Wall Street Is Hampering Small Businesses:
When Michael Sullivan borrowed $22 million from a specialist Wall Street lender in 2018 to buy and renovate two Florida hotels, he had no idea how costly that decision would prove to be.
He found out recently, once visitors stopped coming to his properties because of the pandemic, prompting him to seek help from the federal government’s new small business loan program.
But first, he had to tussle with his lender, the credit fund Benefit Street Partners, just to win permission to get the government loan.
The legal fight cost him thousands of dollars and a month in lost time.
The CARES Act, which created the government’s Paycheck Protection Program that Mr. Sullivan borrowed from, prohibits any loan money from being controlled by other lenders.
At the same time, it does not outlaw lenders like Benefit Street from enforcing existing contracts with borrowers seeking government funds.
The $650 billion program has helped millions of small businesses, but its rollout was uneven and slowed by confusing rules. The program’s structure itself created other challenges.
For businesses such as Mr. Sullivan’s, the program’s structure has required them to fight costly legal battles simply to get any funds at all.