Archive for 2020

OnDeck Hits Payout Event Trigger on $105M Credit Facility

May 22, 2020
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Earlier today, OnDeck filed a status update to shareholders with the SEC. The company’s portfolio performance triggered an Asset Performance Payout Event (Level 1 they say) with a credit agreement that at present has an outstanding balance of $105 million.

The event triggers monthly principal repayments which, if not cured or amended, would commence with a $13 million payment on June 17, 2020. Subsequent principal payments are based on a percentage of the currently outstanding balance of $105 million until the Corporate Facility matures in January 2021. The Company is in active discussions with the Corporate Facility lender group to evaluate potential options with regard to this facility.

OnDeck was able to further modify agreements on two credit facilities (ODAF II and ODART) to which they had previously secured only interim relief of a few days.

Full filing here.

Shares of OnDeck have hovered between 60 cents and 70 cents in the past week.

Broker Fair, Not a Webinar… A Virtual Reality Conference

May 21, 2020
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Broker Fair 2020 VirtualComing June 11th, Broker Fair in Virtual Reality. Much different from a webinar, Broker Fair Virtual will actually be a virtual world with a lobby, exhibit hall, networking lounge, and auditorium. Attendees will be able to interact with each other as well as visit and interact with sponsors at their virtual booths.

BF Booths

There will be live video sessions too of course (see the agenda here), but if you’re there for the networking, get ready for a totally unique experience!

Broker Fair 2020 Virtual isn’t replacing the In-person event. That’s been rescheduled to 3/22/21 at the same location, Convene at Brookfield Place in New York City. All attendees registered for the in-person event are able to attend this virtual event on June 11th for free. If you never registered for that, you can still buy tickets that grant access to both at: https://brokerfair.org/register/

Additional Sample Screenshots

Networking Lounge

deBanked Booth

See you at Broker Fair!

Hidden Tax Liabilities: Assessing Small Business Borrower Risk Before, During, and After The Pandemic

May 19, 2020
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How lenders assess the risk of small business borrowers is changing and one important factor that no one will be able to ignore is tax liabilities. Hansen Rada, CEO of Tax Guard, told deBanked that outstanding tax liabilities are not always readily apparent in the form of a lien. Tax Guard can fill in the blanks on what lenders normally wouldn’t be able to see.

I asked Rada what tax liabilities even meant for a small business, especially in today’s environment.

“Tax liability is not the disease,” Rada said. “It’s a symptom of the disease. The disease is cash flow.”

In this 17 minute Q&A, I asked Rada many questions that underwriters all over the country are probably thinking about right now. Watch it below:

The Latest With OnDeck

May 18, 2020
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A Week after OnDeck reported Q1 earnings, the company experienced its first early amortization event brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

The news was publicized in a May 11th filing with the SEC:

On May 7th, an early amortization event occurred with respect to the Series 2019-1 notes issued by OnDeck Asset Securitization Trust II LLC, or ODAST II as a result of an asset amount deficiency in that Series. Beginning on the next payment date under the ODAST II Agreement, all remaining collections held by ODAST II, after payment of accrued interest and certain expenses, will be applied to repay the principal balance of the Series 2018-1 notes and the Series 2019-1 notes on a pro rata basis.

OnDeck NYSEThe company also revealed that it had amended a debt facility “so that no borrowing base deficiency shall occur during the period from April 27, 2020 to July 16,2020.”

On May 15th, OnDeck notified shareholders of additional events and maneuvers through a new filing published after the closing bell. The filing stated that:

On May 12th, a similar event happened with the 2018-1 notes as had happened with the 2019-1 notes.

On May 14th, OnDeck modified the terms of a debt facility so that “from March 11, 2020 to August 31, 2020, receivables granted temporary relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will generally not be considered delinquent […] so long as such receivable is paying in accordance with its modified terms.”

Also on May 14th, OnDeck obtained a temporary waiver on another debt facility. “Under the waiver, the lenders temporarily waived the occurrence and existence of reported borrowing base deficiencies and any failure to cure such deficiency amount, in each case, until the close of business on May 19, 2020.” OnDeck accepted the waiver with the understanding it would enter into a broader amendment to remain in compliance with performance and other criteria in light of increased delinquency and other portfolio dynamics that result from COVID-impacted loans. “If such an amendment is not entered into or if the borrowing base deficiency is not otherwise cured, the borrowing base deficiency would constitute an event of default under the ODAF II Facility at close of business on May 19, 2020.”

The 19th is tomorrow.

A similar waiver was obtained for another debt facility. The company has until May 20th to enter into a broader amendment to remain in compliance on that one.

The company is in a fight for its survival. In late April, OnDeck “suspended nearly all new term loan and line of credit originations and previously ceased all equipment finance lending.” The company reported that it is “focused on liquidity and capital preservation and expects there will be a significant portfolio contraction, reflecting an 80% or more reduction in the second quarter origination volume.”

