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12/07/2020SoFi exploring an IPO
09/27/2020Florida enters Phase 3, bars packed
09/04/2020Florida man bought $700k boat with PPP
07/03/2020Prashant Fuloria promoted to CEO of Fundbox
09/12/2019S Florida & NYC leaders in mortgage fraud


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Greenbox Capital Comments on Landmark Florida Legal Victory

January 7, 2021
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Greenbox capitalGreenbox Capital was the victor of a major lawsuit argued before Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal that conclusively established the legality of merchant cash advances in the state.

When asked for comment, Greenbox Capital® CEO Jordan Fein said:

“It’s been a long, arduous, and expensive battle over the last few years proving in a court of law that a Merchant Cash Advance is not a loan. Today, we celebrate a win for all Merchant Cash Advance companies in Florida and the entire United States who are dedicated to funding small businesses through ethical practices. Our hard work and commitment to helping small businesses grow was validated and we are thrilled with the final decision of the District Court of Appeal.”

The decision in Florida echoes a similiar opinion reached in New York in 2018.

It’s Official, Merchant Cash Advances Not Usurious in Florida

January 6, 2021
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Flag of FloridaBig news in the State of Florida. The Third District Court of Appeal entered its order on January 6th to decide the fate of Craton Entertainment, LLC, et al., v Merchant Capital Group, LLC, et al..

Merchant Capital Group, LLC dba Greenbox Capital sued Craton in December 2016 over a default in a Purchase and Sale of Future Receivables transaction. In turn, Craton responded with various defenses and counterclaims that asserted the underlying transaction was really an unenforceable usurious loan.

The Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County sided with Greenbox in August 2019. The defendants appealed.

The District Court of Appeal decided the matter conclusively on January 6, holding that the original ruling was affirmed on the basis that:

  • The transaction is not indicative of a loan where repayment obligation is not absolute but rather contingent or dependent upon the success of the underlying venture
  • that the transactions in which a portion of the investment is at speculative risk are excluded from the usury statutes
  • when the principal sum lent or any part of it is placed in hazard, the lender may lawfully require, in return for the risk, as large a sum as may be reasonable, provided it is done in good faith.

The decision can be viewed here.

The lawyers representing Appellee Greenbox Capital were Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A., William Boltrek III, Shannon M. Puopolo and Douglas B. Szabo.

You should contact an attorney to discuss the implications of this ruling. Merchant Cash Advance contracts are not all the same.

This ruling is similar to a ruling in New York that was made in 2018.

Prashant Fuloria Explains Why Fundbox Has Been Successful in 2020

September 28, 2020
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Prashant Fuloria - FundboxWhen Prashant Fuloria joined Fundbox as Chief Operations Officer in 2016, the San Franciscan firm was a three-year-old startup with less than eighty employees. By the time Fuloria moved into the office of CEO this July, the small business credit and invoice financing company had grown exponentially, with more than $430 million in raised capital to date and triple the number of employees.

At the height of the pandemic, many firms halted funding or shuttered their doors for good. Meanwhile Fundbox kept lending, and outperformed the market, Fuloria said.

“It’s become very clear to us that we have greatly outperformed the market,” Fuloria said. “In terms of delivering value to customers, and also in terms of our business performance.”

In the toughest weeks of the pandemic, he said that Fundbox’s loan delinquency rose to 8-9%, up from a “low single-digit number” pre-pandemic. In comparison, the industry standard according to Fuloria, was a delinquency rate of 30-40%, including from larger firms and more traditional lenders like big banks.

“I think we’ve performed extremely well during COVID; the numbers just validate the investment we’ve made, especially in data,” Fuloria said. “That puts us in a very good position because a number of folks have exited the market and the need, the demand has not gone away.”

“WE’VE INVESTED A LITTLE OVER $100 MILLION IN OUR DATA ASSET”

 

The number one thing you can do to perform well in a recession is to have a strong business going into it, Fuloria explained. Fundbox attributes part of its strength to its data. Nearly a fourth of Fundbox’s capital goes toward data assets, Fuloria said.

“If you add it all up, we’ve invested a little over $100 million in our data asset,” Fuloria said. “It’s a big investment for anybody- particularly a big investment for a mid-sized company.”

“SMALL BUSINESSES HAVE THE COMPLEXITY OF ENTERPRISES BUT THE SCALE OF CONSUMERS”

 

Fuloria said this money goes toward collecting customer information, which is processed by in-house tech and a talented team of engineers who can turn data into valuable information for serving SMBs.

