Global Statistics

All countries
95,455,450
Confirmed
Updated on January 18, 2021 12:57 am
All countries
67,929,894
Recovered
Updated on January 18, 2021 12:57 am
All countries
2,038,934
Deaths
Updated on January 18, 2021 12:57 am

Global Statistics

All countries
95,455,450
Confirmed
Updated on January 18, 2021 12:57 am
All countries
67,929,894
Recovered
Updated on January 18, 2021 12:57 am
All countries
2,038,934
Deaths
Updated on January 18, 2021 12:57 am

Large, Troubled Companies Got Bailout Money in Small-Business Loan Program

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Fox News Back to Top ©2020 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. All market data delayed 20 minutes. New Privacy Policy - New Terms of Use (What's New) - FAQ

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Companies with accounting problems or in trouble with the government received millions in federal loans.

Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images

A company in Georgia paid $6.5 million to resolve a Justice Department investigation — and, two weeks later, received a $10 million federally backed loan to help it survive the coronavirus crisis.

Another company, AutoWeb, disclosed last week that it had paid its chief executive $1.7 million in 2019 — a week after it received $1.4 million from the same loan program.

And Intellinetics, a software company in Ohio, got $838,700 from the government program — and then agreed, the following week, to spend at least $300,000 to purchase a rival firm.

The vast economic rescue package that President Trump signed into law last month included $349 billion in low-interest loans for small businesses. The so-called Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to help prevent small companies — generally those with fewer than 500 employees in the United States — from capsizing as the economy sinks into what looks like a severe recession.

The loan program was meant for companies that could no longer finance themselves through traditional means, like raising money in the markets or borrowing from banks under existing credit lines. The law required that the federal money — which comes at a low 1 percent interest rate and in some cases doesn’t need to be paid back — be spent on things like payroll or rent.

But the program has been riddled with problems. Within days of its start, its money ran out, prompting Congress to approve an additional $310 billion in funding that will open for applications on Monday. Countless small businesses were shut out, even as a number of large companies received millions of dollars in aid.

Some, including restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris and Shake Shack, agreed to return their loans after a public outcry. But dozens of large but lower-profile companies with financial or legal problems have also received large payouts under the program, according to an analysis of the more than 200 publicly traded companies that have disclosed receiving a total of more than $750 million in bailout loans.

Another dozen or so collected money even though they have recently reported being able to raise large sums through private means. Several others have recently showered top executives with seven-figure pay packages.

The government isn’t disclosing who receives aid, leaving it up to individual companies to decide whether to disclose that they obtained loans. That makes a full accounting of the loan program impossible.

“It’s outrageous,” said Amanda Ballantyne, the executive director of Main Street Alliance, an advocacy group for small businesses. She added that there were countless small business owners “who have laid off all their staff, are trying to file for unemployment and will go bankrupt because of the problems with the way this Paycheck Protection Program was designed.”

Applicants for loans do not need to provide evidence that they have been harmed by the pandemic. They simply need to certify that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary” to support their operations.

Instead of having the Small Business Administration, which is guaranteeing the loans, decide which companies get funding, the process was essentially outsourced to banks. The banks collect fees for each loan they make but don’t have to monitor whether the recipients use the money appropriately.

For small business owners shut out of the program, watching big companies collect loans while their applications languish has been infuriating.

“It has been beyond frustrating,” said Diane Burgio, a single mother who runs a design business in New York City that employs four people. She was one of more than 280,000 applicants who sought, and did not get, a loan from JPMorgan Chase.

The New York Times identified roughly a dozen publicly traded companies that had recently boasted about their access to ample capital — and then applied for and received millions of dollars in the federal loans.

Legacy Housing, a Texas company that manufactures premade homes, announced on April 1 that it had access to a new $25 million credit line. Curtis D. Hodgson, Legacy’s executive chairman, told investors that he expected any damage from the coronavirus to be short-lived. “Our order book is still strong, and we are well-positioned once the situation begins to normalize,” he said.

Less than two weeks later, on April 10, the company announced that a local lender, Peoples Bank, had approved it for $6.5 million under the S.B.A. loan program.

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Hodgson said that an inquiry from The Times led the company to decide to give back the money it borrowed, though he defended seeking the loan in the first place. “Legacy is a highly leveraged company without cash on hand,” he said. “Here was a way to get a cash infusion.”

Escalade Sports, which makes things like table tennis tables and basketball hoops, already had a $50 million credit line from JPMorgan Chase. The company’s chief executive, Dave Fetherman, told investors this month that the company, based in Evansville, Ind., had “a strong balance sheet” and was seeing rising demand for its products, with so many Americans cooped up in their homes.

