The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has now seen days of frenzy over application uncertainties, eligibility questions, and employee count/loan amount calculations. One item not mentioned, but worth discussing, is the public nature of the application and potential implications that it has to applicants and investors. Specifically, all government institutions are subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests (FOIA is a federal law that mandates open file access for many government agencies). In this alert we will discuss which provisions of a PPP loan are public, which are protected, and what that could mean for you.
SBA PPP loan applications require a list of all owners of 20% or more of the equity of the applicant, in addition to other potentially sensitive information. All such owners will be required to disclose on the application owner name, title, ownership percentage, TIN (EIN or SSN, as applicable), and address. And, SBA 7(a) loan information is generally subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, with some exceptions (see here for more information). While the loan applications pre-approval are not subject to FOIA (save for aggregate statistical information); once a loan is approved and disbursed, borrowers’ identities will be disclosed.
More specifically, the application itself has disclosure (on page 3) that most parts of the application will be subject to FOIA requests (“Requests for information about another party may be denied unless SBA has the written permission of the individual to release the information to the requestor or unless the information is subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act”). Information about approved loans that will be released includes, among other things, the borrower’s name (and the names of its officers, directors, stockholders or partners), the amount of the loan, its purpose in general terms and the maturity. And, according to the SBA, the following relevant information is generally available upon request:
- Names and commercial street and email addresses of recipients of approved loans, SBIC licenses, Certificates of Competency, lease guarantees, surety bond guarantees and requests for counseling.
- Names of officers, directors, stockholders or partners of recipient firms.
- Kinds and amounts of loans, loan terms, interest rates (except on home disaster loans), maturity dates, general purpose, etc.
- Awarded contracts: name of contractor, contract amounts, contract dates and contracting agencies.
- Identity of participating banks.
The following information is not generally available, but restriction may be scaled based upon identity of the requestor (for example, if the information is being requested by the applicant or recipient of the 7(a) loan as opposed to a third party):
- Non-statistical information on pending, declined, withdrawn, or canceled applications.
- Non-statistical information on defaults, delinquencies, losses etc.
- Loan status, other than charged-off or paid-in-full.
- Personal and business tax returns.
- For viable on-going businesses: Financial statements, credit reports, business plans, plant lay-outs, marketing strategy, advertising plans, fiscal projections, pricing information, payroll information, private sector experience and contracts, purchase information, banking information, corporate structure, research plans and client list of applicant/recipient.
- For viable on-going businesses: Commercial and financial information contained in Certificate of Competency records, Requests for Size Determinations, 8(a) Business Development Plans, loan applications, SBIC applications and loan officer's reports.
- Internal documents not incorporated into final Agency action, pending internal recommendations on applications for assistance, SBA/attorney-client communications, pending litigation documents and investigatory documents.
- Personal history and financial statements, tax forms, resumes, all non-government career experience, communications regarding applicant's character, home and email addresses and telephone numbers, social security numbers, birth dates and medical records.
- Financial information on portfolio companies.
Previous SBA 7(a) loan recipient information is available for review here, and may be useful to review as applicants consider the implications of a PPP loan. What remains unclear is to what extent non-aggregated information on approved and disbursed loans is subject to FOIA requests if the status of the loan is other than charged-off or paid-in-full.
To see our prior alerts and other material related to the pandemic, please visit the Coronavirus/COVID-19: Facts, Insights & Resources page of our website by clicking here.