The stock closed at 64 cents on Friday and a market cap of only $37.3M. Shares had traded over $4 earlier in the year.

On May 7th, shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping CEO Noah Breslow on the company’s board of directors.

Ireland’s Alternative Finance Industry and the Coronavirus

May 18, 2020
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Grafton Street, DublinAs the effects of the coronavirus continue to slow down the American economy, around the world, many countries remain in lockdown, with their businesses having been halted. Be it to the north, south, east, or west, of the United States, the results are the same: money has stopped flowing. As such, we took the opportunity to follow up with some of the businesses that featured in our coverage of alternative finance in Ireland last Fall, hoping to see what differed and what was the same in their responses to the pandemic.

Despite differing in size and range of variety when compared to their North American counterparts, the Irish alternative finance and fintech industries have largely felt the same impacts from covid-19. Certain funders have stopped operations, others have become very cautious, and just like here, some businesses have turned to the government for help.

LEO, or Local Enterprise Offices, is an advisory network for small and medium-sized businesses, which provide guidance as well as offer capital. The Irish government has pointed to these as the point of contact for small businesses owners, with LEO providing microfinance loans of up €50,000. This figure being upped from the pre-coronavirus maximum of €25,000.

Rupert Hogan, the Managing Director of brokering company BusinessLoans.ie, explained that some businesses would be better going with LEO over banks and even some non-banks. Noting that non-bank lenders can’t compete with the rates offered by LEO and, just like in the US, banks can’t act with the speed that these business owners need.

Ireland lockdownHogan, who describes the current situation as “The Great Lockdown,” said that banks “aren’t too helpful, even in the good times,” due to the high rejection rates that SMEs experience when looking for loans. In regards to merchant cash advances, he’s expecting, when the MCA companies reopen, that they’ll be funding at reduced rates, some doing as much as 50% less than their pre-coronavirus amounts.

Jaime Heaslip, Head of Brand Marketing at the MCA company Flender, explained that before the virus, the company was experiencing a period of productivity, with lending activity and amounts deposited being up from previous years. And despite the virus disrupting commerce, the former international rugby player noted that business owners are still coming to Flender for funds.

“We provide flexibility for people, there’s a lot of people coming to us to get contingency funds together,” he said over a phone call, commenting that as well as this, many businesses are looking for financing to move their operations online. “We’re trying to help SMEs get through this and provide as much help as possible.”

Beyond merchant cash advances, business continues to run, says Spark Crowdfunding’s Chris Burge. Being an investment platform, Spark is still active with businesses looking to get off the ground.

“We’ve actually found that we’ve still got a large amount of inquiries coming through,” the CEO and Co-Founder said. “Our pipeline of companies wanting to go onto the platform is very strong, and we’ve been engaging with them all and they’re very keen. They all need money, which, of course, hasn’t changed from before there was a crisis. And they still are needing money, they need that to expand as opposed to survive.”

When asked about changes made because of covid-19, Burge explained that their investor evenings have been disrupted. Previously an opportunity for the investors and investees on the digital platform to meet up personally and pitch each other, these 100-person gatherings are no longer an option. Instead, virtual webinars and assemblies are what Spark has started using to keep up communication between parties.

And on the subject of fundraising, Trezeo’s Garrett Cassidy said that it has become a nightmare under the pandemic. Disrupted communication channels and the inability to pitch to someone in the same room as you have been hurdles, but besides that, Cassidy assured me that Trezeo is still going strong.

Covid-19Offering payment structures and benefit bundles to freelancers and the self-employed, Trezeo has seen some of its customer base drop off as unemployment sky-rocketed in the UK, its prime market. Despite this, as more and more people are beginning to go back to work, Cassidy says numbers are rising.

“Now we’re starting to see earnings pick back up again, some of them were the ones who were off work who are now coming back to work. So it’s been interesting watching that but the reality is that they’re also scared. They’re out working every day delivering parcels or food, depending on which, and just working really hard. It’s the most important ones who are paid the least and that have the least protection.”

Looking ahead, Trezeo has been working with the UK’s Labour Exchange to establish a new program that would see the creation of channels to help pre-qualify workers for certain positions. These workers would be pooled, and employers would be able to choose from them, streamlining the hiring process for both sides.

“They need money in their pockets, somehow, quickly,” Cassidy said of workers, whether that be by returning to work safely, or through some government assistance program, the CEO is adamant that people need to stay solvent.

Altogether, Ireland’s alternative finance industry, like others the world over, has been hit hard by the coronavirus’s economic effects. With the country’s phased lifting of the lockdown being plotted out over the course of the summer, the island nation may not see as quick a return to commerce as certain American states, but its fintechs and non-banks hope to stick around, by hook or by crook, as the Irish say, by any means possible.

