• Avoiding Default under an SBA Offer in Compromise

    13 November 2016
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    If the Small Business Administration (SBA) has accepted your offer in compromise, then congratulations are in order. But, be warned, you must follow the terms of your offer precisely and make all payments on time or risk default. In many cases we are approached by well intentioned people who established settlements with the SBA calling for payment of the settlement in equal consecutive monthly installments; however, for one reason or another they missed a payment or two. Missing a payment can have disastrous consequences and result in a referral to Treasury, the imposition of additional collection fees adding nearly 30% to your original debt, less a credit for your prior settlement payments and the resumption of interest on the uncollected balance (this assuming the SBA agreed to zero interest settlement for you).

    I knew a default was bad news – what can I do?

    If you have been advised that your SBA OIC is in default you must act quickly. It may not be possible to get the original settlement back by simply making up the missing payments and a new SBA Offer in Compromise may need to be submitted. There are simply too many variables in these cases and consulting a licensed attorney with experience in this area should seriously be considered.

    Missing a payment and paying ahead are both equally dangerous

    How can paying ahead be bad? When the SBA accepted your offer to pay in installments, it programmed its computers to look for payment in accordance with its terms; in most cases equal, consecutive, monthly payments of an exact amount are called for under the agreement. Many people concerned about defaulting think that paying ahead can protect them from default by establishing a cushion of sort. However, that is a very dangerous train of thought. In fact, all you will do is pay down the balance and in effect short the remaining duration of your agreement (much like paying a mortgage off earlier), but the next month’s payment will still be due. When the SBA’s computers fail to register payment, you are at risk of default and the account may be referred to Treasury (this process is highly automated).

    If you have paid ahead on your offer, but nonetheless received a notice of default, you should contact the SBA at once and explain the situation or consult with a licensed attorney experienced in this area. Although it may seem unfair, the government may strictly enforce the terms of your settlement to the letter. Instead of appreciating the gesture on your part, they may refer the debt to Treasury! Remember, SBA computers do a lot of this work and once transferred to Treasury, the SBA staffers may be unwilling to even discuss the matter.

    Can I pay off my settlement early?

    If your payment will completely pay off your settlement, then you may be able to do so safely, but you should contact the SBA or advise your attorney before doing so. The terms of your offer control and making a mistake can cost you dearly.

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  • The Bank turned down my Offer-in-Compromise. Can’t I just send it to the SBA for review?

    27 June 2016
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    As a general rule, more so now than in the past, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will direct a Guarantor to submit their SBA offer-in-compromise package to the lender for preliminary review and approval. In fact, not in every office, but in some, lenders will be given just 10-days to get the job done. It is not that the SBA is trying to be unkind, but if lenders what to support the deal time of the essence. Now, if for some reason the lender can’t or simply won’t cooperate in the process, SBA will usually take on the responsibility of doing the entire review and work out the particulars with the lender following their own internal process. But, what if the lender just won’t play ball?

    My lender has refused every offer I have made?

    First, make sure your packages are complete and your offer is serious. If you are working with a professional, they will know how to prepare your offer package and what is expected by the lender and the SBA. Where we see the most mistakes involves a blind appeal for sympathy. Folks, its not that the SBA analysts aren’t human; we work with them every day and the human factor comes into play all the time. But, the guidelines under which they operate require a stringent review of your financial condition. In short, your offer has to present itself as a better alternative to anything else the government is likely to collect from you through enforced collections. In many cases, administrative wage garnishment (AWG) makes it likely that a substantial percentage of the debt might be collected over your working lifetime. Therefore, if your offer has any chance of success it must, at a bare minimum, take that calculation into account.

    Second, make sure you are really putting your best foot forward. If you clearly have assets and are unwilling to borrow or at least consider partially liquidating them to support your offer, the SBA may consider the offer insincere — at least, that is my take. So, don’t bother low balling the SBA, unless the rationale for the low offer would make financial sense to the analyst.

    Finally, if the lender tells you the offer is just not enough, then look for a way to improve it, or you may end up in Treasury.

    Do I really need the lender’s approval?

    Yes, in the vast majority of cases, if your lender will not support your offer, the battle is lost. Gaining the support of your lender does not assure acceptance of your offer by the SBA, but failing to secure their recommendation in support of your offer all but assures its rejection. You may be under a lot of stress, but never never yell at your banker; it won’t help and can make things worse. The SBA Offer-in-Compromise package still requires a lot of work on your bank’s part, if they choose to recommend it for approval. Do not give your banker, who may be short-staffed, another reason to put your file on the corner of his her desk in the “I will get to it later pile”. Remember, you are asking the lender to help you and whatever other feelings you may have at the time, you need that help.

