Business community and financial institutions respond to Paycheck Protection Program third-party solicitations

The Michigan Bankers Association (MBA), Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) have been notified that some third-party businesses are using public data pertaining to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in order to solicit business from PPP borrowers, specifically referencing the name of the lending institution. Some of these businesses are not disclosing that they are unaffiliated with the PPP lender, and other businesses are implying a relationship where none exists.

On November 5, a federal judge ordered the Small Business Administration (SBA) to release the names, addresses and precise loan amounts for all PPP and COVID-19 related Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) recipients. The judge found that SBA’s claimed exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act do not cover the PPP data sought by major news organizations. The SBA publicly released this information on Dec. 1.

“Your financial institution’s commitment to protect your privacy is paramount,” stated T. Rann Paynter, president and CEO, MBA. “Michigan banks follow all applicable laws and regulations. Data was disclosed by the Small Business Administration following a court order to do so. Your bank will communicate directly with you about your PPP loan and the forgiveness process. If you have any doubt, please contact your financial institution.”

“The information released Tuesday shows that businesses of all types and across all industries benefited from this unprecedented program,” stated Wendy Block, vice president of Business Advocacy and Member Engagement for the Michigan Chamber.  “However, it’s concerning that it included loan-level data, including business names, addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, non-profit information, name of lender, jobs supported, and loan amount, thereby opening the door to unwanted solicitations and potential phishing schemes.  Businesses and nonprofits with PPP loans should be on high alert.”

“The Paycheck Protection Program has been a lifeline for small businesses during this pandemic and the last thing these businesses should be subjected to is solicitors and scammers,” said SBAM President Brian Calley. “Those who received the PPP should be on high alert and be sure not to discuss your loan with anyone other than their banker. If something is too good to be true, it likely is and business owners should be extremely careful now that loan forgiveness information released.”

Michigan’s banks will continue to support their small business customers, do their part to help spur the economic recovery and limit the economic damage from this pandemic. More than 100,000 PPP loans have been made, totaling over $16 billion, according to the SBA and U.S. Treasury Department.

The PPP, while far from perfect, allowed millions of struggling businesses in the country to weather the worst of the pandemic and saved millions of jobs. Members of Congress in both parties agree and have proposed reauthorizing the program so more small business can be helped, especially those that did not participate in PPP previously.

Banks helped as many small businesses as possible through the PPP. Consistent with the guidance provided by the SBA and Treasury, banks relied on the attestation of borrowers in determining eligibility for the program. The MBA, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and SBAM fully support investigating any alleged fraud and have been working alongside law enforcement to identify and report protentional fraud in the PPP.

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