Last Thursday was the day the Small Business Administration (SBA) was ordered by a court to release detailed data on all of its money disbursed under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), right down to the smallest one. But the huge amount of data that would disclose information on many companies in the trucking sector remains under wraps.
The SBA received what is known as a minute order that allowed the agency to avoid disclosing the massive amount of information on granular data regarding the PPP loans.
An attorney connected to the litigation told FreightWaves it is awaiting the court to rule on the broader stay requested by the SBA last week.
The earlier federal court decision requiring more extensive disclosure of who got what in the PPP came in a case brought by the Center for Public Integrity as well as several news organizations, including The Washington Post.
In its request for a stay, the SBA raised the same issue it did in the earlier litigation: the privacy of the borrowers, which includes a massive number of smaller trucking companies that were not identified in the first round of disclosure because their loans were less than $150,000.
To show how vast the universe of smaller borrowers is for the 4841 North American Industry Classification System code code, which covers general trucking, Georgia alone has more than 4,800 borrowers that fit that bill. That’s just one state.
The total amount disbursed to companies in the transportation and warehousing sector was about $17.5 billion, though that includes the borrowers that received loans in excess of $150,000 and already have been identified. However, the data released for those borrowers only listed the amount they received as part of a wide range. The specific size was not disclosed.
More than 3,200 companies in the two main government classifications that comprise long-distance trucking received PPP loans in excess of $150,000.
At present, the only thing that has been disclosed for the borrowers less than $150,000 is that a company in a certain town got a loan and the size of that loan, along with the NAICS code. The identity of the borrower is not disclosed.
The so-far successful lawsuit against the SBA requests full disclosure. Full disclosure would also require specific amounts to be disclosed for the larger borrowers whose names are out there but not the exact amounts they received from SBA. Only a borrowing range so far has been disclosed.
“SBA and the many individual borrowers and businesses across the nation whose interest the agency legitimately seeks to protect against unwarranted instruction in this case will be irreparably harmed if the information withheld is released pending appeal,” government lawyers wrote in their request for a stay. “Once the information is disclosed, it cannot be recalled and the confidentiality of the PPP and EIDL information in dispute would be lost for all time.”
In addition to PPP disclosure, the lawsuit by the media companies and the Center for Public Integrity also sought information on loans under the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), a program that existed prior to the pandemic. PPP was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In its request for a stay, the SBA asked that its required disclosure date be moved to Dec. 7, but only if the agency had not filed a notice of appeal by then, which it clearly plans on doing.
“The PPP currently stands closed to new applications, making the data about PPP borrowers a question of historical interest that can be amply examined once an appeal is decided,” the SBA’s request for a stay said. SBA lawyers added that it believes the agency is likely to succeed on the merits in any appeal. Further, “at a minimum, SBA’s arguments raise serious legal questions for appeal, which is all that is required where, as here, the balance of harms strongly favors a stay.”