    The lender’s just doesn’t like anything I suggest. I think they are being unreasonable.

    In my experience, lenders rarely turn down a good offer. After all what’s not to like about recovering more money on a bad loan? Sadly, in some cases, lenders may have all but adopted a no settlement policy. A loan committee may have unrealistic expectations that the Guarantors simply cannot meet or may simply have a sour taste in their mouth based on the loan history or their interactions with the Borrower and Guarantors. Sometimes, it just feels personal and it may be.

    Can the bank just refuse to settle?

    Yes, the SBA, in my experience, will not question a bank’s refusal to settle. Only in certain situations where a bank refuses to review an offer within the time provided by the SBA will some SBA offices take over the offer review process. I am led to believe that, in those few cases, the bank may be asked by the SBA to essentially waive its right to any part of the recovery. Hence, at that point the bank’s consent no longer has any real bearing on the approval by the SBA.

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  • The Bank told me they would not pursue us, but the SBA just sent me a 60-day demand letter. Why is this happening?

    27 April 2016
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    Our attorneys routinely work with SBA loan defaults, so we all hear a lot of stories. But, not a week goes by where we don’t get at least one caller who is absolutely shocked they received a 60-day demand letter from the SBA. You might wonder at their surprise because, after all, they defaulted on a business loan and being pursued by the lender is expected, right? But, that’s just it — the lender promised they would not sue them and they would not otherwise pursue collection of the debt. In fact, their banker had known them for years and agreed nothing would be gained from suing them. Did the banker lie?

    Banks mean what they say, but don’t always say what they mean.

    No, in our story above, the banker did not lie to the caller. What the bank did do was to conclude the liquidation phase of the loan default and request payment on the SBA guarantee. A lender may request payment on the SBA guaranty for loans made under most SBA programs following a 60-day uncured deficiency. However, in all loan programs SBA strongly encourages lenders to fully liquidate the loan prior to repurchase. In this case, the lender probably did complete the liquidation of the business assets by selling them at auction or abandoning the collateral if it was of inconsequential value. The lender also probably reviewed the Guarantors’ financial statements and concluded they were judgment proof (e.g., all of their assets were exempt or substantially so such that any cost of collection would exceed the anticipated recovery). At that point the loan was probably moved to charge off status. From the banker’s point of view, it is usually (not always) case closed once they are paid by the SBA.

    When the other shoe drops.

    The problem with an SBA loan is that the SBA guarantee is intended to benefit the bank, not the Borrower and certainly not the Guarantors. The SBA guarantee is an inducement to the bank to make such loans because its reduces their risk. But, once the loan goes bad and the SBA pays off the guarantee, the SBA steps in and the demand letter they send is the government’s way of say it wants its money back. Yes, the SBA did indeed pay the bank, but now it wants the Guarantors to make good on the debt and pay up. If the Guarantors don’t do so in a timely manner, then the SBA will promptly refer the debt to the U.S. Treasury for further collection efforts, including administrative wage garnishment (AWG), Federal tax refund intercept and more.

    What are some of the lessons learned from this situation:

    1. If your banker tells you the bank is not going to pursue you, that does not mean the SBA won’t.
    2. If you want to be sure the SBA won’t pursue you, then you may want to explore the SBA offer-in-compromise program.

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  • Will a criminal record prevent me from getting an SBA loan or modifying one?

    12 November 2015
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    That depends. There are indeed eligibility factors for financial assistance based on the activities of the owners and the historical operation of the business. As such, the business cannot have been:

    (a) a business that caused the government to have incurred a loss related to a prior business debt;

    (b) a business owned 20 percent or more by a person associated with a different business that caused the government to have incurred a loss related to a prior business debt; or

    (c) a business owned 20 percent or more by a person who is incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or has been indicted for a felony or a crime of moral depravity.

    If you are having trouble with your SBA loan and are unsure whether your past or present actions might disqualify you from further participation in SBA programs, call one of the attorneys at the Perliski Law Group for a free initial consultation (214) 446-3934 or use the Contact Us form on our site.

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  • I guaranteed my brother’s SBA loan and he defaulted. Can I still get an SBA loan of my own?