“Small businesses,” Fuloria said, “they have the complexity of enterprises but the scale of consumers.”

Coming from twenty years of tech and product managerial experience at firms like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, Fuloria knows a thing or two about scale. He said he found his roots at Google, working when it was just a small team- by the time he left six and a half years later, Google had 35,000 employees.

When it came to joining Fundbox in 2016, Fuloria said he was attracted by the company’s mission, the talented team there, and how in just three years, the small firm had demonstrated how it could help SMBs.

“Fundbox as a company said ‘We are a financial services platform that is powering the small business economy with new credit and payment solutions,'” Fuloria said. “And that mission was very strong: it made sense to me, and it resonated with me.”

Small Business Funders Court Florists Before Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2019
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valentines dayEarlier this month, LendingTree published results from a survey they conducted about consumer spending on Valentine’s Day.

The main takeaway is that men are planning to spend almost two and a half times more than what their significant others (of either gender) expect them to spend. So there might be some nice surprises today! On average, according to this survey, men plan to spend $95 today for their significant others, while women plan to spend $41. Also according to this survey, those who are engaged plan to spend $92 on their significant other, people in the dating stage of relationships plan to spend $88, and married people plan on spending $57. (The average for men is increased by spending based on generation.)  

Regardless, Director of Personal Loans at LendingTree, Michael Funderburk, said that these amorous expenses are typically not large enough to show any spike in consumer borrowing. Small business borrowing, however, is a different story. As might be expected, there is a noticeable spike in borrowing from florists, among other small businesses that cater to the holiday.

Chad Otar, CEO of New York-based Excel Capital, a small business funder, said that they always fund more florists, chocolate shops and gift shops leading up to Valentine’s Day because these merchants need additional money to buy more inventory. Excel’s team of a little under 20 includes an in-house sales team that Otar said markets to these kinds of businesses in the weeks before Valentine’s Day.

The larger Reliant Funding, which has a sales team of about 100 people, makes an active marketing push before Valentine’s Day to reach more than 13,000 U.S. florists in its database, according to its Chief Marketing Officer Steve Kietz.

“Our business with these firms increases before Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” Kietz said. “We see lots of repeat business from those firms as they stock up for peak season. [And] we increase our mail and digital marketing activities to sync with when florists will be most responsive.”

Houston-based Accord Funding, doesn’t have an in-house sales team. Still, its CEO, Adam Beebe, said that while they don’t track submissions by merchant category, they do underwrite florists with seasonality in mind.  

Details Emerge in Florida Lawsuit Against Corporate Debt Advisors

August 9, 2018
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debt cureA debt settlement company being sued by Itria Ventures in Miami-Dade County, FL was asked to prove its claim that it has managed over $1.5 billion in total debt, court records show. That company, Corporate Debt Advisors (CDA), advertises that it provides debt relief for small business owners.

CDA responded to Itria’s request on June 29th with information relating to just two employees, Tony Shea and John Philbin, who combined through their previous experience have purportedly managed $1,584,000,000 of debt.

Not mentioned in their response is that each individual is prohibited from engaging in debt settlement services with Florida consumers where Corporate Debt Advisors is located.

According to the Office of the Attorney General, both Shea and Philbin previously and independently settled with the State after being investigated for running questionable debt settlement businesses. (See here and here)

In the lawsuit filed against CDA by Itria, it’s alleged that CDA is advising merchants to commit fraud by moving money owed to Itria to a new secret hidden bank account at a local bank in Florida where it will be out of reach from Itria.

This is not the first time Corporate Debt Advisors has been sued. In early July, a competitor to Itria, High Speed Capital, petitioned a New York court to turn over funds it believes CDA has in its possession for unlawful budget planning services rendered to a Florida-based business.

Florida Court of Appeals Finds Usury Does Not Violate Public Policy, Denies Temporary Injunction

August 8, 2015
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FloridaThe Florida Office of the Attorney General was granted a temporary injunction against CashCall, Inc. The Attorney General’s action was based on alleged violations by CashCall of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act related to loans CashCall had issued to Florida residents that charged rates in excess of Florida’s usury law. The injunction required CashCall to pay all loan proceeds it received during the pendency of the underlying litigation into the court registry and to establish a reserve of one million dollars. CashCall appealed to the Court of Appeals.