Forgiven Debts: The Hidden Tax Time Bomb That Could Kick Small Businesses While They’re Down

May 12, 2020
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Small businesses that stay out of bankruptcy but have some portion or all of their debts forgiven (excluding PPP debt) are in for a rude awakening come tax time next year. In a variety of circumstances, cancelled debt can be classified as taxable income for the debtor per the IRS. This, according to a new tax study titled Did The IRS Forget Non-PPP Debt? authored by Grassi & Co, a leading accounting and business firm based in New York, that was produced in collaboration with deBanked.

At face value, it would appear that taxpayers who have non-PPP debt canceled, forgiven or discharged during the COVID-19 crisis and do not meet any of the specific exclusions mentioned in the report, would be subject to tax on the cancelled debt as income.

This tax treatment, which pre-existed COVID-19, could be devastating in this era where the prevalence of debt forgiveness is likely to reach unprecedented levels.

money bombIn many cases this year, debt cancellation will be the direct result of government mandated shutdowns that were of no fault of the businesses themselves. Should they refrain from filing for bankruptcy and successfully negotiate a cancellation of some debt, it seems quite disastrous that the same government that shut them down might deliver a second blow by taxing the acts that enabled the businesses to survive.

One must also consider that a lender may just cancel some or all of a portion of a debt without any direct action of the debtor, with the end result being the same, a potential tax bill to the business on the cancelled portion.

It’s important to understand the various exclusions to the IRS guidelines that govern cancelled debt. The full report can be ACCESSED HERE.

$100 Million in PPP Fees

May 12, 2020
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$100 million. That’s the gross revenue floor that Ready Capital reported yesterday will be earned from its PPP loan origination efforts. PPP lenders earn between 1% to 5% of the loan amount in the form of a fee from the SBA and Ready Capital was the 15th largest PPP lender by dollars in the first round alone.

The SBA pays 5% for loans under $350,000, 3% for loans between $350,000 and $2 million, and only 1% on loans over $2 million. With the majority of Ready Capital’s loans being for less than $350,000, the pure volume of loans originated (40,000+), translates into significantly larger fee income against a lender who may have originated the same dollar amount but with a much larger average loan size. JPMorgan’s average PPP loan size in Round 1, for example, was $515,000 (an average of a 3% fee) versus Ready Capital’s $73,000 (an average of a 5% fee).

Ready Capital clarified that on a net basis of those fees, they will take home substantially less, since the economics of those fees were in many cases split with referral agents and other partners that contributed in the process. Without committing to a firm figure, they estimated that their net revenue on PPP originations is actually going to be in the neighborhood of 35%-50% of the gross ($35 million to $50 million).

That is so far. Ready approved $3 billion in loans and has so far only funded $2.1 billion of them. The company said it expects that a large percentage that remain will still be funded and they will earn additional fee income respectively from those.

The company also addressed funding delays that had been reported across social media. “While there have been some challenges outside our control that have caused some delays in the distribution of funds, we have facilitated the funding of 2.1 billion through last Friday and are actively working through the remaining population to disperse funds as quickly as possible.”

Ready’s exposure on the loans themselves may be limited. The company said “we do not expect to carry much of the production on the balance sheet at all. So a very small portion will remain on the balance sheet. The majority of it will now be sold off balance sheet.”

Cannabis Advocates Hope to Pass SAFE Banking Act in Next Coronavirus Package

May 12, 2020
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Cannabis MoneyThis week a selection of cannabis associations and lobbying groups wrote to House leaders encouraging them to include the SAFE Banking Act in the next coronavirus relief bill. If passed, SAFE would allow cannabis companies to set up and access bank accounts. Introduced to the House in March 2019, SAFE went through Congress in September and has since been held up in the Senate.

Deemed as an essential service, cannabis dispensaries have stayed open during the pandemic, with many reporting a boost in revenue.

“The cannabis industry lacks access to banking services that could eliminate cash transactions and minimize virus transmission,” the letter states. “In 2019, it is estimated that sales of cannabis in the United States topped $12 billion – the vast majority of which were cash transactions. Previously, this situation created an unnecessary public safety risk and undue safety burden on state and local tax and licensing authorities who must receive and process large cash payments. Now, as recent reports show that viruses can live on cash for up to 17 days, the public safety concerns of this cash-only system compound.”

And as worries about contagion rise, so to do concerns about crime, with some dispensaries reporting an increase in burglaries during the pandemic. The hope is that with access to banking, less cash will need to be kept on premises, reducing the risk of theft.

“It’s only getting worse,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesperson of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “At the beginning there was a real spike of crimes against cannabis dispensaries in a number of states, and I have a lot of fear that that’s going to get even worse now. And then on top of that are all the health and safety concerns with cash forcing people to actually touch money; and because it has to be in person, it makes social distancing more difficult.”