Days earlier, Escalade got a $5.6 million federally backed loan. A spokesman for Escalade said the company “fully met all required conditions at the time we applied for the P.P.P. loan.”

Executives at some companies said applying for the loans made clear business sense. The loans are essentially free money: They have rock-bottom interest rates and can be forgiven if, among other things, the borrower maintains the size of its work force. In some cases, executives said, their bankers encouraged them to apply for the loans.

At least seven companies that received a total of $45 million in loans under the federal government’s program have recently had serious scrapes with the federal government.

MiMedx Group, a biopharmaceutical company in Marietta, Ga., got a $10 million loan on April 21. On April 6, the company had agreed to pay the Justice Department $6.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated federal law by knowingly overcharging the Department of Veterans Affairs for medical supplies.

MiMedx, which makes and sells human tissue grafts, also ran into problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Last year, the agency sued MiMedx, accusing the company of exaggerating its revenue to investors over several years. MiMedx agreed to settle the case for $1.5 million, without admitting wrongdoing. Two of its former top executives were indicted last year by federal prosecutors in Manhattan on charges of accounting fraud.

A MiMedx spokeswoman, Hilary Dixon, said the company was trying to move past its accounting scandal. “We don’t have the option of raising capital in the public markets owing to our financial restatement process,” she said.

Another company, US Auto Parts Network, which received a $4.1 million loan through the program, has been in a heated dispute in recent years with Customs and Border Protection. The agency has seized some of the company’s imported products, claiming they are counterfeit.

US Auto Parts Network didn’t respond to requests for comment.

At least two companies that received federally backed loans have previously borrowed heavily from their own executives or others close to the firms — meaning that the new loans could help the companies repay their insiders.

Infinite Group, a cybersecurity firm in Pittsford, N.Y., had been borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from its board members and the brother of a top executive at annual interest rates as high as 7.5 percent. This month, Infinite secured a nearly $1 million federally backed loan whose 1 percent interest rate could allow the company to dramatically lower its funding costs. Company officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Intellinetics, the company that announced that it was buying a rival days after it received its emergency loan of $838,700, borrowed nearly $400,000 last fall from two brothers who run a small New York brokerage firm, Taglich Brothers. If the money isn’t repaid by May 15, Intellinetics will need to give the brothers stock in the company or start paying a steep 12 percent interest rate. (Some of that debt has already been converted into stock.)

“Securing the PPP funding gives us extra confidence and ability to restart and hit the ground running,” James F. DeSocio, the company’s chief executive, said in a news release.

Infinite Group and Intellinetics have not said precisely how they intend to use the loan proceeds.

A number of other companies have had serious accounting problems. The chief financial officer of CPI Aerostructures, an aerospace manufacturer that got a $4.8 million loan, resigned in February after the company disclosed major problems with how it reported revenue.

And several firms have been paying their top executives millions of dollars despite financial problems that predate the coronavirus crisis.

For example, AutoWeb’s chief executive, Jared Rowe, got $4.7 million in total compensation over the past two years — including $1.7 million in 2019 — even as its stock price plummeted more than 70 percent. The company declined to comment.

And Manning & Napier, an investment firm in Fairport, N.Y., that has about $20 billion in assets under management, disclosed in March that its chief executive, Marc O. Mayer, earned nearly $5 million last year. On April 19, the company was approved for $6.7 million in the paycheck protection loans — even as the company said it would pay out a quarterly dividend to its shareholders.

Last week, amid mounting public anger toward large recipients of the rescue loans, Manning & Napier said it had decided not to take the money.

While the federal loan program is supposed to help companies avoid layoffs, some of the large recipients of loans have already dramatically reduced their workforces — and not always because of the coronavirus.

Harvard Bioscience, based in Holliston, Mass., has been trying since last year to pacify an activist investor that is pressuring management to boost the company’s stock price. The company closed facilities in North Carolina and Connecticut and said in February, before the coronavirus upended the economy, that it was laying off about 10 percent of its work force.

This month, Harvard Bioscience received a $6.1 million loan through the paycheck protection program. In a securities filing disclosing the loan, the company didn’t say why it sought the money or how it would use it. A spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

A number of relatively large companies with connections to Mr. Trump also received millions of dollars in loans.

Phunware, a data-collection company that received a $2.9 million loan this month, counts Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign and Fox News as two of its biggest clients.

Continental Materials, a heating and air conditioning and construction material supplier based in Chicago, got a $5.5 million loan. The firm’s chief executive, James Gidwitz, is a major Trump donor, and his brother Ronald was appointed ambassador to Brussels by Mr. Trump after serving as Illinois campaign finance chairman for the 2016 Trump campaign.

It isn’t clear whether political considerations helped Phunware and Continental Materials get their loans approved. Neither company responded to requests for comment.

William Rashbaum and Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.


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