In its review, the Court explained that “[a]s a matter of law, in order to obtain a temporary injunction the Attorney General must demonstrate that ‘it has a clear legal right’ to the injunction…” and that “the viability of the Attorney General’s action is dependent on its ability to avoid the choice of law provision in the loan agreements.” The provisions provided that the loans at issue would be governed under the laws of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe which permitted the rates charged.

The Attorney General argued that the choice of law provision was unenforceable because it violated Florida’s strong public policy against usury. CashCall disagreed. It countered that Florida had no such policy against usury and the provision should be upheld.

CashCall’s argument prevailed. The appellate court cited two cases where the Florida Supreme Court had declined to apply the public policy exception to set aside a choice of law provision in a usury context. In those cases, the Supreme Court held that Florida has no strong public policy against usury as long as there is a reasonable relationship between the chosen jurisdiction and the transaction.

The Court of Appeals highlighted that the Attorney General had essentially agreed with this finding during the lower court proceedings. The Court quoted a portion of the Attorney General’s statement:

Hey, that money you’re getting from Floridians, let’s put it into the Court Registry until we can hear your Motion to Dismiss from all of your hundreds of attorneys and we can talk about hundreds of years’ worth of tribal authority. And you know what, they might win. There’s good case law I think as Brian said on both sides. It is an interesting argument. But I would like to ask the Court to focus on what we asked for and are we entitled to it.

Based on the Attorney General’s statement and Supreme Court precedent, the Court of Appeals found that the Attorney General had failed to demonstrate a clear right to the injunction and reversed the lower court’s decision.

Cashcall, Inc. v. Office of the AG, 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 11559 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. July 31, 2015)

“Till pandemic do us part” Divorce on rise, Weddings Furloughed

December 22, 2020
Article by:

divorceFor couples who live together, forced “quality time” due to a pandemic has been considered an exciting change in the household’s dynamic, to say the least.

Trouble in paradise? Possibly, as one firm found, the amount of people inquiring about divorce loans has risen 62% in 2020, compared to last year.

If you didn’t know divorce loans were an option in the first place, Loanry, an online loan lead generator, said divorces could cost upwards of $12,000 in states like Delaware and New York, and in California up to $14,236.

Loanry looked through their loan transactions and found that not only were divorce loans higher by 68% in New York and 71% in Florida, but the wedding loan business was in trouble.

2020 has been a record year for marriages ending – and hundreds of thousands of couples being unable to hold a wedding in the first place.

According to Statista, over 2 million weddings occur every year in the US, at an average cost of $30,000. Wedding site The Knot found 93% of planned marriages were rescheduled. Loanry found 11% of planned weddings took out loans.

For those of you at home (most of you), couples are paying back $3.7 billion without even saying, “I do.”

Answering the question no one asked: what is the worst way to start a lifelong journey together?

Loanry has sets of advice to deal with the costs of both weddings and divorces, but the simplest seems to be “don’t do either.”

“Financing a wedding using a loan should be taken very seriously, and we don’t recommend it,” Ethan Taub, founder of Loanry.com, said. “Finding ways to cut costs on your wedding expenses is a far more effective alternative to avoid unnecessary debt yet still enjoy your big day.”

He went on to comment that while divorce in this stressful year is sad, make sure to research the best, most affordable option.

Immigrating From Cuba With “Nothing in my pockets,” to a CEO Funding $12 Million a Month

December 15, 2020
Article by:

Frank Ebanks“Work hard, don’t ask questions, and good things will happen to you,” Frank Ebanks described his keys to success in the MCA world. “Being Positive, working hard, and keeping my eyes open: If I hadn’t been looking for opportunities at 2 am in the morning on Craigslist, I would have never known about this industry, but it’s huge, it’s such a big industry.”

Ebanks started what would become Spartan Capital shortly after seeing an ad calling for startup investors in an industry Ebanks had never heard of, called Merchant Cash Advance.

It was around 2016. Ebanks was up late in the NYU university library, putting himself through an MBA while working as a reactor operator at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester.

Despite the job security Ebanks enjoyed, he said he wasn’t happy with his career, wasn’t getting the satisfaction he wanted. He had already made it a long way— starting before the millennium as a Cuban immigrant, immigrating to the Dominican Republic in 1998 and then Florida in 2002 with empty pockets. Shortly after arriving, Ebanks enlisted.

