By Heather Mims
The protest saga of the Department of Education’s contracts for collection services for defaulted student loans has now been going on for over a year – and the contracts are worth fighting for as it is for a roughly $2.8 billion debt collection procurement.
As a refresher, forty-seven companies originally submitted bids in response to the Department of Education’s RFP but only seven companies originally received contract awards back in December 2016. The unsuccessful offerors successfully protested that award at GAO on March 27, 2017. At that time, the GAO recommended that the agency conduct a new evaluation of proposals, potentially amend the solicitation and receive revised proposals, and subsequently document a new source selection decision. The GAO also took the fairly unusual step in awarding costs to several of the protesters.
A subsequent bid protest was filed at the Court of Federal Claims on March 28, 2017, the day after the GAO decision was entered (docket number 1:17-cv-00449-TCW). On December 12, 2017, the Court of Federal Claims ordered the Department of Education to complete its corrective action, which the Department of Education completed on January 16, 2018. This corrective action resulted in an $800 million contract award to only two contractors – Windham Professionals Inc. and Performant Recovery Inc. The Court subsequently dismissed the bid protest on February 14, 2018.
However, the action did not stop there. A new bid protest was filed February 9, 2018, alleging that the Department of Education’s corrective action and new awards didn’t fix material procurement errors (docket number 1:18-cv-00204-TCW). That matter currently has seventeen plaintiffs arguing against the allegedly improper award. To keep the matter even more interesting, one of the awardees is alleged to have financial ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
As the fight over this large value procurement does not appear to be winding down, Judge Thomas Wheeler of the Court of Federal Claims has remarked that the Court may see a large uptick in the number of bid protest cases filed in 2018, due in part to this Department of Education procurement. Judge Wheeler stated that the Court is on track to receive 200 bid protests this calendar year, which is a large increase over the 129 protests that were filed in 2017, which is an average number of bid protests for the Court.
About the Author:
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.