At the beginning of April House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she wanted SAFE included in the next coronavirus relief bill, that second package has come and gone but perhaps a third time might be the charm for cannabis companies.

Lendinero: How a broker shop is coping with covid-19

May 10, 2020
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Calle Ocho - Eigth Street - in Miami, Florida under coronavirus hotel, bar and restaurant closures.“Obviously, funding has really come to a standstill.”

So said Lendinero’s CEO and Founder, Gil Zapata, over a call with deBanked last week. Speaking about how his company, a broker firm based in Doral, Florida, and the industry have been affected by the novel coronavirus, Zapata explained the steps that he and his team have taken to try keep their heads above water.

Following a period of expansion that saw new hires in both their Florida offices as well as their premises in Nicaragua, covid-19’s shutdown of the American economy served as a full stop to what Zapata referred to as “growth mode.” Lendinero has kept the wheels turning by helping business owners secure EIDL and PPP funding and in the process planted seeds he hopes will prove profitable in the future.

Accompanying these PPP loans is the revenue coming from Lendinero’s recent partnership with Benworth Capital. With Benworth being an SBA-authorized PPP lender, Lendinero has acted as an agent for the lending company, assisting them with their focus on businesses in Miami.

To speed up these processes, Zapata and his team created a one-stop portal for potential borrowers.

As well as this, in order to cut expenses, Lendinero had to make significant reductions in its staff, affecting workers in both his North and Central American offices.

“We kept the best of the best and that’s helped out. And we restructured a lot of payments.”

Having brought on new workers during their period of growth, it was many of these who were let go, as Zapata and his colleagues decided that it would be best to keep on the more experienced staff who would not need training and as much oversight.

“We came to the conclusion that whoever is going to stay with us, they know that obviously they need to do something and they need to generate results for us or contribute to us … I think that to be micromanaging people at this time is nonsense.”

With these steps taken, Zapata is confident that Lendinero can continue operating for about a year, but is hopeful that the MCA industry will bounce back over the next six months.

“Something has to happen. Maybe a vaccine comes or maybe it doesn’t come but state governments are probably going to take some sort of action and measures to reopen, and we’ve seen that already. I think in six months from now, it’s not going to be the same growth that we had, but those who are able to come back and open up their businesses will help revitalize the MCA market.”

Deloitte Sued Over Audits of Failed DLI Fund

May 7, 2020
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Those affected by the failure of Direct Lending Investments (DLI) have added a new target to blame, Deloitte & Touche LLP and related entities.

A lawsuit filed last week in the Superior Court of California says that Deloitte was engaged by DLI to audit the Funds’ financial statements and accompanying footnotes in accordance with GAAP for the years ending 2016 – 2018 and issued clean unqualified audit reports that “negligently ratified and confirmed the false valuations contained in the financial statements and footnotes disseminated to the Plaintiffs.”

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Interview With Polling Expert Scott Rasmussen

May 7, 2020
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On Tuesday, I interviewed nationally recognized public opinion pollster Scott Rasmussen, who is the publisher of ScottRasmussen.com and is the editor-at-large for Ballotpedia, about the trajectory of the presidential race and how the current environment is affecting how people think.

Mr. Rasmussen will be a guest speaker at Broker Fair 2020 Virtual on June 11, 2020. You can watch the video interview below.

Shopify Shows Strength in Q1 Results, Issues $162.4M in MCAs and Loans

May 6, 2020
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eCommerce platform Shopify, 2nd only to Amazon in retail eCommerce sales, issued $162.4M in merchant cash advances and business loans in Q1, up from $115.9M in the previous quarter. The statistic pushed them past the $1 billion threshold of funds cumulatively issued since inception.

The company’s provision and allowance for loan losses ticked up from significantly from the same period the prior year but Shopify at that time was originating 50% less volume.

Shopify 1

Shopify 2

The company reported a GAAP net loss of $31.4M on $470M in revenue. Shopify also has approximately $2.36B in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet.

The company reported an increase of monthly recurring revenue, thanks to an increase in the number of merchants joining the platform, strong app growth, and Shopify Plus fee revenue growth.

Shares of Shopify (NYSE: Shop) jumped by more than 5% after the announcement.

Study Finds Vulnerable Canadians Ill-Equipped Against Coronavirus

May 4, 2020
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Canada FinanceLast week Loans Canada, a loans comparison platform, released a survey of over 900 financially vulnerable Canadians. These being defined as those Canadians who rely on low income, who have limited access to credit, and who have little to no savings available, the study found that many of the respondents were at risk of financial troubles from covid-19 due to their restricted means and ineligibility for government welfare programs.

