The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit just upheld Raytheon's appealed a decision by the ASBCA (Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals) that unallowable salary costs associated with Raytheon's lobbying activities were 'expressly unallowable' under FAR 31.205-22 and thus subject to penalty under FAR 42.709-1(a)(1) (known as level 1 penalties).
Raytheon submitted its 2004 incurred cost proposal in 2005. DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) completed its audit in 2006 and found, among other things, over $220 thousand of expressly unallowable lobbying salary costs. In 2011, DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) demanded that Raytheon repay the Government for these costs and additionally, assessed a penalty and interest under FAR 42.709-1(a)(1).
Raytheon appealed to the ASBCA and lost on this issue. Its argument was that salary costs associated with lobbying activities were not specifically referenced in FAR 31.205-22 and accordingly, were not "expressly unallowable". The ASBCA upheld the DCMA decision, finding that lobbying costs are subject to penalty because "costs associated with certain named lobbying activities are stated to be unallowable under FAR 31.205-22" and "they are ... expressly unallowable. (That Decision can be accessed here). The ASBCA also noted that FAR 31.201-9(a) and (e)(2) makes salary costs of employees who participate in unallowable activities are also expressly unallowable as directly associated costs of that activity.
Raytheon then appealed the ASBCA decision to the Court of Appeals. Raytheon argued that salary costs of employees who participate in lobbying activities are not expressly unallowable under a cost principle in FAR. Raytheon contended that an item of cost must be mentioned or identified by name to be expressly unallowable and that the generic language of costs associated with lobbying activities is insufficient. The Court of Appeals found no basis for such an interpretation and explains, in detail, why it came to that conclusion (The full Court of Appeals decision can be accessed here).
Perhaps a fallout of this decision will be that the Government may renew its aggressiveness on calling out costs as expressly unallowable and subject to penalties. The penultimate paragraph of the decision reads:
Finally, Raytheon relies on a decision in a prior proceeding where the Board held that neither bonus and incentive compensation costs nor compensation cost is specifically named and stated as unallowable under the cost principle (in FAR 31.205-22), nor are such costs identified as unallowable in any direct or unmistakable terms. That decision is not binding on this court, and in any event, is contrary to the plain language of Subsection 22 to the extent that it concludes that salaries in the form of bonus and incentive compensation for lobbying and political activities are not "expressly unallowable".After the decision ASBCA decision referenced here, DCAA ratcheted back its guidance on what constitutes expressly unallowable costs. Perhaps we will soon see that guidance amended again.