Articles by deBanked Staff

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Andrew Smith Recalls Era as FTC Director

February 27, 2021
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Andrew Smith, who became Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) in 2018, ended his time with the agency on January 29, 2021. In a LinkedIn post recapping his tenure there, he said:

Despite a month-long government shutdown and a once-in-a-century pandemic, BCP brought more than 200 enforcement actions against companies great and small, including many household names, obtaining strong injunctions and billions of dollars in civil penalties and consumer redress.

BCP also had several firsts, including the first cases holding technology platforms liable in connection with user-generated content; the first small business financing cases; the first cases against VoIP service providers and finance companies for assisting and facilitating fraud; the first cases involving fake reviews, fake rankings and consumer review gag provisions; the first fair lending case at the FTC in more than a decade; the first paperless redress program; and the first CBD cases.

The FTC has been going through some changes with the introduction of a new administration. FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, for example, will be the next head of the CFPB, pending his confirmation.

Kabbage To Be “Relaunched” by Amex End of Q1 Into Q2

February 25, 2021
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kabbageAmerican Express was fairly vague about details related to its recently acquired small business lending platform, Kabbage, in its Q4 earnings disclosed last month, but analysts were curious and asked executives for more information on the call.

“As far as Kabbage goes,” said Stephen Squeri, Amex’s CEO, “I think the thing that we’re really excited about is Kabbage is it gives us a platform that we can interact with our small businesses. And so, to be able to go to one platform to not only get a working capital loan, to get a term loan, to have now a business checking account, to be able to have your card product, to do cash flow analysis on the platform, it gives us sort of an all-in-one platform to serve the needs of small businesses, which is why we did that and what we’ve been shooting for over the last couple of years, it was just a very fortuitous time and a very fortuitous acquisition for us. And we’ll be rolling that out end of Q1 into Q2 and continuing to make enhancements on Kabbage. So we’re really excited about it and the opportunities that it brings from a small business perspective.”

Earlier in the call Squeri said that work was already underway “to integrate and relaunch Kabbage’s suite of products.”

In 2019, Kabbage had been among the top 3 online small business lenders in the country. Covid-related stress likely played a factor in their being acquired by Amex in 2020.

Following that, Kabbage co-founder Kathryn Petralia told deBanked: “American Express shares our vision to be an essential partner to small businesses, and we couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity to continue the important work of providing solutions and innovative capabilities that address a range of small business cash flow needs alongside AmEx.”

LoanMe Has Been Acquired Along With Liberty Tax By Canadian Listed SPAC

February 22, 2021
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LoanMe has been acquired. The announcement was made by Nextpoint, a SPAC listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange that simultaneously acquired Liberty Tax.

The combined company will be called NextPoint Financial.

NextPoint will acquire LoanMe at an enterprise value of approximately US$102 million, US$18 million of which is payable in cash, approximately US$49 million of which is payable in NextPoint common stock equivalents and with the balance of which reflects the assumption of existing corporate net debt at LoanMe.

“We are a one-stop financial services destination empowering hardworking and credit-challenged consumers and small businesses to get to the NextPoint in the financial futures,” the company said of its newly formed self.

The company says that LoanMe had originated $2 billion since inception, 340,000+ borrowers since inception, and has a $200 million loan portfolio. Liberty Tax, meanwhile, processes 185,000+ SME tax returns, 1 million+ US consumer tax returns, and 400k+ Canadian tax returns.

Combined, the company projects $317M in revenue in 2021.

“NextPoint has obtained a commitment for a new US$200 million revolving credit facility, advances under which may be used for NextPoint’s general corporate purposes, including to fund the Liberty Tax and LoanMe cash purchase prices, and to fund potential future acquisitions,” the company said in a public release.


The MCA of the Major Leagues

February 20, 2021
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Petco park - san diego padresIt’s been said a million times. It’s not a loan. The seller receives an upfront payment in exchange for an agreed upon percentage of future earnings. If there’s no earnings, then nothing is owed.

No, it’s not a merchant cash advance, it’s a big league advance, a deal offered by a company named just that, Big League Advance (BLA) to baseball players.

“Players receive an upfront investment from Big League Advance in exchange for an agreed upon percentage of their future Major League earnings,” the BLA website says. “If the player never makes it to the Major Leagues, the player will never owe or pay any money back to Big League Advance.”

