In this case, the USDA, via an investigation, found that the company had essentially falsified records to secure contracts. Despite this, the company was contracted by the USDA for several more contracts. Then in a case where the company should rightfully have been awarded a contract because they were the lowest bidder, the company was denied this right.
It does not make sense that the company could have been found in violation of the rules and granted contracts, then not granted a contract based on this violation. This behavior could be viewed as "arbitrary and capricious" and give the court reason to grant summary judgment.
In this problem, the book draws the distinction between "discussions" and "limited exchanges" with bidders. Here, the agency merely asked the two bidders for more information on the proposed contracts. The agency did not hold a conversation with either of the bidders. The agency did not tell the bidders what to propose or give either one an advantage.
This was a "limited exchange" as the agency asked for the material and received it. Thus, the court should not rule in the losing bidders' favor.
Generally, after a hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) issues a decision. However, if a party is dissatisfied, they can appeal to the board in charge of the agency, as the employer did here to the BRB.
The BRB, in this case, reversed the ALJ's opinion and favored the employer. The finding was that the substantial cause of death to the beneficiary was not just black lung, and thus, the employer did not have to pay to the widow. This is considered the final decision.
However, the widow then appealed. When the Court of Appeals reviews the case, they must review the final decision; in this case, the final decision is that one made by BRB. Generally, the court will pay much deference to the agency board's decision. Thus, the Court of Appeals will probably uphold the decision by the BRB and deny the widow the benefits.