PPP Loans: SEC Enforcement Sweep of Public Company Borrowers?
Public company borrowers under the Paycheck Protection Program have received plenty of criticism. Now, according to a Bryan Cave blog, their hot seat just got even hotter, because these companies appear to be targets in an SEC enforcement sweep. Here’s the intro:
We understand that several issuers and regulated entities that publicly disclosed their receipt of funds from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, have received requests for information from the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. In general, the requested information appears to concern the recipients’ eligibility and need for PPP funds, the financial impact on recipients of the pandemic and government response, and recipients’ assessment of their viability and access to funding.
This SEC outreach is rumored to be part of a sweep styled In the Matter of Certain Paycheck Protection Program Loan Recipients. The SEC is reportedly investigating whether certain recipients’ excessively positive or insufficiently negative statements in recent 10-Qs may have been inconsistent with certifications made in PPP applications regarding the necessity of funding. These information requests are voluntary at this time, and it appears that not all PPP loan recipients are receiving document requests.
There may be a correlation between large funding amounts and SEC scrutiny, both in terms of attracting interest and avoiding the impact of the SBA’s announced safe harbor for loans less than $2 million (though the safe harbor does not explicitly affect the SEC). Recent news reports indicate that the Department of Justice Fraud Section also is investigating possible misconduct by PPP loan applicants. Initial DOJ actions have focused on potential overstatement of payroll costs and/or employee headcount, as well as misuse of PPP proceeds.
In addition to public company borrowers, we have heard anecdotally that investment advisors and brokerage firms that received PPP loans are also targeted in the sweep. The blog says that while existing allegations appear to focus on “extreme behavior,” it is expected that less egregious borrowers may be caught up in the dragnet.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net May 19, 2020
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