Robert Nichols helps government contractors solve complex legal problems and achieve their desired business solutions.
Robert has led several of the highest-profile matters in the industry, from a $10.5 billion bid protest at the Court of Federal Claims, to lawsuits arising from the Cuban government's imprisonment of a contractor for espionage, to managing parallel investigations by two agency Offices of Inspector General, two Suspension and Debarment Officials, the Department of Justice, and a Congressional oversight committee.
Prior to founding Nichols Liu, Robert was a partner and co-chair of the Government Contracts group at Covington & Burling, where he helped lead and grow the practice to over fifty attorneys. He also has been a partner at Crowell & Moring and served both at the White House and as a Judge Advocate General at the Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Chambers USA (2015): "Clients say: Robert Nichols is an outstanding strategist, good communicator, has an excellent bedside manner with executives and boards under stress, and good and timely follow-through.' He is praised for his creative and entrepreneurial approach to issues across a broad range of industries."
- Resolved hotly-contested completion disputes of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad where thousands of unauthorized deviations from specifications were preventing the U.S. State Department’s acceptance of the sprawling compound. Demonstrated in senior-level meetings and on-the-ground inspections that the project was materially compliant, leading to acceptance and the resolution of investigations by multiple agencies and Congress.
- Successfully protested the terms of a $2 billion USAID procurement for consulting services related to economic growth and poverty reduction, convincing the agency to abandon its use of the “low cost, technically acceptable” evaluation scheme by arguing that LPTA was inappropriate for the complex, high-stakes services being sought.
- Resolved tort claims arising from the incarceration of U.S. contractor for espionage by negotiating a creative settlement of the tort suit, converting that tort settlement into a contract claim by the prime contractor, and successfully negotiating payment to fully compensate the subcontractor while making the prime contractor whole.
- Advised multiple sellers of military products to foreign governments through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) processes, gaining approval from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency for the sales and for using financing from FMF and commercial banks to enable the transactions.
- Successfully defended a $1 billion award for embassy services against protests by three competitors, persuaded the agency to override the automatic stay of contract performance, and then successfully defended the override before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
- Successfully protested the award of a contract to help reform the justice system in Mexico, obtaining corrective action that involved new final proposal revisions; and when our client won the second round award, successfully defended a challenge by the prior awardee and preserved the award to the client.
- Represented PAE as government contracts counsel in six different M&A transactions that have grown PAE to a defense contractor with annual revenue in excess of $2 billion. PAE’s M&A included Defense Support Services, CSC’s Applied Technology Division, USIS’s Global Security and Solutions Business, A-T Solutions, and Lindsay Goldberg’s 2016 sale of PAE to Platinum Equity.
- When a voluntary disclosure to USAID by one of its largest not-for-profits led the agency to suspend the entity for potential false claims and lack of internal controls, the board of directors hired Robert to lead the matter. When the agency refused to lift the suspension due to the lack of trustworthy internal controls and the entity was on the brink of shutting its doors, Robert successfully negotiated a grand bargain to transfer nearly all of the programs, assets, and employees to another not-for-profit and settle the False Claims Act (FCA) investigation.
- Helped a major USAID contractor navigate the specific Organizational Conflicts of Interest (OCI) rules and requirements resulting from an acquisition that involved significant monitoring and evaluation services.
- Filed a Supreme Court amicus brief on behalf of a government contractor trade association in support of a U.S. Navy contractor being sued for unwanted text messaging. The proposed class action raised significant questions regarding the application of derivative sovereign immunity to private contractors performing work on behalf of the federal government.
- Assisted a coalition of nonprofit organizations in revising internal policies and standard subagreements to account for completely revamped uniform grant requirements that impose significant new burdens on the subaward process.
- Represented an embassy contractor in an oversight hearing conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concerning the contractor’s construction practices.
