COOLING OFF PERIOD MEANS “COOL OFF”
A government contractor and its new employee, a former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, are facing a six-count False Claims Act Complaint filed by the Department of Justice that, in part, maintains that the former official had improper communications with his former agency during the post-employment “cooling off” period and that the company then tried to cover up such contact. This is generally what is meant by “Don’t try this at home”. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has an extensive record of text messages and phone calls between the former official and a senior DHS former colleague during the cooling off period. That is in direct violation of rules of which all parties were certainly aware. Further, DOJ has obtained a detailed account of the invoices through which the company allegedly tried to hide the violations from agency contracting personnel. No one, apparently, remembers the lesson from Watergate: It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup. The company now faces the prospect of lost business, a damaged reputation, and millions in legal fees, all before an expensive settlement with Justice is negotiated. Instead of fairly competing for, and possibly winning, profitable business, it will now spend a lot of its own money. Cooling off periods are in place for a reason. Companies and former federal employees must respect and follow such rules. It is essential not only to have policies in place to ensure compliance with rules like these, but to regularly train on such rules and have consequences for those who do not follow them. Such practices may cost a little money now but consider the much large price tag of non-compliance.