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Michael R. Charness

Michael R. Charness Of Counsel, Government Contracts

Michael is Of Counsel in the Complex Commercial Litigation Department and the Government Contracts and Export Controls Group. His practice focuses on government contracts, construction, privatization, and international procurement law.

Michael has broad experience in counseling large and small supply, service, and construction clients on a variety of federal, state, local, and international government contract issues. He assists contractors, and state and federal agencies, in the privatization of government activities, including those relating to water and wastewater; environmental remediation; military housing; and roads, bridges, and highways. He also conducts due diligence investigations in connection with corporate mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures, and counsels clients on issues relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Michael also has considerable experience handling bid protests before the U.S. General Accounting Office, and state and federal courts; undertaking internal investigations and defending clients in matters relating to ethics matters, as well as civil and criminal false claims and fraud. His experience also includes preparing and litigating claims domestically and abroad, especially changes, defective pricing, defective specifications, environmental cleanup contracting, delay and disruption, and differing site conditions. 

Michael served as the Managing Partner of the Washington, DC, office from 2011 to 2015.

Experience Highlights

  • Representing a contractor accused of criminal fraud and defective pricing in a multi-billion dollar foreign military sale (FMS) to Saudi Arabia. After an extensive investigation, we settled the matter favorably with no criminal conviction, suspension, or debarment
  • Representing a client in challenging the award of a large professional services contract. We successfully proved to the GAO that the awardee failed to properly account for uncompensated overtime, thereby invalidating the agency’s “best value” source selection. The GAO ordered the agency to reevaluate the proposals and awarded attorneys’ fees to our client
  • Defended the construction manager for the Alexandria (Egypt) Sanitary District against claims brought by various contractors in connection with the construction of the Alexandria Wastewater Treatment Facility. The client was so satisfied with the result that we were awarded medals by the Egyptian government

Representative Experience

  • Assisting a large utility in challenging the government’s efforts to transform a privatized regulated utility contract into an unregulated contract vehicle
  • Representing a contractor who allegedly had knowingly invoiced the government for costs that inadvertently had duplicated some cost categories; resolved the matter administratively, without a referral to the Justice Department or suspension and debarment officials
  • Successfully pursued breach of contract claims against a U.S. government prime contractor, a provider of integrated logistics, in an AAA-sponsored international arbitration resulting in recovery of $35 million (net) for the client; this matter was followed by another arbitration in which the client pursued breach damages for a subsequent contract period; recovered, via settlement, another $55 million (net) for client, after succeeding on a motion for summary judgment before the AAA tribunal
  • Prosecuted a two-week trial for a large international company before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals that included several hundred exhibits, state-of-the-art charts, and moving graphics to support claim

Contact Details


T +1.202.639.6780
F +1.202.879.8980
2200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 500 West
Washington, DC 20037
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Michael's Practices

  • Georgetown Law, J.D., 1979
  • University of Pennsylvania, B.A. magna cum laude, 1976
  • Admitted to practice: District of Columbia; U.S. Court of Federal Claims; U.S. Courts of Appeal for the District of Columbia and the Federal Circuit
    • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Government Contracts Law, 2005–2018
    • Legal 500 U.S., Government Contracts, 2015−2018
    • Selected to the Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2013–2017
    • Work recognized in Law360 feature, “Top Gov’t Contracts Cases of 2017: Mid-Year Report”, July 2017
    • American Lawyer Media, Washington DC & Baltimore’s Top Rated Lawyers, 2012
    • Member: Section of Public Contract Law, American Bar Association; National Contract Management Association