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SEAA Kicks Off in Florida

May 25, 2021
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More than a thousand people are attending the 20th annual SEAA conference in Bonita Springs, FL that started on Monday. The show is a staple of the payments industry.

“It’s a changing game every minute,” said SEAA board member Derek Vowels about what’s going on in payments .

The packed event has more than 90 companies exhibiting. The “Flamingo” level sponsors include American Express, IRIS CRM, Worldpay, Cardconnect, and Electronic Merchant Systems.

deBanked has been streaming live at debanked.com/tv/. Attendees are saying that it’s great to be back in person.

The May 25th Live Stream schedule is as follows:
9:00 – 10:45am,
3:00 – 4:00pm
5:00 – 6:30pm

Opening 9 minutes from May 24th:

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)

Got a Mantle, Bryant, or Mahomes Card? This Company Wants to Fund You

September 12, 2022
Article by:

mickey mantle cardLast month, an anonymous bidder paid $12.6M for a 1952 mint condition Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, the highest amount ever fetched for a piece of sports memorabilia at an auction. Understandably, the news electrified a fast growing market of collectors, traders, and financiers that predicted the next big asset class wasn’t just going to be real estate or crypto or NFTs, but physical sports trading cards.

The value of the Mantle sale came as no surprise to one budding entrepreneur in South Florida. On Instagram, he’d been talking about Mantle cards for weeks, even going so far as to hold up another ’52 Topps Mantle card to the camera to promote what his company can do, which is provide quick cash advances to owners of valuable sports cards.

The entrepreneur’s name is Edward Siegel, CEO of Card Fi. Siegel’s no stranger to the alternative finance space because he spent about a decade in the MCA industry, most recently as the founder of Bitty Advance, which he sold in 2020. Since then, Siegel returned to his roots and early passion of his youth.

“I had a background in sports cards as a collector, you know as a kid, but then in my early twenties, I was promoting card shows at malls,” Siegel said. “I was heavily into the hobby, setting up the card shows and promoting them and doing player appearances where players come in and do an autograph appearance.”

That was back in the late 80s, early 90s, according to Siegel.

When Covid hit and he exited his most recent company, he noticed a massive resurgence in the sports trading card market. His next business ultimately became Card Fi, a company that will evaluate the market value of a card and make an advance against it. There’s obviously risk involved so they take possession of the card for the duration.

“We have to get a hold of these cards and we’re responsible for them and then we vault them in our in-house bank vault,” Siegel said. The cards are stored in a highly secure climate controlled environment. Card Fi shows the vault off frequently in its Instagram videos.

Such a business requires large amounts of capital so Siegel went searching for investors, a pursuit that led him to a unique place, an Instagram Live pitch competition hosted by famed CEO and reality TV star Marcus Lemonis. Siegel entered himself in as a contestant, knowing full well that the odds of even being chosen to present his business to Lemonis were about a million-to-one.

Somehow, he was called up to pitch.

“So [businesses] went on there during the quarantine and you pitched your business,” Siegel explained. “I went on there and I pitched it […] And he understood it and he thought it made sense.”

The moment eventually led to a deal with Lemonis’ company and Card Fi was on its way.

Michael Jordan CardSiegel, meanwhile, dispels the notion that the burgeoning trading card industry or his business hinges upon old vintage cards or that it’s a baseball-card-centric universe.

“If we look at it, there’s two different markets, you have the modern card market [where] I would say it’s basketball [that leads the pack],” he said. “For the vintage card market it’s baseball.”

Football is huge as well, he explained. A Patrick Mahomes rookie card, for example, an NFL Quarterback that’s still currently playing, recently fetched $861,000. There are only one of five like it in the world, the scarcity playing a major role in the value. Meanwhile, a Justin Herbert rookie card, an NFL Quarterback who’s only in his third year was already receiving bids above $1 million at the time this story was being written.

“It really depends on the card itself,” Siegel explained. “Some players might be known for having better careers but then you have cards that have more scarcity to them. Something that’s a one of one or maybe a very low populated card and a graded PSA 10 could very well be worth more than a [Michael] Jordan rookie because it has scarcity in it.”

PSA refers to cards that have been verified as authentic and graded on the condition of the card itself. Ten is the highest level a card can receive. Card Fi will only work with graded cards to avoid any funny business when it comes to advancing funds based upon the value.

Edward Siegel Standing in Front of Card Fi VaultSiegel explained that Card Fi’s average advance is about $40,000 – $50,000. The max right now is $500,000. There’s a big market for this type of funding it turns out because Card Fi’s much larger rival, PWCC, just raised $175 million to make similar offerings to sports card owners.

“This financing benefits the market as loans and cash advances have become an increasingly asked-for offering among trading card collectors,” said Chad Fister, PWCC’s CFO in a story that originally appeared on Sportico. “Enabling our clients to access liquidity through a menu of capital offerings is key as trading cards continue to prove themselves to be a valuable tangible asset class.”

For Card Fi, customers that take an advance can track everything through an online portal, including details about their cards, payments, and balance.

“We want to note that we built a full-service automated underwriting and collection platform to where, whether it’s the customer or the broker, they can log into our system and put the description of the card into the system and it’s going to automatically underwrite it and price it out,” Siegel said.

That description sounded like something straight out of the fintech industry of his past, especially the component about brokers.

“Just like the MCA space, we have a whole partnership side, a broker side, where brokers can refer us customers just as an affiliate where they just send the info over,” Siegel said. Similarly, they can earn a commission if a transaction is completed, he explained.

In this industry, brands like Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini have become the bread and butter for Card Fi. Even though it’s all business for Siegel these days, he couldn’t help but mention a particular card he had a personal attachment to.

“My personal favorite card in my collection is the 1965 Topps Joe Namath rookie card,” Siegel said. “Of course being a die hard New York Jets fan, that has to be my favorite card.”

Threads on deBanked


01-11-2021

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