“I spent some time in the army; I wanted to put in some time,” Ebanks said. “I said: ‘I’m a new immigrant, what’s the best thing that I could do to reward these opportunities?’ To serve in the army, give the country a couple years, and payback in advance for this opportunity that I knew I was going to have.”

Ebanks said he learned early on to take every opportunity seriously. He served for two years and then became an engineer and contractor for the army, working on the Patriot Missile defense system. He went through college at NJIT, graduating in 2009, and following in his father’s footsteps to become an electrical engineer.

After working with South Jerseys PSE&G, Ebanks took the opportunity to work full time shifts at the the nuclear power plant, and by 2016 he was pursuing an MBA and looking for ways to grow what he called “my empire.” Used to investing in small businesses already, discovering MCA fit right within his world.

“$10,000 LATER, WE HAD A COMPANY”

“I’ve always been active, throughout my professional career I had businesses in real estate, I owned several businesses such as laundromats, a lot of retail cell phone stores and things like that,” Ebanks said. “So at one or two am in the morning, I’m working on how to build my empire. I was on Craigslist looking for opportunities, seeing what’s out there, and somebody wanted an investment, to partner up and start a company in a new industry.”

He took a meeting and learned a ton. Although he did not end up going into business with that person, he was hooked on the concept.

“I looked at that ad, and $10,000 later, we had a company,” Ebanks said.

Spartan CapitalHe learned what he needed and ended up opening his own MCA business shortly after in New Jersey, finding he loved setting up syndicated MCA deals.

“I did some research, opened an office in New Jersey, secured a manager to run the operation, and we started brokering deals and learning about syndication.”

He worked with SFS Capital, now called Kapitus. He fell in love with the immediate gratification feedback of making deals, seeing returns on account receivables, and watching renewals come in. The business grew, but things were not always a straight climb to success.

“There was a point where things were not going well and I had to start a new company, find new parters and investors with a funding direct-only focus, and moved into my basement- my wife was unhappy with that. I started hiring people, processors, underwriters, and ISO managers in my basement,” Ebanks said. “At one point, she said, ‘Okay, this is enough. Ten strangers are coming into my house every day, you’ve got to get an office,’ so we secured an office in New York. And that’s when things took off in 2017.”

At that point, Ebanks had shifted his business model from securing deals to funding them all his own, using capital he raised. Ebanks said that being a broker partnered with Kapitus was great, but he wanted to grow and run his business entirely. The best way to do that was through ISO management, Ebanks said. Ebanks let the direct sales team phase out and he hired ISO managers, learning the ISO business as he went.

“DON’T SETTLE, LOOK FOR GROWTH, AND INVEST YOUR MONEY”

“So fast forward now: We have over five ISO managers, and we’re funding about $12 million a month,” Ebanks said. “It’s been a phenomenal journey and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life; I’m not shy to share how exciting every day is to me, and how other than my family and my kids and God, this is the most important thing my life.”

For brokers looking to get started in the industry, Ebanks has this advice to share: Don’t settle.

“Don’t settle, look for growth, and invest your money,” Ebanks said. “I always invested everything I could, 95%, every penny on the business. It matters especially at the beginning, the more you invest, don’t let it sit.”

That investment should go toward your business, your staff, and hiring. Ebanks said the more you invest, the bigger the bag, the more your firm would grow, and your employees will grow with you. Helping employees will mean they will eventually leave, but in Ebanks’ experience treating employees right creates partners.

“Some of them now are partners, and the employee-employer relationship is always more partnership,” Ebanks said. “Some of them own their own companies now, and we help each other out. If they have a big deal, they say: ‘Frank do you want to take $50,000 out of this deal?’ I say yea I trust you. I’ve known you for years.”

Now that he’s on track to grow with recurring customers, seeing some merchants come back to renew twenty times since 2016, Ebanks sees a possible bright future for Spartan Capital: becoming a chartered online bank.

“It is an alternative lending space but to offer the best products to people,” Ebanks said. “I think at the end of the day, and we need all the resources we can get, the next chapter is to apply and secure an online bank charter, it’s the future of the fintech industry.

“Why do people like doing business with us versus a bank? Some of them can do business with banks, but they choose to use us because they have direct access to us after 6 pm, they could call us Saturday, they can call us on a Sunday,” Ebanks said. “A great relationship that they can never get from a bank. I want to bring what we do in MCA to the banking industry to serve people that want banking products, but I want to give them that MCA experience.”

Threads on deBanked


01-11-2021

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