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Four Things You May Have Missed about the PPP Change of Ownership Notice

As previously discussed, on October 2, 2020, the SBA published Procedural Notice 5000-20057 addressing Paycheck Protection Program Loans and Changes of Ownership. Based on a review of memos on the subject by other law firms and accounting firms, four items stood out as not being regularly addressed (in addition to some expressing the mistaken belief that buyers have to assume the PPP loan in any asset transaction).

1. Any Merger Triggers the Procedural Notice. 

The definition of a change of ownership includes any merger of the PPP borrower with or into another entity.  Even if the PPP borrower is the surviving entity and there is no change in shareholder ownership, it would appear to be pulled into the SBA Procedural Notice. Accordingly, either internal reorganizations or acquisitions could trigger the obligations of the Procedural Notice if structured as a merger.

2. Stock Transfers Between Existing Shareholders Can Trigger Procedural Notice. 

Stock transfers to affiliates and existing owners are covered, not just sales to new owners. Any change in shareholder composition that results in a greater than 50% change since the receipt of the PPP loan triggers a change of ownership of ownership under the Procedural Notice.

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SBA Provides Guidance on Changes of Ownership of PPP Borrowers

On October 2, 2020, the SBA Office of Capital Access published Procedural Notice 5000-20057, which provides a framework to address whether SBA pre-approval is required for various changes of ownership under the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as the process for seeking that approval if needed. Any Paycheck Protection Program borrower looking at a potential change in control, whether via actions of the shareholders or direct action by the PPP borrower needs to be familiar with this guidance. In addition, anyone looking to acquire control of a PPP borrower should also review the guidance. While the guidance makes clear the possibility of preserving the potential for forgiveness of the PPP loan through a change of ownership, the Procedural Notice sets forth various approaches to obtain SBA pre-approval for the transaction (or to avoid the need for SBA pre-approval.)

Before outlining the key elements of the SBA guidance, we must note that this guidance is being published almost six months after the first PPP loans were issued, and two months after the SBA advised that guidance on changes of ownership would be issued “soon.” While one might hope that such delay at least allowed for clear and complete guidance to be published, I’m afraid the guidance may result in more questions than answers.

General Rule

Without expressing a basis for such obligation, SBA Procedural Notice provides that prior to the closing of any “Change of Ownership” transaction, the “PPP borrower must notify the PPP Lender in writing of the contemplated transaction and provide the PPP Lender with a copy of the proposed agreements or other documents that would effectuate the proposed transaction.”

While only specifically requiring notification (as opposed to application or consent), this requirement would seem inconsistent with the SBA’s Frequently Asked Questions and Interim Final Rule permitting lenders to use their own promissory note and to include any terms not inconsistent with Sections 1102 and 1106 of the Cares Act, the PPP Interim Final Rules and Guidance, and SBA Form 2484. While the SBA general form of promissory note does require lender’s prior consent if a borrower “reorganizes, merges, consolidates, or otherwise changes ownership or business structure,” these terms were not defined and lender’s were expressly permitted to use other forms of note.

Changes of Ownership Defined

For purposes of the SBA Procedural Notice, “Changes of Ownership” are defined to consist of the following transactions:

  • an aggregate change in 20% or more of the ownership interests in the Borrower since date of SBA approval of the SBA loan (but for public companies, only need to include sales or transfers resulting in one person owning at least 20%) (stock transfers);
  • sale or transfers of 50% or more of the fair market value of the assets of the Borrower (asset sales); and
  • mergers with or into another entity (mergers).
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Sharing Directors Brings Added Experience to Your Board but Could Cause Problems

Many financial institutions, particularly community banks, have enhanced the experience level of their boards by adding a director who is a banker or serves on the board of another financial institution. In general, utilizing a director who has current experience with another financial institution is a great way to add valuable perspective to a variety of issues that the board may encounter. In addition, as private equity funds made substantial investments in financial institutions, they often bargained for guaranteed board seats. The individuals selected by private equity firms as board representatives often serve on a number of different bank boards. As market conditions have led to increased bank failures, however, a problem has resurfaced that may cause some financial institutions to take a closer look at nominating directors who also serve other financial institutions: cross-guarantee liability to the FDIC.

The concept of cross-guarantee liability was added to the Federal Deposit Insurance Act by the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA). The pertinent provision states that any insured depository institution shall be liable for any loss incurred by the FDIC in connection with:

  • the default (failure) of a “commonly controlled” insured depository institution; or
  • open bank assistance provided to a “commonly controlled” institution that is in danger of failure.

This means that if two banks are “commonly controlled” and one of them fails, the other bank can be held liable to the FDIC for the amount of its losses or estimated losses in connection with the failure. As many of us see each Friday, the amounts of these estimated losses are often quite high. In fact, the FDIC’s estimated losses for 2011 bank failures were approximately 20 percent of total failed bank assets for the year. Accordingly, the prospect of cross-guarantee liability can be a tremendous financial issue for the surviving bank.

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