Report PPP Loan Fraud and Earn a Reward
If you are aware of a business that submitted false claims to the government to receive or keep a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), you may be able to report PPP loan fraud and earn a reward.
While the PPP was implemented to help struggling businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, some loan borrowers took advantage of the PPP by lying on their loan applications. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice has started targeting and prosecuting PPP loan borrowers suspected of fraud.
Whistleblowers who are aware of PPP loan fraud can alert the government to the fraud by filing a lawsuit under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to put a stop to the PPP fraud and entitles whistleblowers to earn between 15% and 30% of the amount of money recovered by the government. This means that whistleblowers can potentially receive millions of dollars for blowing the whistle on PPP loan fraud.
What is the Paycheck Protection Program?
The PPP is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which is a massive stimulus package designed to help businesses to survive the recent downturn in the economy. The PPP provides businesses with loans intended to cover payroll costs, mortgage payments, rent, and utilities. In many cases, these loans are forgivable if certain requirements are met.
What types of PPP loan fraud are there?
PPP loan fraud can occur in a variety of ways. The most obvious type of PPP loan fraud occurs where a loan borrower lied about having a business in order to obtain a loan. The government has also been targeting business owners who lied about the number employees they have in order to obtain a larger amount of loan money. While these are obvious types of PPP loan fraud, the fraud isn’t as apparent in most cases.
The amount of loan money a borrower can receive from a PPP loan is determined by an exact calculation. Specifically, businesses can apply to receive 2.5 times their monthly payroll (up to $100,000). If a borrower intentionally fudges the numbers on these calculations in order to receive more money, the borrower has committed fraud. The PPP also requires borrowers to provide paperwork to support their calculations (such as tax documents). If these supporting documents are not accurate, the borrower has also likely committed fraud.
Another issue that will likely spark many PPP fraud investigations is the good-faith certification. In order to receive PPP loan money, a borrower must certify in good faith that the loan request is necessary to support ongoing business operations due to current economic uncertainty. If the borrower’s business wasn’t economically hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, or if the borrower has other sources of funding to help their business, the borrower may have committed fraud by falsely certifying that the loan was necessary.
Another potential type of PPP loan fraud concerns loan forgiveness. While PPP loans can be forgiven, the government requires borrowers to meet strict requirements to obtain this benefit. One of the chief requirements is that forgiveness only applies to expenses related to payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, and utility payments. In addition, these expenses must have been incurred within eight weeks from the date the loan originated. If a borrower applies for loan forgiveness when the money was spent on other expenses, or if the borrower does not have proper documentation of how the money was spent, the borrower may have committed fraud.
If you want to report PPP loan fraud, start here:
How does a whistleblower earn a reward?
Who can qualify as a whistleblower?
How much are whistleblowers paid?
How do I report PPP loan fraud and earn a reward?
A whistleblower can stop PPP fraud and earn a substantial monetary award by filing a False Claims Act lawsuit. While almost anyone with knowledge of the fraud can be a whistleblower under the False Claims Act, a whistleblower is typically someone with first-hand knowledge of the fraud (such as an employee, customer, or competitor of the business committing the fraud)
If you believe that a business or business owner has committed PPP loan fraud, your first step is to hire an experienced whistleblower lawyer. A lawyer will analyze your case to determine if it is a viable False Claims Act case and help you weigh the pros and cons of filing a whistleblower lawsuit. A lawyer can also take steps to make sure that you are not implicated in any illegal activity that maybe taking place at a business. While a whistleblower should take a number of steps when filing a False Claims Act lawsuit, a whistleblower can assist his or her attorney in a PPP fraud case by doing the following things:
- Hire an experienced whistleblower lawyer.
- Gather any documents in your possession that relate to the business and the PPP loan application.
- Collect any written or electronic communication in your possession that may show the borrower’s intent to commit fraud.
- Provide a list of employees who you believe were used to calculate the loan amount.
- Be prepared to explain in detail how the fraud occurred and when the fraud occurred.
Your lawyer will review all of the relevant documents and begin to build a case against the offending loan borrower. Sometimes the initial information and documents provided by a whistleblower will be enough to put together a strong case. In other cases, additional investigative work will need to be done. If your lawyer believes that there is a strong case against the loan borrower, he or she will likely alert the government to the fraud before filing a lawsuit against the loan borrower in federal court.
Once the lawsuit is filed, your lawyer will work closely with the government to investigate the fraud and litigate the case against the borrower. If the case results in a settlement or judgment against the loan borrower, your lawyer will work hard to ensure that you receive the largest award possible.
How much can a whistleblower earn if they report PPP loan fraud?
The False Claims Act allows a whistleblower to earn between 15 and 30 percent of the amount of money that the government recovers from the fraud reported by a whistleblower. The percentage awarded to a whistleblower depends on a number of factors, including whether the government intervenes in (or takes over) the case as well as the quantity and quality of the information provided by the whistleblower. In many cases, whistleblowers can earn millions of dollars by filing a False Claims Act lawsuit with the right lawyer.
It is important to note that the False Claims Act provides the additional benefit of protecting employees from retaliation. Employees who are retaliated against for reporting fraud can sue their employer under the False Claims Act for significant damages.
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