    4 October 2015
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    The answer depends on whether or not you satisfied your obligations to the federal government. If you signed an Unconditional Personal Guaranty for a commercial loan backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), then you are responsible for the payment of the debt in the event your brother does not or cannot pay. In due course, the SBA will send you a notice letter that is effectively a demand for payment. If you do not pay the debt or make suitable arrangements agreeable to the SBA, then the debt will be referred to the U.S. Treasury Department for further collection activity.

    Apart from being placed into the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) and being exposed to tax refund intercept, administrative wage garnishment and the offset of other federal benefit payments like social security, you will be placed into the Credit Alert Interactive Voice Response System (CAIVRS).

    CAIVRS receives inputs from DOJ, Education, SBA, HUD, USDA and the VA. CAIVRS Reporting System is a system maintained by the federal government that lists persons who have defaulted or had a loan foreclosed within the last three years on a debt owed to the Federal government or are currently delinquent on a debt owed to the Federal government. When you apply for an SBA Loan, participating lenders are required to check the CAIVRS database to determine whether the individuals or businesses identified in applying for the loan have either a delinquent federal debt or a prior loss which bar them from SBA financial assistance.

    The government has a long memory and there is no statue of limitations on the collection of an unpaid non-tax treasury debt under the TOP program. So, before you sign on the dotted line, think hard. if the government takes a loss, you will be barred from the SBA loan program.

    If you would like more information on this subject, you may contact the Perliski Law Group at (214) 446-3934 for a free initial consultation.

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  • What is the SBA 7(a) Loan Guarantee Program?

    6 April 2015
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    The 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s flagship loan guaranty program. In fiscal year (FY) 2013, the 7(a) loan program provided 46,399 federal loan guarantees on approximately $17.9 billion of privately originated small business loans. Congress established the SBA 7(a) loan program (named after section 7[a] of the Small Business Act) in 1953. The program is designed to serve creditworthy small business borrowers who cannot otherwise obtain credit at reasonable terms and do not have other sources of financing.

    How Does this Program Work?

    The program provides lenders with a guaranty that if a loan defaults, the SBA will pay off the federally guaranteed portion of the remaining loan balance. These loans are available on a guaranteed basis to for-profit businesses that meet the SBA’s eligibility requirements, which include the following:

    1. The business must be small, as defined by the SBA;
    2. The business must not engage in prohibited activities;
    3. Proceeds of the loan must be used for an eligible purpose;
    4. The transaction must meet other SBA requirements.

    What can I do with an SBA 7(a) loan?

    Proceeds can be used to purchase machinery, equipment, fixtures, and supplies; make improvements to land and buildings; finance receivables and augment working capital; acquire and start businesses; and refinance existing debt under certain conditions.

    Maximum Loan Amount and SBA Guaranty

    For the lender, the regular 7(a) loan program can provide as much as an 85 percent guaranty for loans of $150,000 or less, and as much as a 75 percent guaranty for larger loans. The maximum 7(a) loan amount is $5 million. There is no minimum loan amount. The conditional guaranty covers a portion of the risk of payment default by the borrower, but not the risk of improper closing and servicing by the lender.

    Loan Structure

    Regular 7(a) loans are term loans with regular monthly payments of principal and interest and an established maturity date. Lenders and borrowers may negotiate interest-only payments during start-up and expansion phases of a project, when eligible. Balloon payments or call provisions are not allowed. A lender may not charge a borrower a prepayment penalty if the loan is paid off before maturity.

    The rate and term of a loan are based on negotiations between the lender and borrower, subject to the SBA’s maximums. The interest rate can be fixed or variable. The SBA guaranty is not a substitute for collateral, and the SBA expects each loan to be prudently secured. The SBA does not, however, decline requests to guarantee loans if the only unfavorable factor is insufficient collateral, provided the borrower offers all collateral it has available to secure the loan.

    Unconditional Guaranty

    This is a topic of an upcoming blog post, but sufficed to say, as a guarantor on an SBA loan, you may have unlimited personal liability in the event the loan defaults and liquidation of the business assets is insufficient to pay the loan in full. A spouse’s guarantee is frequently required, but can sometimes provide for limited liability, perhaps to the extent of his/her martial interest in a piece of pledged property. For example, if a homestead is pledged as collateral, it may be necessary to secure the spouse’s consent, even if he/she has nothing to do with the business.

    Need More Information?

    SBA Loans can be a powerful financial tool, but they can also expose guarantors to substantial risk of loss. If you would like more information about this topic, contact the SBA loan default attorneys at the Perliski Law Group at (214) 446-3924 for a free consultation.

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