Recent Decision Impacts Complete Successor-In-Interest Claims

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We recently wrote about the impacts of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) on pending bids in Bloomberg Law and our GovCon & Trade Blog. A key point discussed in both articles is that a bidding company’s buyer may not have standing to protest if the buyer is not the complete successor-in-interest to the bidding company. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims recently affirmed this principle in a decision it handed down in the case of Centerline Logistics Corp. v. United States issued in May 2020.

The case involved Centerline’s protest of the U.S. Shipping Command’s determination that Centerline’s proposal to transport bulk fuel was “unacceptable.” Prior to the determination, the agency inquired as to whether Centerline was the complete successor-in-interest to Harley Marine Services (Harley Marine), the company that originally submitted the proposal to the agency, to which Centerline chose not to respond. Despite Centerline’s assertion to the court that it was the same legal entity as Harley Marine, the court found that Centerline was incorporated in Delaware, while Harley Marine was incorporated in Washington state, and that Mr. Harley, Harley Marine’s namesake, did not have an equity stake in Centerline. Further, the court could not ascertain whether Harley Marine retained some of its assets or if Centerline had sufficient assets to perform the contract. For these reasons, the court held that Centerline was not the complete successor-in-interest to Harley Marine and, thus, lacked standing to protest the agency’s determination. To learn more about standing requirements for bidders and other ways M&A can affect pending bids, visit our article in Bloomberg Law.

Complete Successor-In-Interest Condition

The court’s decision underscores that to be considered a complete successor-in-interest, the entire business unit of the original bidder, including all its assets and key personnel, must be acquired by the buyer. Additionally, the buyer must be able to commit the same level of resources as proposed to perform the contract. The inability to satisfy these requirements may prove fatal to a buyer’s standing to protest.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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