Trade Agreement TAA compliance and criminal defense attorneyIntroduction. – DOJ and OIG are Aggressively Pursuing Manufacturers and Government Contractors Selling Products to the Federal Government – The Following Can Your Company Out of the Line of Fire.

Theodore P. Watson. Government contractors are subject to numerous regulations and compliance requirements, and adherence to the Trade Agreements Act (TAA) is crucial for contractors engaged in international trade. Failure to comply with TAA provisions can lead to severe consequences, including False Claims Act (FCA) charges and criminal convictions. This article explores common compliance mistakes made by government contractors in relation to TAA requirements. It also highlights the potential issues that can result in FCA charges and criminal convictions. Furthermore, we discuss the importance of having a government contractor fraud defense attorney on your team to reduce the chances of being charged with fraud against the government.

Trade Agreements Act Compliance Mistakes by Government Contractors:

  1. Lack of Understanding of TAA Provisions: Many contractors make the mistake of not thoroughly understanding the requirements of the TAA, including its provisions related to the use of non-designated country goods in government contracts. Failure to comprehend these provisions can lead to inadvertent violations.
  2. Failure to Accurately Identify Country of Origin: Contractors may incorrectly identify the country of origin of goods or fail to conduct due diligence to determine whether the goods comply with TAA regulations. This mistake can result in the use of non-compliant goods, leading to TAA violations.
  3. Inadequate Recordkeeping: Insufficient documentation and recordkeeping practices can make it difficult for contractors to demonstrate TAA compliance. Without proper records of country of origin determinations, certifications, and supporting documentation, contractors may struggle to prove compliance during audits or investigations.
  4. Lack of Supplier Oversight: Contractors must ensure that their suppliers comply with TAA requirements. However, failure to exercise proper oversight and due diligence over suppliers can result in the use of non-compliant goods, ultimately leading to TAA violations.

Trade Agreements Act Substantial Transformation – Where Government Contractors Make Mistakes Being TAA Compliant

The Trade Agreements Act (TAA) is an important regulation that governs government contracts and trade agreements involving the United States. It establishes requirements for products to be considered TAA compliant, which means they must be produced or substantially transformed within designated countries or regions. However, government contractors often make mistakes when it comes to TAA compliance, leading to potential legal and financial consequences.

One common mistake made by government contractors is a lack of understanding of the TAA requirements. The regulation is complex, and its provisions can be confusing. Contractors may mistakenly believe that simply purchasing products from designated countries is sufficient for TAA compliance. However, TAA compliance goes beyond the country of origin and requires substantial transformation of the product within those countries. Contractors should seek the assistance of TAA compliance attorneys to ensure they fully understand the intricacies of the regulation.

Another mistake contractors make is failing to adequately document the substantial transformation of products. The TAA requires contractors to maintain detailed records demonstrating how the products underwent substantial transformation within designated countries. These records should include information such as manufacturing processes, components used, and any changes made to the product’s essential characteristics. Failure to maintain proper documentation can result in non-compliance with TAA regulations.

Furthermore, some contractors inadvertently overlook changes in the country of origin due to outsourcing or subcontracting. If a subcontractor manufactures a product outside the designated countries, it may no longer meet the TAA requirements. Contractors must exercise due diligence and closely monitor their supply chains to ensure compliance throughout the manufacturing process.

To avoid these mistakes and ensure TAA compliance, government contractors should seek the guidance of TAA compliance attorneys. These legal experts specialize in understanding the complexities of TAA regulations and can provide valuable advice on compliance strategies. They can assist in reviewing supply chain processes, documenting substantial transformation, and ensuring compliance throughout the procurement process.

 Mistakes in understanding the TAA requirements, documenting substantial transformation, and monitoring supply chains can lead to legal and financial repercussions. Contractors should engage TAA compliance attorneys to mitigate risks and ensure adherence to the Trade Agreements Act rules.

Common Issues Leading to FCA Charges and Criminal Convictions

  1. False Claims Allegations: Non-compliance with TAA provisions can give rise to FCA charges if contractors knowingly or recklessly submit false claims to the government for payment. This includes falsely certifying that goods comply with TAA requirements.
  2. Conspiracy and Fraud Charges: Contractors may face conspiracy and fraud charges if there is evidence of intentional wrongdoing, such as deliberately misrepresenting the country of origin of goods or colluding with suppliers to provide non-compliant products.
  3. Criminal Convictions for Fraud: Serious TAA violations can result in criminal convictions under various fraud-related statutes. This can lead to significant penalties, including fines and imprisonment, as well as lasting damage to the contractor’s reputation.

The Role of Government Contractor Fraud Defense Attorneys:

  1. Expertise in Government Contracting and Fraud Defense: Government contractor fraud defense attorneys possess specialized knowledge of government contracting regulations, including the TAA, and are well-versed in defense strategies for fraud-related charges. They understand the complexities of these cases and can provide invaluable guidance throughout the legal process.
  2. Early Case Evaluation and Risk Assessment: Government contractor fraud defense attorneys can assess the strength of the government’s case, identify potential weaknesses, and develop an effective defense strategy. Their expertise allows for early case evaluation and risk assessment, which can significantly impact the overall defense strategy.
  3. Negotiating with Prosecutors: Defense attorneys skilled in government contractor fraud cases can engage in negotiations with prosecutors, seeking to mitigate charges and penalties. They have experience in presenting compelling arguments, advocating for their clients, and pursuing favorable resolutions, including plea agreements or alternative sentencing options.
  4. Protection of Rights and Reputation: Having a government contractor fraud defense attorney ensures that your rights are protected throughout the legal process. They work to safeguard your reputation by mounting a strong defense and minimizing the potential impact on your professional standing and future opportunities.

5 . Compliance Guidance and Preventive Measures: Government contractor fraud defense attorneys can provide guidance on compliance with TAA requirements and other regulations, helping contractors establish robust compliance programs to prevent future violations. See information about handling TAA Civil Investigative Demands.


Government contractors must prioritize compliance with the Trade Agreements Act to avoid FCA charges and criminal convictions. By understanding and addressing common TAA compliance mistakes, contractors can mitigate the risk of violations. However, in the event of allegations or charges, the presence of a skilled government contractor fraud defense attorney is crucial. These attorneys bring expertise in government contracting, fraud defense strategies, negotiation with prosecutors, protection of rights, and guidance on compliance. Engaging a government contractor fraud defense attorney can significantly reduce the chances of being charged with fraud against the government, safeguarding both your professional standing and your company’s reputation.

Contact Watson & Associates’ government contract and TAA compliance lawyers at 1.866.601.5518. Free Initial Consultation.