After four years and expenses of more than $700,000, a California-based small business advocate on Thursday won an agreement from the Justice and Defense departments to pay his legal fees for litigation forcing the government to release confidential contracting data.
Lloyd Chapman, the outspoken founder of the Petaluma-based American Small Business League, declared victory in what he called an “historic” move by Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to require the government to pay Chapman $475,000.
Neither Justice nor the Pentagon would comment on the case to Government Executive, but Chapman’s award was confirmed by his Washington attorney, Jon Cuneo of Cuneo, Gilbert & Laduca.
» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.
The development may signal the end of the case in which Chapman—who has long argued that federal agencies overstate the size of their awards to small businesses—sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain subcontracting data from Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (The helicopter maker did not respond to Government Executive inquiries.)
The litigation had bounced around in recent months with victories for both Chapman and the government at the district and appeals court levels. The main result in March 2018 was the Defense Department’s release of Sikorsky’s previously confidential comprehensive small business plan for fiscal 2013. The company feared that disclosure would put it at a competitive disadvantage.
The American Small Business League’s larger target is the Pentagon’s 28-year-old Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program, designed to “determine if comprehensive subcontracting plans on a corporate, division or plant-wide basis [instead of for individual contracts] would lead to increased opportunities for small businesses,” according to its website.
“I believe I have dismantled the program, which even the Pentagon has acknowledged publicly has reduced contacts to small businesses,” Chapman told Government Executive on Friday. He said the judge reprimanded the government’s lawyers for submitting documents that were “misleading and inaccurate” while praising the American Small Business League for taking on the government. “$10,000 per page for a 27-page document that should be on the Internet,” Chapman said. “That’s not the way FOIA is supposed to work.”