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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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PPP & Asset Sales: Is the Buyer Required to Assume the PPP Note?

No.

On October 2, the Small Business Administration published a procedural notice on changes of ownership for PPP borrowers. One specific area where we’ve seen confusion is whether the procedural notice requires a Buyer to assume all of the PPP Borrower’s obligations in an asset sale transaction. As discussed below, while the procedural notice does require the Buyer to assume the PPP loan obligations in an asset sale in order to obtain the SBA’s prior approval, so long as the SBA’s prior approval is not required, then the parties remain free to structure the asset transaction in whatever manner makes economic sense for the parties, including leaving the PPP loan obligations with the Seller.

Section 2.b. of the procedural notice indicates that, in connection with obtaining SBA pre-approval for a change of ownership, that SBA approval “will be conditioned on the purchasing entity assuming all of the PPP borrower’s obligations under the PPP loan, including responsibility for compliance with the PPP loan terms.” The procedural notice goes on to indicate that the purchase or sale agreement “must include appropriate language regarding the assumption of the PPP borrower’s obligations under the PPP loan by the purchasing person or entity, or a separate assumption agreement must be submitted to the SBA.” Accordingly, if SBA pre-approval is required in connection with a change of control structured as an asset sale, then it would be necessary to have the Buyer assume the PPP loan. However, this obligation is limited to circumstances in which SBA pre-approval is required.

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SBA Confirms Impact of PPP Flexibility Act on Outstanding Promissory Notes

On October 7, 2020, the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department updated their Frequently Asked Questions on the Paycheck Protection Program with FAQ 52. As reflected in the question, the PPP Flexibility Act made certain changes to the terms of loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program, including an extension of the deferral period before any payments would be required. FAQ 52 confirms that these changes automatically applied to all outstanding PPP loans, and that lenders are required to give immediate effect to the statutory extension. While no formal modification of the promissory note is required (thus avoiding any need to re-execute the promissory note or an amendment), the FAQ provides that lenders “should” give notice to borrowers of the changes caused by the PPP Flexibility Act.

As the changes of the PPP Flexibility Act were 100% in the favor of the borrower, this is consistent with the approach that Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP recommended to PPP lenders in advance of the publication of the new FAQ. In addition to the extension of the deferral period, the PPP Flexibility Act also provided for a permissible extension of the covered period for potential forgiveness from 8-weeks to 24-weeks, and a reduction in the percentage of forgiveness that must be used for payroll expenses.

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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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SBA PPP Eligibility Requirements

The SBA has made clear that businesses with 500 or fewer employees can apply for PPP funds, with certain exceptions. The number of employees for a business is generally determined by the average number of people employed for each pay period over the business’s latest 12 calendar months. For this determination, any person on the payroll must be included as one employee regardless of hours worked or temporary status.

However, for businesses with greater than 500 employees, there are still three possible ways qualify for PPP funds. This post analyzes the three additional methods for a business to qualify for PPP funds, based on the latest guidance from the SBA as of April 15, 2020.

Method 1: SBA Employee-Based Size Standards

Under the CARES Act, the SBA requires borrowers to have 500 or fewer employees or the number of employees specified per the SBA’s Size Standards table. Thus, a business with greater than 500 employees may still be eligible if it meets applicable SBA employee-based size standards for its primary industry. A business’s primary industry is denoted by its North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code. A list of all NAICS codes is available here.

For example, a business in the in the primary industry of natural gas extraction (NAICS Code 211130) with 1,000 employees would still be eligible for PPP funds because the applicable SBA employee-based size standard is 1,250.

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SBA PPP April 14 Interim Final Rule Guidance

On April 14, 2020, the SBA published an interim final rule that provides additional guidance regarding topics of confusion among both Payroll Protection Program (“PPP”) lenders and borrowers. This new rule supplements the first interim final rule, which was issued by the SBA on April 2, 2020, and specifically addresses the eligibility of self-employed individuals, partnerships, director-owned businesses, and legal gambling businesses. This post covers the updates detailed in the new interim final rule, based on the latest guidance from the SBA as of April 16, 2020.

Self-Employed Individuals

Eligibility

The new interim final rule makes clear that an individual may be eligible for a PPP loan if the individual:

  1. was in operation as a business on February 15, 2020;
  2. is an individual with self-employment income (such as an independent contractor or a sole proprietor);
  3. has a principal place of residence in the United States; and
  4. filed or will file a Form 1040 Schedule C for 2019.

The SBA has communicated that it will issue additional guidance for those individuals with self-employment income who: (i) were not in operation in 2019 but who were in operation on February 15, 2020, and (ii) will file a Form 1040 Schedule C for 2020.

We note that individuals should be aware that participation in the PPP may affect eligibility for state-administered unemployment compensation or unemployment assistance programs.

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PPP: Affiliation Guidelines

PPP: Affiliation Guidelines

April 9, 2020

Authored by: Jim Havel and Robert Klingler

In determining eligibility under the Paycheck Protection Program, the SBA will aggregate “affiliates” of the borrower. This post further explores what the SBA considers “affiliate” of the borrower, based on the latest guidance from the SBA as of April 9, 2010.

How does the SBA Define “Control” for Aggregation Purposes?

The SBA’s standard definition of “control” for affiliation and aggregation purposes is a facts-heavy analysis similar to a totality of the circumstances standard. The SBA generally goes as high up and across the ultimate ownership group and its controlled companies when it comes to the entity deemed to control for aggregation/ affiliation purposes.

Control is both affirmative and negative best understood through use of examples:

  • For examples of affirmative control, see all of the tests below.
  • For examples of negative control, see Example 3 of Test 1 below.

Four tests will generally apply for affiliation based on control for PPP Loans.

Test 1 – Affiliation based on ownership:

Example 1 – Equity control: The classic and easiest example to understand is equity control. If an entity controls a majority of the equity (50%+1) of another business (or multiple businesses), the SBA will aggregate all of the employees of those companies together under PPP.

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