30% of those surveyed reported that they are unable to access the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit, a program that offers CAD$500 a week to those whose finances have been negatively affected by covid-19, due to the terms of the package. In order to qualify, one must earn less than CAD$1,000 over the four week period that the claim is for, leaving many who work part-time or who have had their hours cut unable to access the money.

As well as this, the survey recorded that many of these individuals are having difficulty accessing credit, as nearly 50% said that their bank has denied them funding. This coupled with the fact that 80% have experienced a loss of income due to the novel coronavirus, as well as only 12% of respondents having the government-recommended three months of living expenses saved up, paints a grim picture for the future finances of those vulnerable Canadians.

Beyond immediate finances, 73% of those surveyed believed that the pandemic would negatively affect their credit scores, 63% expect to miss paying at least one bill over the next six months, and 78% claim that they will struggle to finance their necessary expenses if the covid-19 situation continues through the summer.

Altogether, the study indicates a need for more financing amongst those likely to be hit hardest by the economic knock-on from covid-19. What remains to be determined however, is whether it will come in the form of governmental relief, credit from their banks, or funding from the non-bank lenders.

Round Two of PPP Is Targeting Much Smaller Businesses

May 4, 2020
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$79,000. That’s the average loan size reported in Round Two of the PPP so far. The figure is about a third of the average size approved in Round 1. Some of that is by the SBA’s design. On April 29th, the SBA disabled submission access to all lenders whose assets exceed $1 billion to prioritize small lenders and their small business customers.

Though the pause button for big lenders was only in effect for eight hours that day, it was recognition that the playing field had not been level in the first round. JPMorgan Chase, the largest lender in round 1, for example, had an average PPP loan size of $515,304 in that round.

It’s a competitive process for limited dollars. 5,400 direct PPP lenders have already participated in the second round. More than 80% of those have less than $1 billion in assets. Senator Marco Rubio, a champion of PPP, called the latest figures released by the SBA as “all good news.”

Square Capital, meanwhile, has taken small to the extreme. Their average PPP loan approval as of April 29th was just $16,000, according to stats published by Square Capital head Jackie Reses on twitter. But only 2,711 of the 38,000+ approved had received the funds so far.

Still, that average is significantly smaller than the average loan size of $73,000 approved by Ready Capital in Round 1, a non-bank lender that got widespread attention for approving more PPP loans than any other lender in the country. Those record-breaking numbers, however, led to delays in borrowers receiving their funds to the point where as of April 30th, the responsibility of funding those loans had reportedly transferred to Customers Bank.

OnDeck has also played a role in the PPP, though only as an agent despite being approved by the SBA to lend. That news, which was revealed last week in the company’s quarterly earnings call, is likely due to the company’s current predicament brought on by government-mandated shutdowns.

Enova On Their Small Business Lending Exposure

April 30, 2020
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Enova’s exposure to the small business lending crisis is limited, the company said during its earnings call yesterday. The Business Backer and Headway Capital are two of the international consumer lending company’s small business lending divisions.

In terms of their overall loan book, small business loans only make up a percentage worth in the teens. “It’s very much manageable for us,” CEO David Fisher said. Fisher also said that they did not have large exposures to entertainment, hospitality and restaurants in their small business loan portfolio and were well diversified.

“Defaults […] have not increased anywhere near as much as we would have expected. Lots of payment deferrals and modifications, but with the PPP checks coming in and states opening back up, we are somewhat encouraged that we haven’t seen very high levels of default yet.”

Enova reported a consolidated Q1 net income of $5.7M.

OnDeck Reports Q1 Net Loss of $59M, Suspends Non-PPP Lending Activities

April 30, 2020
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OOnDeck NYSEnDeck has suspended the funding of its Core loans and lines of credit to new or existing customers (unless the loan agreement has already been executed).

The company has also suspended its pursuit of a bank charter. The company has instituted a 15% pay reduction for its full-time employees, a 60% pay reduction for part-time employees, and furloughed additional employees that will receive benefits but no salary. OnDeck CEO Noah Breslow and members of the Board took a 30% pay reduction.

The company said that PPP funding has not really reached real small businesses like the ones they serve and as such only a handful of their customers have received PPP funds. While OnDeck is approved to operate as a PPP lender themselves, they have been acting as an agent of them in the interim and will dedicated their resources almost entirely to this endeavor. The company anticipates that originations of its own products could contract by 80% or more in Q2.

The company has not tripped any covenants or triggers with its own lenders as of yet but is currently in discussions with them on a path forward in this environment.

OnDeck HistoryOnDeck reported a Q1 net loss of $59M on Thursday morning. The first quarter loss was driven by an increase in the Allowance for credit losses to reflect the increase in expected credit losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Provision for credit losses was $107.9 million. The Allowance for credit losses increased to $206 million at March 31, 2020, up $55 million or 36.1% from year-end and $58 million or 39.5% from a year ago. The 15+ Day Delinquency Ratio increased to 10.3% from 9.0% the prior quarter and 8.7% a year-ago reflecting a broad-based decline in portfolio collections since mid-March.

