DC Courts Rules SBA Must Release All PPP Data to ASBL and Media Conglomerates

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a decision issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg of Washington, D.C. held that the names and addresses of Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) borrowers and the amounts of PPP loans were not confidential, and ordered the United States Small Business Administration (“SBA”) to disclose this information to a coalition of news organizations under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). The Court recognized that the SBA had warned borrowers that the information would be made public under FOIA and emphasized the huge public interest in access to information about how taxpayer money is spent. It elaborated that transparency “enables meaningful evaluation of whether the PPP and EIDL program are being operated consistent with applicable legal constraints; whether funds have been distributed fairly, equitably, and devoid of fraud; and whether the programs are achieving their purpose.”

The Court’s order in Washington, D.C. is consistent with arguments that the American Small Business League (“ASBL”) has advanced in its own FOIA challenge to the aberrant cloak of secrecy that the SBA has attempted to cast over the PPP, which ASBL is litigating in San Francisco. ASBL is a small business advocacy organization based in California that has long pressed the federal government to administer its small business programs more transparently, using FOIA litigation and otherwise, and that fights to ensure that the federal government protects small businesses.

Lloyd Chapman, ASBL’s president, hailed the D.C. Court’s ruling, saying, “Like too many federal government programs, ASBL is concerned that the PPP didn’t do enough to protect small businesses. I suspect that the information would not be released until after the election. These lawsuits have gone on for months. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Trump Administration decided to release the data as soon as it was over.”

Karl Olson, ASBL’s attorney in its California case, agreed. “The public’s interest in knowing how hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent is overwhelming. We are pleased that Judge Boasberg recognized this and shined some much-needed sunlight on this important information.”