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On May 15, the Small Business Administration (SBA) in consultation with the Treasury Department announced the release of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application that borrowers must complete in order to have their loans forgiven at the conclusion of the eight-week covered period, which begins upon loan disbursement. The application provides specific instructions, including several measures designed to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process. These include: (i) “[o]ptions for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an ‘alternative payroll covered period’ that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles”; (ii) the flexibility to count any eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after the disbursement of a borrower’s PPP loan; (iii) clear instructions on how to perform calculations to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness as required by the CARES Act; (iv) a safe harbor from forgiveness reduction for borrowers that were able to rehire employees by June 30; and (v) the addition of a new exemption from forgiveness reduction “for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined[.]” The SBA announced it “will also soon issue regulations and guidance to further assist borrowers as they complete their applications, and to provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities.”
The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently issued an interim final rule (IFR) to supplement the CARES Act and extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) safe harbor for repayment from May 7 to May 14. Borrowers who received a PPP loan prior to April 24 but determined that the funds were “obtained based on a misunderstanding or misapplication of the required certification standard” will be deemed by the SBA to have made the borrower certification on a loan application in good faith if they repay the loans in full by May 14. Additional guidance on the safe harbor extension is forthcoming. (The SBA first announced the repayment extension last week in updated Frequently Asked Questions, covered by InfoBytes here.) Due to the safe harbor extension, the IFR also extends the deadline to May 22 for PPP lenders to file yet-to-be released Form 1502 in order to receive their lender processing fees. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SBA stated that PPP lenders must disburse each loan and submit SBA Form 1502 within 20 days of loan approval. The IFR takes effect upon publication in the Federal Register, with comments due within 30 days.
On May 13, the Small Business Administration (SBA) in consultation with the Treasury Department updated the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to provide additional borrower guidance. Borrowers that submit PPP applications must certify, in good faith, that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” FAQ #46 establishes a safe harbor that “[a]ny borrower that, together with its affiliates, received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.” According to SBA, this safe harbor is appropriate because borrowers with loans of less than $2 million are generally less likely to have access to other forms of liquidity than borrowers who are able to obtain larger loans. Also, the safe harbor will provide more certainty to PPP borrowers with more limited resources, and it will allow SBA to use its resources efficiently to prioritize reviews of larger loans, where compliance audits may yield higher returns.
SBA’s guidance noted, however, that borrowers with loans greater than the $2 million threshold “may still have an adequate basis for making the required good-faith certification, based on their individual circumstances in light of the language of the certification and SBA guidance.” Those loans will be subject to review by the SBA, and if the SBA determines a borrower lacks an adequate basis for certification, the borrower will not be eligible for loan forgiveness and must pay the outstanding balance. If a borrower repays a loan after receiving notification from the SBA, the SBA states that it will not pursue administrative enforcement or make referrals to other agencies based on its determination concerning the certification of necessity.
Additionally, in FAQ #47, the SBA extended until May 18 the PPP safe harbor repayment deadline for borrowers who received PPP loans but had access to other sources of capital. Borrowers who applied for a PPP loan and repay the loan in full by May 18 will be deemed by the SBA to have made the required certification regarding necessity of the loan request in good faith. The extension is intended to provide borrowers an opportunity to consider FAQ #46. The SBA’s interim final rule providing the safe harbor (covered by InfoBytes here) will be revised to reflect the extension.
On May 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $257,862 settlement with an animal nutrition company for 44 alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC, between July 2012 and September 2017, the company and its owned or controlled foreign entities allegedly coordinated agricultural commodity sales to a Cuban company without OFAC authorization by processing Cuba-related business through its foreign affiliates and developing “a transaction structure that it incorrectly determined would be consistent with U.S. sanctions requirements.” OFAC noted that the company “could potentially have availed itself of such authorization” or applied for a specific licenses from OFAC, but “failed to seek appropriate advice or otherwise take the steps necessary to authorize these transactions.” OFAC determined that in light of the fact that the transactions may have been eligible for authorization, as well as the company’s voluntary self-disclosure, compliance enhancements, and other factors, the apparent violations constituted a non-egregious case.
OFAC advised U.S. companies with a global presence to maintain an appropriate sanctions compliance program and to seek “appropriate advice and guidance” when contemplating business that may be impacted by U.S. sanctions programs. In addition, OFAC referenced enforcement and compliance resources and cautioned that sanctions violations can arise from a misinterpretation or lack of understanding of OFAC’s regulations, including general licenses and authorizations. OFAC advised U.S. persons to “exercise[e] caution when dealing with foreign subsidiaries or affiliates located in regions subject to U.S. sanctions programs” and to understand the full scope and applicability of authorizations related to certain sanctions prohibitions.
During the week ending May 8, the Small Business Administration (SBA) in consultation with the Treasury Department (Treasury) updated the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to, among other things, provide guidance on the PPP safe harbor and counting a small business’s employees for the 500 or fewer employee requirement. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SBA will deem that the borrower certification on a loan application was made in good faith if a recipient of a PPP loan prior to April 24 determines it may have other forms of liquidity and repays the loan by the safe harbor deadline of May 7. SBA extended the safe harbor for repayment from May 7 to May 14. The FAQs also provide that a small business must include foreign affiliate employees when calculating how many people it employs for purposes of determining if the business meets the PPP eligibility requirement of 500 or fewer employees. Additionally, the updated FAQs also explain that a PPP loan recipient that makes a good faith attempt, in writing, to rehire a furloughed employee, will not be penalized by a reduction in loan forgiveness it receives if that employee rejects the offer. New FAQs also cover how to calculate maximum PPP loan amounts for seasonal employers and whether nonprofit hospitals qualify for PPP loans.
