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PPP: Dozens of public companies kept millions of dollars in small-business loans

July 7, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

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Months after government officials warned public companies that received small-business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program that they could face “criminal liability” for taking the stimulus money, dozens of such companies have apparently not returned the funds.

The list of businesses that received PPP loans, released by the U.S. Treasury Department Monday, includes scores of companies whose stocks are publicly traded in such venues as the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange. While the database of PPP borrowers does not include companies that returned their loans, including Shake Shack and Potbelly, it does list at least 38 other public companies that received loans of between $5 million and $10 million—the maximum amount allowed by the program, Fortune’s analysis found.

Those companies run the gamut from tech companies such as Nasdaq-traded Telenav, which has a market valuation of $255 million, to retailers such as Stein Mart as well as biotech and medical firms including Endologix, which received as much as $10 million in early May—but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday.

Under the stimulus package’s rules, government-guaranteed PPP loans can be forgiven if borrowers meet certain requirements. In April, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged that PPP loans of more than $2 million would be reviewed, and that companies have to show that they needed the money to support their operations.

“It is unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification in good faith,” according to the Treasury Department’s official guidance.

Still, it may be possible that companies, even publicly traded ones, with lower market capitalizations and more limited liquidity could argue that they needed the PPP funds to survive the pandemic, especially as store closures sank stock prices. It’s unclear how regulators will treat such companies when they review their loans, as well as companies owned by large investors like private equity funds.

Meanwhile, more companies have also been returning PPP funds: Although public companies have only returned just over $436 million in stimulus funds, according to research firm FactSquared, a government official told CNBC that a total of $30 billion in PPP loans had been returned or canceled.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported that fast-food chain Bojangles’, owned by private equity firms, received a PPP loan of as much as $10 million, according to the government data. A spokesperson for the company, however, says that while Bojangles’ applied and was approved for the loan, it subsequently decided not to accept the money. It’s one of several errors in the data to be revealed so far.

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