As part of our postal industry practice, we annually compile a list of the Top 150 USPS suppliers based on data received under the Freedom of Information Act.

In FY 2017, USPS spent $13.9 billion on outside purchases and rental payments, an increase of $181 million over last year.  The biggest increase went to the top 10 USPS suppliers. That group received a total of $3.9 billion, up $400 million from last year and accounting for 28 percent of the Postal Service’s total spend. The Top 150 suppliers received $9.2 billion, about two-thirds of the agency’s total spend. Only 81 suppliers collected revenues exceeding $25 million in 2017.

As it has since 2002, Federal Express Corporation lands atop the list, this year with $1.61 billion in revenues—about a $68 million drop from its 2016 earnings. FedEx carries package and letter mail for the Postal Service. FedEx’s air cargo network contract with the Postal Service has been extended several times, and the latest extension takes it to September 29, 2024.

Continue Reading Top 150 U.S. Postal Service suppliers get more in FY 2017

An agency must use-it or lose-it under a fixed-priced contract.  When an agency makes it impossible to receive a contractor’s service under a fixed-priced contract, it must still pay the full contract price. So long as the contractor is willing to live up to its end of the bargain, the contractor is entitled to payment regardless of whether it provided any service. And the agency’s failure to tender work does not itself serve as a constructive termination, so the contract remains in effect until actually terminated.

Those are the lessons of Olbeter Enterprises, Inc., PSBCA No. 6543, January 12, 2016, involving a point-to-point mail transportation contract. During the course of the contract, the Postal Service closed one of its facilities, making it impossible for Olbeter to provide the contracted service. The Postal Service, however, did not issue a termination notice or contract modification. Instead, it allowed the contract to remain in force and continued to make full payment, occasionally ordering other work for which Olbeter was paid separately.

Nine months after the facility closure, the parties agreed to a convenience termination. Later, the Postal Service decided that the payments it had made during the nine-month closure period were over-payments. The Postal Service recovered those amounts by withholding payments under a different contract. Olbeter appealed the withholdings to the Postal Service Board of Contract Appeals.

At the PSBCA, the Postal Service contended that Olbeter knew the facility had been closed, that this made performance impossible, and that the Postal Service intended to terminate the contract. The Postal Service thus argued that the facility closure itself served to constructively terminate the contract. The Board disagreed. Whatever the Postal Service’s intentions may have been, and regardless of Olbeter’s knowledge of those intentions, the agency had not taken action to terminate the contract. In addition, the parties had agreed to a termination nine months after the facility closed and the Board would not supplant that agreement with a constructive retroactive termination.

The Postal Service next contended that it had breached the contract itself by not tendering any mail. Since it had breached the contract, the Postal Service argued, Olbeter was limited to recovering its expectancy damages, which were much less than nine months of payments. The Board rejected this argument, holding that the agency’s failure to tender mail was not a breach.

Finally, the Postal Service contended that allowing Olbeter to retain nine months of payments for service it did not perform would unjustly enrich Olbeter or constitute a windfall. The Board denied this argument as well, noting that unjust enrichment is an equitable doctrine that applies when parties do not have an express contract, and here an express contract existed. That contract simply did not provide the Postal Service a mechanism to withhold payment for service that the agency had made impossible to perform.  Olbeter was thus entitled to retain the payments it had received for the nine-month closure period.

The principle underlying the Olbeter decision would apply equally to any fixed-priced contract where the government made performance impossible or waived its right to receive performance. If the contract does not have a clause that directly addresses such events, and if no contemporaneous action is taken to terminate it, the agency remains obligated to pay the full contract price.

Lonely mailboxIs mail dead?  Let’s ask Google, the ubiquitous source of all things online. This should be a lay-up on the home court of those who would say yes. And guess what. The top ten results for a Google search of “Is mail dead?” produces seven articles on why e-mail is dead, two unrelated articles, and one article on why direct mail is not dead. Dig down for another ten results and you get about the same result – more articles on why email is dead and a few on why direct mail or “snail mail” isn’t dead.

At the National Postal Forum last month, a postal official responsible for large customer accounts noted that a while back, Circuit City was his 26th largest customer. Circuit City is now defunct. But if we asked people 15 years ago to predict whether USPS or Circuit City would still be around today, I don’t think many people would have picked the Postal Service.

Don’t get me wrong – mail has definitely changed. There’s much less First-Class Mail than before, and less total volume than before. But here’s what I learned about why mail is not dead and not going away any time soon.  No company is forced to use the mailbox as an advertising medium and there are strong competitors for most package services. But Standard Mail volume for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2014 is the same as last year, and Shipping Services & Packages volume increased by 14 percent.

Continue Reading Is mail dead?

Mail processing and delivery will continue, and the Postal Service’s suppliers will get paid as usual, even if the federal Government shuts down on October 1, 2013. That’s because since 1971, the U.S. Postal Service generates its own revenues and does not rely on Congressional appropriations for daily operations. While mail delivery will continue, a Government shutdown would shutter the USPS Office of Inspector General, its Congressionally-funded watchdog. According to the OIG’s shutdown plan, it will retain only 19 of its 1193 employees during this period.

Continue Reading U.S. Postal Service won’t be impacted by looming Government shutdown

A double whammy has hit the U.S. Postal Service. At the close of business on August 1, 2012, the Postal Service failed to make a $5.5 billion payment owed the U.S. Treasury. And on September 30, 2012, the Postal Service defaulted on another $5.6 billion payment. Will this $11.1 billion default impact postal contractors?  No it won’t, according to the agency. But it certainly won’t help those who are doing business with the Postal Service.

Continue Reading Will the Postal Service’s $5.5 billion default impact its contractors?

Sounds crazy, but with a bit of accounting help from Congress, the U.S. Postal Service could go from pauper to prosperous faster than an Express Mail package. Even though the Postal Service is $13 billion in debt, has stopped making certain payments into the federal retirement system, and is projected to become insolvent and lose another $8 billion this year, it could happen. Because over the last 40 years, USPS has overpaid between $50 and $70 billion into the U.S. Treasury, or so says the agency and its independent regulators. Several bills are pending in Congress that could release these funds to the agency. Read on for the details. 

Continue Reading Can the U.S. Postal Service go from pauper to prosperous?