On April 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a Finding of Violation to a travel-related services company for alleged violations of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC, the company allegedly issued a prepaid card to, and processed 42 transactions totaling more than $35,000 on behalf of, a Specially Designated National (SDN) due to human error and screen system defects. When issuing the Finding of Violation, OFAC considered the fact that, among other things, (i) the company did not engage in willful or reckless behavior; (ii) there is no indication that the company was aware that it provided a card to an SDN or that its risk engine could be overridden; (iii) the company took remedial action in response to the violations to prevent similar reoccurrences; (iv) the company cooperated with OFAC and voluntarily disclosed the violations; and (v) OFAC has not issued a penalty notice or Finding of Violation to the company in at least five years prior to the alleged violations. A civil monetary penalty was not issued to the company.
In April, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, received replies to an April 8 letter he sent to the Federal Reserve (Fed), OCC, NCUA, and FDIC, which urged the regulators to “strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) and requested that they provide recommendations to assist the market as well as lenders and borrowers affected by Covid-19.
The Fed highlighted how it has strengthened the PPP, stating it: (i) eased “leverage requirements for community banks”; (ii) “published rules delaying the impact on regulatory capital of new loan-loss accounting standards”; (iii) created a new lending facility for the PPP; (iv) jointly with the FDIC, and OCC, “issued an interim final rule to clarify that a zero percent risk weight applies to PPP loans and to neutralize the regulatory capital effects of participating in the new PPP lending facility, helping preserve the flow of credit to small businesses”; (v) “encouraged institutions to use their capital buffers for their primary purpose: to support safe and sound lending throughout the credit cycle”; and (vi) provided suggestions for “congressional action to improve regulatory flexibility.”
The OCC’s replied that it has taken the following actions, among others, to support the PPP: (i) “encouraged banks to work with customers affected by” the pandemic; (ii) “encouraged banks to use the [Fed’s] discount window”; (iii) encouraged use of capital and liquidity buffers by banks; (iv) issued a joint statement with five regulatory agencies promoting “responsible small-dollar loans to consumers and small businesses”; (v) jointly issued interim final rules regarding regulatory capital and deferral of real estate appraisals; and (vi) coordinated listening sessions on the PPP.
The FDIC stated it is working to provide “necessary flexibility to both banks and their customers.” The agency’s response also enumerated several other actions it has taken to promote the PPP, including that it: (i) created a PPP information page on their website; (ii) shared bank questions and concerns with the Small Business Administration (SBA); (iii) created bank frequently asked questions; (iv) issued a financial institution letter referencing resources from the SBA and the Treasury; (v) continues to “provid[e]…resources to our examination teams so they” can better answer questions from regulated institutions; and (vi) jointly with other regulatory agencies, issued guidance on current expected credit losses methodology and community bank leverage ratio. The FDIC also reported possible supplementary and tier 1 leverage ratio changes.
OFAC designates Iranian front company and owner; DOJ files concurrent criminal charges and related civil forfeiture action
On May 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a dual Iranian and Iraqi national and a company owned, controlled, or directed by the designated individual for their alleged involvement with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). According to OFAC, the designated individual allegedly provided support for several years to IRGC-QF’s smuggling operations by securing entry to vessels carrying IRGC-QF shipments, using business connections to facilitate logistics, and developing revenue generating illicit business opportunities. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC further noted that its regulations “generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to the designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
On the same day, the DOJ announced a two-count criminal complaint against the designated individual and another Iranian national for allegedly conspiring to provide U.S. financial services to help several Iranian entities and their front companies purchase a petroleum tanker. The defendants allegedly concealed that the sale of the vessel was destined for Iran, and attempted to evade the regulations, prohibitions, and licensing requirements of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The DOJ also filed a related civil forfeiture complaint claiming that more than $12 million is subject to forfeiture.
On May 5, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, and the FDIC announced an interim final rule that modifies the agencies’ Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) rule to support participation in the Federal Reserve's Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility and the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here). The LCR rule requires large banks to hold a certain amount of “high-quality liquid assets” in order to meet their short-term liquidity needs. The interim final rule modifies the agencies’ capital rules to neutralize the effects of participation. The rule is effective immediately and comments will be accepted within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On May 4, a group of businesses filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Treasury (defendants) challenging guidance issued by the defendants in April that they claim “directly contradicts and changes the CARES Act.” The guidance, issued in the form of FAQs #31 and 37 (covered by InfoBytes here and here), addresses whether businesses owned by large companies or private companies with adequate sources of liquidity are eligible for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Among other things, the guidance instructs borrowers to consider other sources of liquidity other than PPP funds, and states that while lenders may rely on the borrower certification of need, a borrower must still certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary.
The plaintiffs argue that the guidance is contrary to the CARES Act because it imposes a requirement that borrowers must be unable to get credit elsewhere before they can qualify, and suggests that businesses may be ineligible for PPP loans if they qualify for “other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business.” The consequences of the guidance, they argue, is that they may now be required to repay PPP funds with money they either do not have or must borrow since they could have obtained “credit elsewhere,” thus damaging their financial stability. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from enforcing the guidance, as well as a declaration that the guidance is contrary to law and must be withdrawn.
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