Noah Breslow, chief executive officer, is quoted in the announcement:
“In the span of several weeks, the spread of COVID-19 led to government-mandated lockdowns for small businesses both in the US and globally, placing our customers under unprecedented economic stress.After a successful and rapid transition to remote work, we effected immediate changes to our business to preserve liquidity, support our customer base, manage our loan portfolio and reduce costs. With an uncertain timetable for the reopening of the economy, and the effectiveness of government stimulus for small businesses unclear, we will be reducing debt balances in the second quarter and focusing on managing our portfolio, delivering government stimulus to our customer base and ensuring the company has the runway to scale operations again when the economy reopens.”

The company fully utilized its initial $50 million share repurchase authorization in the first quarter of 2020. On February 10, 2020, the Board authorized the company to repurchase up to an additional $50 million of common shares, and the company has approximately $23 million of remaining capacity under that authorization. The company suspended share repurchases late February but maintains authorization to resume purchases at its sole discretion.

For 2020, OnDeck expects:

  • Portfolio contraction reflecting an 80% or more reduction in second quarter origination volume
  • Increased delinquency and charge-offs stemming from COVID-related economic deterioration
  • Reduced Net Interest Margin reflecting a lower portfolio yield
  • Reduced operating expenses, on pace to cut second quarter expenses by approximately 25%.

The company had been on a modestly positive trajectory as of year-end 2019.

The company’s stock had a somewhat minor rally on Wednesday, closing at $1.61. That’s still substantially down from where it stood on February 20th at $4.22. It hit a low of 66 cents on March 18th. The share price dropped by nearly 19% after earnings were released on Thursday morning.

This story will be updated as the information becomes available.

Fundry Donates $25,000 to Community FoodBank of New Jersey

April 29, 2020
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Jersey-City based Fundry made a $25,000 donation the Community FoodBank of New Jersey this week. CFBNJ is an organization that “fights hunger and poverty in New Jersey by assisting those in need and seeking long-term solutions.” In addition to the over 40 million Americans who struggle with hunger every day, an estimated 17.1 million more people will experience food insecurity during this crisis, the organization says on its website.

Treasury Warns of Audits as Public Companies Return PPP Money

April 28, 2020
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US TreasuryIn the wake of public outrage at the news that public companies have received millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin today spoke out against such businesses. His comments come after the SBA and Treasury further clarified which businesses actually qualify for PPP, noting that only companies with no access to other forms of capital, such as selling shares or debt, would qualify.

Speaking on Fox Business, the Treasury Secretary explained that “anybody who took the money that shouldn’t have taken the money, one, it won’t be forgiven and two, they may be subject to criminal liability, which is a big deal … I encourage everybody to look at this and pay back these loans now so we can recycle the money if you made a mistake.” Mnuchin made clear that any company that receives a loan of over $2 million will be audited by the SBA.

A number of cases have made headlines, with Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House returning $10 and $20 million, respectively, following calls from the public to refund it. Other publicly funded companies that have returned PPP money include AutoNation ($77 million); Penske Automotive Group Group ($66 million); and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball franchise, which received $4.6 million.

“I’m a big fan of the team but I’m not a big fan of the fact that they took a $4.6 million loan,” Mnuchin said of the Lakers. “I think that’s outrageous and I’m glad they returned it or they would have had liability.”

With the launch of the second round of PPP funding yesterday, the SBA reported that it had processed more than 100,000 loans by 4,000 lenders by 3:30pm that day. Senator Marco Rubio explained on Twitter that a new pacing mechanism had been integrated into the SBA’s E-Tran portal system, lowering the minimum amount of PPP loan applications required for lenders to send a bulk submission from 15,000 to 5,000. The hope for this is that it will enable smaller businesses to reach the funds through more regional lenders and “allow more banks to submit,” explained Rubio.

The Front Line of PPP Lending

April 24, 2020
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This story appeared in deBanked’s Mar/Apr 2020 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

Front Line of PPP Lending

Bank of Southern CaliforniaSusan Lyon, managing director at an independent commercial film company in Solana Beach, California, can’t say enough good things about the quick action her bank took to help her secure emergency government funding during the current pandemic. “They sent out all the forms right away” enabling her to file an application on Friday, April 3 — “the earliest day possible” — she says of the Bank of Southern California. “Then they kept in touch after we sent all the pdf’s back, and they started uploading the loan applications when the Small Business Administration’s website went live the following Thursday.

“THE FUNDS ARE IN YOUR ACCOUNT”

“The very next day, which was Good Friday,” she adds of the San Diego-based bank, “they e-mailed me at 7 p.m. to say the funds are coming — and two hours later they e-mailed me to say that ‘the funds are in your account.’ It was a high-touch experience.”

