Private industry frequently considers hiring existing and former federal government employees for their experience, knowledge base and skill set. As a reaction to the continuing perception that high-level federal employees jump from government to private industry and take sensitive government information with them, over the years Congress has introduced complex and often overlapping revolving-door legislation that imposes post-government employment restrictions on certain employees. While many government employees successfully transition to the private sector, failure to observe revolving-door laws and regulations can result in severe consequences for both contractors and government employees. A recent example of what can go wrong for both such parties is the case of Timothy Cannon and the Gallup Organisation.
On April 9 2013 Judge Jackson of the District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced Timothy Cannon, former director of the human capital division at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to two years of probation for conflict of interest violations.
According to Cannon’s plea, he helped Gallup to acquire a $6 million contract, while at the same time pursuing employment with the company. As a result of its alleged employment discussions with Cannon and related conduct, Gallup faces potential liability for civil damages and penalties under the False Claims Act and the Procurement Integrity Act, including treble damages and disgorgement of all money received under the contract. Moreover, these types of case always raise the risk of the contractor’s suspension or debarment, which would preclude any new contract awards for up to three years. This case serves as a reminder for private contractors wishing to hire existing or former government employees that they must have rigorous internal controls in place in order to ensure compliance with post-government employment requirements.
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