difficult for the government to detect without the assistance of whistleblowers. Company insiders who know of Buy American violations and false certifications may be able to bring a claim under the federal False Claims Act, and be entitled to a share of any monies recovered by the government.
With increased focus on compliance with Buy American requirements, agencies and DOJ may take a more active role in initiating and conducting investigations. Insiders with information about these kinds of fraud, which are difficult to detect from the outside, may find the government more receptive to claims that a contractor is failing to comply. And, for whistleblowers and their attorneys, who must prove that a particular contractual violation is “material” to the governments’ payment decision, the Executive Order provides a potential shortcut: the president has declared the importance of compliance with Buy American provisions.
The executive order directs agencies to spend the next 150 days reviewing contracts and agreements for compliance with the “Buy American” provisions. Increased government scrutiny in both the short and long term could lead to investigations of government contractors for issues that the government had neither the time nor incentive to look at before.