A group of small businesses recently sued Bank of America in the Central District of California, alleging that it misled them about the terms of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. This marks yet another putative class action accusing lenders of misconduct in connection with the PPP.
The Complaint theorizes that Bank of America misled customers so that it could increase the amount and volume of fees it was paid for originating PPP loans. It alleges that Bank of America misled small businesses about two different aspects of the PPP.
First, it claims that Bank of America instructed small businesses to include compensation paid to independent contractors when calculating their forgivable loan amount. According to the Complaint, however, the PPP prohibited small businesses from including independent contractors as part of their loan amount. Because Bank of America told them to include this amount, the Complaint alleges, the plaintiffs took out loans that—unlike other PPP loans—were not forgivable.
Second, the Complaint alleges that Bank of America used an “unstated Bank of America formula” to persuade companies to take out higher loans than authorized by the PPP. The result of this effort, according to the Complaint, is that plaintiffs ended up with “overfunded” loans that were not eligible for loan forgiveness.
The suit seeks to certify a class of California businesses who were denied loan forgiveness because they either (1) incorrectly included payments to independent contractors in their loan applications; or (2) received a loan in excess of the correct loan calculation formula. It asserts a number of claims, including for breach of contract, fraud, and violations of California’s consumer deception laws. Notably, it seeks—among other relief—disgorgement of the fees that Bank of America received in connection with these loans.