Practice & Expertise
- International Contracting
- Competition & Bid Protests
- Suspension & Debarment
- Audits & Claims
- Crisis Management
Recognition & Affiliations
- District of Columbia Bar
- U.S. Virgin Islands Bar
- U.S. Court of Federal Claims U.S. Supreme Court
- Chambers USA
- Law360 MVP in Government Contracts
- Legal 500
- Super Lawyers
- Pro Bono outside counsel for Childhelp, a not-for-profit that provides treatment for severely abused children
- Pro Bono outside General Counsel for the Army Engineer Association, a not-for-profit government-industry association
- Afghan Taxes: Amnesty Program Deadline Creates Urgency for Contractors to Address Longstanding Legal Questions, PubK (December 3, 2018). Co-Authors: Robert Nichols, Andrew Victor, and Adrian Wigston
- Does the Christian Doctrine Apply to Commercial-Item Contracts? The Federal Circuit Misses the Mark in K-Con, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army, PubK (November 9, 2018). Co-Authors: Robert Nichols, Rick Claybrook, Jason Lynch, Andrew Victor.
- CLIENT UPDATE: Forcing the Agency To Buy Commercial Items: The Federal Circuit’s Protest Decision in Palantir USG, Inc. v. United States, Nichols Liu LLP (October 22, 2018). Co-Authors: Robert Nichols, Andrew Victor, Rebekah Woods.
- CLIENT ALERT: Technical Direction Letters Can Constitute Protestable Out-of Scope Modifications,” Nichols Liu LLP (September 11, 2018). Co-Authors: Robert Nichols, Andy Liu, Jason C. Lynch, Andrew Victor, Rebekah Woods.
- CLIENT ALERT: Prepare to "Deliver Uncompromised",” Nichols Liu LLP (August 20, 2018). Co-Authors: Robert Nichols, Andy Liu, Jason C. Lynch, and Andrew Victor.
- "Legal Standards Governing Agency 'Choice of Instrument' Determinations in the 'Third Party Situation'" PubKLaw. Author: Robert Nichols
- "Iraq Reconstruction Contracting: Widespread Difficulties In Record-Keeping And The Contractor’s Burden Of Proof," International Government Contractor, Vol. 2, No. 5 (May 2005). Author: Robert Nichols.
- Analysis: "Public-Private Partnerships: Evolutions In The U.S. Public Procurement System And Lessons Learned From The UK And The EU," International Government Contractor, Vol. 2, No. 3(March 2005). Co-Authors: Kathy Sharp, Lauren Randall and Robert Nichols.
- "Iraq Reconstruction: Key Procurement Issues," Briefing Papers, No. 05-3 (February 2005). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "Europe’s Movement Toward A More Competitive Market For Defense Procurement," International Government Contractor, Vol. 1, No. 6 (November 2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "Iraq Reconstruction: Government Contracts Year In Review," Year In Review Conference Briefs (2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "GAO And CPA Continue To Find Numerous Setbacks Affecting Iraq Reconstruction Work," The Government Contractor, Vol. 46, No. 26 (July 2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "Iraq Reconstruction: Legal Issues In Subcontracting," International Government Contractor, Vol. 1, No. 1 (June 2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- Feature Comment: "Emerging Issues In Iraq Reconstruction Contracting — Audits, Investigations, And The Transition Of Sovereignty," The Government Contractor, Vol. 46, No. 18 (May 2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "Iraq Reconstruction: US Government Procurement Practices in a Coalition Environment," Public Procurement Law Review (2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- Feature Comment: "Iraq Reconstruction — Significant Contracting And Legal Issues," The Government Contractor, Vol. 46, No. 4 (January 2004). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "Iraq Reconstruction: Needs, Opportunities, and the Contracting Environment," BNA's Federal Contracts Report, Vol. 80, No. 15 (October 2003). Author: Robert Nichols.
- "Issues in Developing Breach Claims: Under the General Dynamics Compensation Cap Decision," BNA's Federal Contracts Report (April 2002). Co-Authors: Richard C. Johnson and Robert Nichols.
- "Integrated Approach to Legal Risk Management". Briefing Papers (March 2013). Author: Steve Shaw, Mike Wagner, Robert Nichols