The company was founded in 2016 and recently made the news because of its success with Padres player Fernando Tatís Jr. Tatís recently signed a 14 year contract with the team worth $340 million, the third highest in history. And now BLA stands to get their cut, potentially as much as $30 million, according to the WSJ.

The BLA website explains it as such:

Players choose what percentage of their future career earnings they want to give Big League Advance. For example, Big League Advance may offer a player $50,000 for every 1% of his future professional earnings. If a player wanted to sign a deal for 5%, he would receive $250,000, or if he wanted to sign a deal for 10%, he would receive $500,000. While our offer amounts are non-negotiable, the percentage the player would like to give up is up to the player.

The average deal is for 8% and the underwriting performed is a combination of the players’ background, scouting, and statistics.

Michael Schwimer, a former Major League pitcher, is the founder and CEO. The WSJ says that the company has made advances to 350 players for a combined $150 million.

BlueVine’s CEO on Latest Round of PPP

February 10, 2021
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BlueVine CEO Eyal Lifshitz took to twitter last night to update customers on the status of this PPP round. Word from around the industry has suggested that approvals have been slower and that in certain situations, additional documentation is being asked for because of the SBA’s heightened scrutiny.

Below is Lifshitz’s consolidated twitter thread.

As a third-generation entrepreneur, my decision to build BlueVine was personal—I believe in and have dedicated myself to small businesses. To the customers reaching out for Paycheck Protection Program support, know that I’ve read your messages and want to update you directly.

When the latest Paycheck Protection Program was announced, we knew we had to step up again and help small businesses. Though the cause was close to our mission, we had to refocus our business completely. If you feel this program has been slower, it has. But for good reasons.

Waiting is frustrating, especially if these funds will make or break your business. There are explanations for the longer wait times, which can actually mean GOOD news for your business. Let me break this down.

The SBA’s program changes were significant, adding Second Draws and other improvements. Every change requires an additional product build and support team training, ensuring we’re compliant and provide the most efficient and effective application process.

The program’s adjustments include serving the hardest-hit businesses (and not large well-known companies). This extra due-diligence means additional documentation and information for us to review. It also means that smaller businesses may have a greater share of the funds.

The previous PPP round was impacted by some fraudulent actors. To prevent funds from getting in the wrong hands, the SBA added more robust requirements. While this added protection is more work and slows things down, it ensures funding remains for those that need it most.

We know the process of reviewing and approving PPP loans was slow at first, but we wanted to ensure we got it right before automating. Since we started, our throughput has more than tripled. If you’re in review, be patient. We haven’t forgotten about you!

I want to emphasize that BlueVine, and me personally, are committed to serving small businesses. We’ve more than doubled our customer support team to better assist you during what I can only imagine has been a brutal year. We see you and are doing everything we can to help.

StreetShares Discontinues Veteran Business Bonds

February 3, 2021
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StreetShares, the former online lender that pivoted to Lending-as-a-Service in October, is no long offering its veteran business bond program as a result.

A note on its website says:
“Thank you Veteran Business Bond investors! We have achieved our Bond funding needs. As a result, we have discontinued our offering of Veteran Business Bonds. New Bonds are no longer available for purchase or investment. Your current Bonds continue to earn 5% annual interest. Investors are able to log in to access their accounts.

An Amazon Capital Lending Loan

February 2, 2021
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Amazon’s small business lending business is no small operation. deBanked recently viewed a loan agreement between Amazon Lending and an Amazon seller in which the seller received a loan of $300,000 at an annual interest rate of 15.99%.

amazon lending

In 2019, we estimated that the company had originated $1.5B in small business loans, placing them in the #5 slot on our list, but the company is possibly on track to be #1.

Debt Settlement Scammer Set For Prison Release

February 1, 2021
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Sergiy Bezrukov, the mastermind behind a debt settlement scheme that wreaked havoc on merchants and MCA funders in 2015, is on pace to be released from prison on July 6, 2021, federal records say.

Bezrukov was sentenced to 66 months in prison starting in July 2019 and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution to victims.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wei Xiang and Mary Clare Kane, who worked on the case, stated at the time that Bezrukov “solicited small businesses across the United States that were operating with merchant cash advances to ‘restructure’ their ‘debt’ with him. The defendant fraudulently induced the businesses to stop paying their original obligations, and to pay him instead.”

He will have served a third of his sentence when he is released.