AGC Launches Broad Effort to Increase Transparency of SBA’s Decision-Making Process Going Beyond Lawsuit, AGC Submits Detailed Request for Agency Data
On May 10, AGC submitted a detailed request for information to the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking:
- The information the association requires to determine just how long SBA is taking to process applications for the forgiveness of loans over $2M;
- How that time compares with the time SBA is taking to process applications for the forgiveness of loans under $2M;
- Copies of all contracts with private companies for assistance in scoring or otherwise evaluating applications for the forgiveness of loans over $2M;
- Any instructions that SBA has provided either to such companies or to its own employees; and
- Copies of all descriptions, summaries and explanations of the “multi-factor analysis” that the agency claims to be making.
AGC expects the agency to require several weeks to respond to the association’s request and the association intends to work with the agency in a positive and pro-active effort to facilitate a response. If necessary, AGC is, however, prepared to assert its legal rights to the requested information, under the FOIA.
AGC filed the request in response to recent changes in the nature and scope of the problem that SBA is creating. Members report that they have already waited many months for SBA to act on their applications for the forgiveness of loans over $2M. SBA continues to hide the difference in the time it requires to process applications for the forgiveness of loans over and under $2M. AGC has learned that a private company is playing an apparently significant but uncertain role in the processing of applications for the forgiveness of loans over $2M. While SBA has clarified that it will base its decisions on a “multi-factor analysis” of the “totality of [each] borrower’s circumstances,” the agency has yet to share any of the particulars of that analysis, such as the factors that it weighs, or how it weighs them.
As AGC waits for SBA to respond to its request for information, the association will continue to talk to the agency about the potential for a settlement of the lawsuit that the association filed against the agency last December. The narrower and more specific target of that lawsuit is the “Loan Necessity Questionnaire” that continues to burden all applicants for the forgiveness of loans over $2M. In response to that lawsuit, SBA finally posted official copies of that secretly developed questionnaire on the agency’s web site. The agency also provided borrowers with guidance on the form and solicited a second round of public comments on its particulars. At this point, SBA continues to review those comments but has yet to make any public commitment to make changes to the form.