The emergency program was passed to help small businesses cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many firms took the loans and advised clients to do so as well in pursuit of “newly available government laws, regulations and tax codes to their best financial advantage,” and not due to economic distress. However, following revelations of several wealthy institutions and firms taking funds from the program, public outrage, and new guidance from the SEC and Small Business Administration, some are returning the money.
One top firm—Moneta Group—said it took a PPP loan to protect itself “from having to furlough people at a time when our clients need us most,” according to the article from NBC News. In late April, the firm, which has 300 employees, said it wasn’t considering layoffs.
Moneta, which primarily serves high-net-worth individuals and handles $24 billion in investments, recently told NBC News it was no longer taking the funds in order "to ensure they reach the hands of other businesses in more need."
Moneta is not alone. Manning & Napier disclosed in an SEC filing it applied for a PPP loan in April to help cover payroll and rent, but later noted it rescinded its application following the guidance from SBA.
These examples, among others, are part of a larger debate about whether firms who technically followed the letter of the law, but maybe not the intent, should face punishment. NBC News said that some of the financial advisors barely impacted by the outbreak decided to apply for the PPP loans because of guidance received from their tax attorneys, business managers and advisers, according to sources.