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Volume XII, Number 279

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Intervention in Bid Protests: A Refresher

The number of bid protest filings peaks in October as a result of increased government spending at the end of the government’s fiscal year — which is the 12-month period beginning on October 1 and ending on September 30. As such, government contractors should be particularly mindful this time of year of their rights with respect to intervening in bid protests both at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (COFC). This article provides a user-friendly refresher on the process of intervening in bid protests and addresses the question of why, as the contract awardee, your company should intervene. (Spoiler alert: By intervening in a protest after your company’s contract award has been protested, you increase the chances that your company will retain the contract award.)

Who May Intervene in Bid Protests?

GAO Bid Protests

The GAO’s Bid Protest Regulations provide the following definition of “intervenor,” in pertinent part: “Intervenor means an awardee if the award has been made or, if no award has been made, all bidders or offerors who appear to have a substantial prospect of receiving an award if the protest is denied” (4 C.F.R. § 21.0(b)(1)).

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Bid Protests

The COFC’s rules allow for two types of intervention: (1) intervention as of right and (2) permissive intervention. With respect to intervention as a matter of right, COFC Rule 24(a)(2) requires a would-be intervenor to demonstrate, via a “timely motion,” that (1) its interests relate to a property or transaction that is the subject of the proceedings, and (2) its interests are so situated that disposition of the action may impair or even impede its ability to protect that interest.

Under Rule 24(b) — which governs permissive intervention — the COFC may allow anyone to intervene who (1) files a timely motion; (2) is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute or has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact; and (3) whose intervention will not delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties’ rights.

When determining whether a potential intervenor’s motion is timely, the COFC considers (1) the length of delay in making the application for intervention; (2) whether the prejudice to the existing parties by allowing intervention outweighs the prejudice to the would-be intervenor by denying intervention; and (3) the existence of “unusual circumstances” weighing either for or against intervention (see Belton Indus., Inc. v. United States). Importantly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has held that the requirements for intervention are to be “construed in favor of intervention” (see Am. Mar. Trans., Inc. v. United States).

How Do You Intervene in a Bid Protest?

GAO Bid Protests

The GAO’s Bid Protest Regulations require the contracting agency to “immediately” provide a potential intervenor with notice of the protest. In this regard, the regulations state:

GAO shall notify the agency within 1 day after the filing of a protest, and, unless the protest is dismissed under this part, shall promptly provide a written confirmation to the agency and an acknowledgment to the protester. The agency shall immediately give notice of the protest to the awardee if award has been made or, if no award has been made, to all bidders or offerors who appear to have a substantial prospect of receiving an award. The agency shall provide copies of the protest submissions to those parties, except where disclosure of the information is prohibited by law, with instructions to communicate further directly with GAO… (4 C.F.R. § 21.3(a))

The next step is for the potential intervenor to file with the GAO a “notice of intervention.” The notice is usually a brief letter that includes the name, address, and telephone and fax numbers of the intervenor or its representative, if any, and advises the GAO and all other parties of the intervenor’s status.

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Bid Protests

A party seeking to intervene in a COFC bid protest must file with the COFC, and serve on the parties, a motion to intervene (see RCFC 24(c)). The motion must “state the grounds for the intervention and be accompanied by a pleading that sets out the claim or defense for which intervention is sought.”

Why Should My Company Intervene?

By intervening in a bid protest after your company’s contract award has been protested, you increase the chances that your company will retain the contract award — plain and simple. Thus, it should never be a question of whether, as the contract awardee, your company should intervene. Rather, the only question is how involved your legal counsel should be in the protest after you do intervene. The answer to the latter question depends on a variety of factors, including the importance of the contract award, the nature of the allegations contained in the protest, and the bandwidth and experience of agency counsel.  

© 2022 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 264
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About this Author

Aron C. Beezley Government Contracts Attorney Bradley D.C.
Partner

Aron Beezley is the co-leader of Bradley’s Government Contracts Practice Group. Ranked nationally in Government Contracts Law by Chambers in 2019-2021, named one of the “Top Attorneys Under 40” nationwide in Government Contracts Law by Law360 in 2016-2017, and listed in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” in Government Contracts Law in 2014-2021, Aron’s vast experience includes representation of government contractors in numerous industries and in all aspects of the government-contracting process, including negotiation, award,...

202-719-8254
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