PPP loan fraud may top $76 billion
There have many questions about how much of the tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans and other relief the federal government pushed out the door in 2020 were lost to fraud. A new study of paycheck protection loans says the losses could reach $76 billion:
Around 1.8 million of the program’s 11.8 million loans — more than 15 percent — totaling $76 billion had at least one indication of potential fraud, the researchers concluded.
The PPP has a hastily crafted program intended to keep workers on payrolls during the depths of government-mandated shutdowns. With so much money available, and some avenues for getting the loans apparently easier than others, fraud naturally followed:
Government watchdogs have long warned of a high fraud risk on the rushed loans; the Justice Department has charged more than 500 people with improperly claiming hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing.
The fraud aspect aside, the money that went to legitimate loans may have saved jobs at a very high price:
“Our evidence, along with evidence that the P.P.P. saved relatively few jobs at a high cost, provides growing evidence that the P.P.P. seems to have been a poor allocation of capital,” they wrote. “The sheer scope of the tens and hundreds of thousands of suspicious loans originated by many fintech lenders suggests that many lenders either encouraged such loans, turned a blind eye to them, or had lax oversight procedures.”
One might expect government officials to learn lessons from such research and ensure that, should a PPP-like program ever be needed again, it will be less prone to fraud. But that may be asking a lot from entities that are required to do something in a crisis. The result is often hurried, half-baked, and a honeypot for crime.