Lyon says she will use the bulk of the $130,000, which she received under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, to pay the salaries of the eight fulltime employees at Lyon & Associates, of which she and husband Mark own 90%.

Lyon’s friend Jennifer Biddle was not so fortunate. Biddle, who operates a flower-growing and distribution business with her husband Frank, has been emotionally devastated, she says, since Torrey Pines Bank dropped the ball on her application for $285,000 to pay employees during the crisis.

“They created an administrative nightmare,” Biddle says of her San Diego-based bank, which failed to forward her paperwork to the SBA. “Being disappointed doesn’t begin to describe my feelings,” she adds.

Based in Vista, California, FBI Flowers has roughly $6 million in annual sales, 40 employees, and a monthly payroll of $114,000. Like her friend Susan Lyon, Biddle also applied for PPP funding on April 3. But she didn’t hear back from her bank for several days “and we thought (the application) was processing,” she reports. When the bank did get back to her a week later, it was to say, “‘We need this other form,’” she says, quoting the bank. “And then they wanted our addendum revised.”

By the time the SBA made the announcement on April 16 that the agency had exhausted the $349 billion allocated by Congress, Torrey Pines was still sitting on her application. “To me it’s negligence,” Biddle says.

“WE WERE REALLY COUNTING ON OUR BANK TO DO THEIR PART AND GET THE APPLICATION TO THE SBA”

“We’re in the middle of our growing season and money is hardly coming in,” she adds. “Our employees are part of a vulnerable population, We were really counting on our bank to do their part and get the application to the SBA. This was what my kids would call ‘an epic fail.’”

Neither Torrey Pines Bank nor its Phoenix-based parent company would comment. “Unfortunately,” Robyn Young, chief marketing officer at Western Alliance Bancorporation, told deBanked, “our bankers are not able to share any information about our clients or client transactions.” (According to a tagline in the e-mail, Forbes magazine has named Western Alliance to its list of the “Ten Best Banks in America” for the past five years in a row.)

CARES ActLyon’s and Biddle’s accounts are just two stories – one a rousing success, the other an abject failure – emerging from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created as part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Since the bipartisan bill was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, the SBA has approved 1.66 million small business applications.

Under the PPP, small businesses and self-employed individuals must apply for emergency funding through banks and designated non-bank lenders. Congress authorized the SBA to make emergency, low-interest loans of up to 2½ times a business’s monthly payroll to pay their employees’ wages for eight weeks.

If, after eight weeks, businesses can show they’d spent 75% of the government money keeping furloughed employees on the payroll and covering their health insurance, the loan will be forgiven. The remaining 25% of PPP funding will convert to a grant if it’s spent on rent and utilities.

Now, as the program is being rebooted with new Congressional action for a second round of funding totaling more than $300 billion, many applicants fear that they will again be left out in the cold. “We’ve been hearing that many banks have not been able to handle the torrent of applications,” says Gerri Detweiler, education director at Nav, Inc., a Utah-based online company that aggregates data and acts as a financial matchmaker for small businesses.

“MANY OF THE BANKS HAVE BEEN PRIORITIZING CUSTOMERS WITH DEEPER AND MORE LONGSTANDING RELATIONSHIPS”

Detweiler reports that she and her team at Nav have been working 14-hour days since the CARES Act was signed into law fielding calls and responding to e-mails from the company’s 1.5 million members looking for assistance in navigating the PPP rules. One common experience for small business applicants has been that “many of the banks have been prioritizing customers with deeper and more longstanding relationships,” she says.

One small business owner in Texas, Edward L. Scherer, filed a federal lawsuit in Houston on Easter Sunday charging that Frost Bank, which is headquartered in San Antonio, violated the CARES Act and SBA rules by refusing to accept PPP applications from non-customers. Class action suits alleging illegal favoritism have also been filed against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, and US Bancorp.

For customers and non-customers calling on Bank of America, this would come as no surprise. The Charlotte (N.C.) based giant makes clear that it will only process applications for regular customers. A notice on the bank’s website, declares that only “small business clients who have a lending and checking relationship with Bank of America as of February 15, 2020, and do not have a business credit or borrowing relationship with another bank, are eligible to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program through our bank.”

Ruth's Chris SteakhouseAlthough the PPP has been heralded as a way to rescue mom-and-pop businesses, national chain restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and hotels operating franchises have benefited handsomely. Ruth’s Chris alone received $20 million in crisis funding, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story.

For the bulk of the country’s small businesses “the money has been trickling in very slowly,” says Sarah Crozier, senior communications manager at the Main Street Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization that counts 300,000 members. Even for many businesses that have received funding, there remains widespread uncertainty that the loan will be converted to a grant. “There’s not a lot of trust that the PPP loan will be forgiven,” Crozier says. “There’s a lot of confusion.”

