The Largest Merchant Cash Advance in History

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auto dealershipHow would you like to be the funder to do a $40 million MCA transaction? According to the Securities & Exchange Commission, a deal of such magnitude was one of the many negligent acts that 1st Global Capital CEO Carl Ruderman did with investor money. Though the SEC refers to the merchant as an auto dealership in California, it’s roughly 9 dealerships with common ownership that collectively gross more than $550 million a year in sales. It’s the deal of a lifetime except that the ISO who brokered it has become the largest unsecured creditor to file a claim in the 1st Global bankruptcy. Records show they are owed approximately $3.9 million in unpaid commissions.

And its performance has not been without challenges, according to emails disclosed in the SEC case.

In April 2018, 1st Global employees discussed what to do about the dealerships’ lingering cash flow problems after becoming aware that the owner intended to either recapitalize the debt or sell the dealerships. The choice by then had come down to either continuing to fund them or to cut their losses, an email says.

“If they were to become insolvent, everyone loses,” wrote the Director of Accounting and Finance.

1st Global continued to fund them. The $40 million (approximate amount) was not disbursed all at once but in increments over the course of a year.

One week before 1st Global filed for bankruptcy, they signed a Binding Letter of Understanding with the dealerships acknowledging that the owner would be selling them. At that time the merchant had unpaid taxes of at least $9 million and had an outstanding receivable balance with 1st Global of $43 million. The Letter said that 1st Global would accept “whatever amount it receives [..] at this point as complete satisfaction” of the current RTR when the business is sold. 1st Global also agreed to forever release the dealerships’ owner personally from all legal claims. It was signed by Carl Ruderman 8 days before he resigned.

The merchant has not returned deBanked’s inquiries. The banker named in the Binding Letter as having been exclusively hired to sell the dealerships, told deBanked over the phone that he has never heard of 1st Global. 1st Global ceased operations on July 27th. The SEC filed a complaint against Ruderman and the company on August 23rd and an amended complaint on September 26th. The dealership transaction is used as an example of malfeasance in it twice.

New Record

No longer candidates for the largest merchant cash advance in history, two ancient deals that were famous during their eras for their size, ended up in default, and in doing so showed the industry that there was such a thing as too big.

One was a $4 million advance made by Strategic Funding Source in 2011 to a tourist attraction being produced at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Mob Experience, billed as the most technologically advanced interactive presentation of historical artifacts ever devised and set up in a 26,000 square foot total immersion facility, it was predicted to bring in 1.5 million visitors per year. But the deal quickly spiraled out of control, the exhibit shut down, and allegations of fraud were lodged in court. Though the Mob Experience was dubbed the largest merchant cash advance in history, it depends on whether or not you’re counting common ownership of multiple businesses as individual deals or one deal.

Dozens of advances made by Global Swift Funding in 2007 and 2008 to businesses controlled by the same west coast-based restaurateur, led to Global Swift’s demise. When the “restaurant king,” as he was known, filed for bankruptcy across all of his entities, Global Swift had outstanding future receivables with his businesses of approximately $8 million. Dan Chaon, a then representative of Global Swift, told a local newspaper at the time that the restaurateur was “a helluva sales-talk artist… he provided false financial statements, and everyone got caught up in that game.”

Last modified: April 20, 2019
Sean Murray


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