That’s a major concern for Randy George, owner of Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex, Vermont – a speck of a place off I-89 near Montpelier, the state capital – who does not want to take on extra debt. Until a month ago, George had been running a $4 million (sales) operation which employed 48 employees. He’s closed down the café, he says, which accounts for about 60% of annual receipts, while keeping on 20 workers to run the bakery.

That operation – which turns out baguettes, croissants, sticky buns and other baked goods for wholesale distribution – has actually ramped up. With most restaurants temporarily shuttered, more New Englanders are eating at home, resulting in the bakery’s nearly doubling its sales to regional grocery stores and supermarkets.

Meanwhile, George has received $411,000 in PPP funding, which he applied for through Community National Bank, located in Barre, Vt., and he’s paying many of his 28 furloughed employees to remain idle. Because of the way the CARES Act program is structured, he says, it’s in his interest to convince laid-off employees not to collect unemployment compensation which includes an extra $600-a-week federal benefit and lasts longer than the eight-week PPP.

“I’M INCENTIVIZED TO GET PEOPLE BACK TO WORK AND THEY’RE INCENTIVIZED TO GO ON UNEMPLOYMENT”

“I just called one of my fulltime employees and told him he’ll get to keep his health care if he stays on the payroll,” George explains. “But for part-time people it’s awkward. I’m incentivized to get people back to work and they’re incentivized to go on unemployment.”

At the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, a bar and restaurant in Maine with the reputation for having the tastiest cocktails in town, if not the entire Pine Tree State, the PPP is not working out for owner Andrew Volk. He secured funding “in the low six figures,” he says, but so far he’s keeping his powder dry. Instead of paying out-of-work employees, he’s letting them collect employment insurance and using a portion of PPP funding for rent and utilities. As for the remaining PPP funds, the question is whether to return the money or keep it as a loan.

Volk says the government program has done little to help him with his most pressing needs. For starters, he was forced to toss out “thousands upon thousands of dollars” worth of perishable foods since his establishment went dark on March 16. All meat, cheeses, sauces, citrus fruit, shrimp, fish and, of course, Maine lobster, went into the dumpster.

“AS A SMALL BUSINESS WE REALLY NEED SUPPORT BEYOND PAYROLL”

Because of a force majeure clause in his insurance policy that explicitly denies indemnification for an “act of God” – “Almost every business interruption insurance policy has a virus and pandemic exclusion,” Volk adds – he will have to eat those losses. “As a small business,” he adds, “we really need support beyond payroll.”

Even many qualified business people who have been approved for PPP funding are still waiting for their funds. Charles Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting, based in Miami, applied for funding “in the five figures,” he says, through Citibank on April 4. That was nearly three weeks ago. “If I were a guy who really needed this money, I’d be screwed,” he says.

In the next round of PPP funding, those who missed out now hope they will be approved quickly by their banks or lenders and that the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control. Meanwhile, the massive unemployment and shutdown of small businesses nationwide are reshaping the contours of the U.S. economy. “Ultimately,” warns Crozier of the Main Street Alliance, “the result of this will be more corporate consolidation and monopolization. That’s what we saw coming out of the ‘Great Recession’ in 2008.”

Ready Capital Was The Biggest PPP Lender By Volume in Round 1 of PPP Funding

April 22, 2020
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ready capitalReady Capital, a multi-strategy real estate finance company and one of the largest non-bank SBA lenders in the country, was the top PPP lender by loan volume in the country. Company CEO Thomas Capasse appeared on Fox Business yesterday and announced key statistics that aligned with data published by the SBA. By dollars, Ready Capital was the 15th largest PPP lender.

“As a leading non-bank, SBA lender, there’s 14 of us, we’re number two in terms of originations last year,” Capasse said on Fox Business, “we focused broadly, we don’t have deposit relationships, so we open our doors broadly to in particular the smaller mom and pop, the local deli, the pizzeria, the nail salon, so just in terms of the numbers, round one of the PPP, we approved 40,000 loans which is number one in the US, it was about $3 billion in total approvals. And our average balance was only $73,000 versus $230,000 for the average in round one.”

Among Ready Capital’s channels for acquiring PPP loan applications is Lendio, who reported consistent figures (a rough average of $80,000 per PPP loan facilitated), and high volume. Lendio has said on social media that they have been working with several partners, Ready Capital among them.

Ready Capital’s Capasse reasoned that their speed could probably be attributed to an affiliated fintech lender. “We are maybe more efficient than some of the banks because we have an affiliated fintech lender which is able to create online portals and processes to work in a more efficient manner and that enabled us to not only process these loans more efficiently but also to provide broad access to the program, to the smaller business owners.”

The company acquired Knight Capital, a small business finance provider, late last year.