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Volume XII, Number 140

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PPP Appeal Process Overview

In 2022, there will inevitably be an uptick in the number of appeals of Small Business Administration (SBA) loan decisions in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) context. This is due simply to the passage of time, to the point where a significant number of PPP recipients have applied for or will be applying for forgiveness of their PPP loans — and, unfortunately, some of those recipients have received or will be receiving some form of adverse final determination from the SBA regarding forgiveness. Accordingly, this article provides a user-friendly overview of the PPP appeal process.

Types of Appeals

The SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) has jurisdiction over appeals where the SBA has provided the borrower with a PPP final loan review decision, finding that the borrower is:

  1. Ineligible for a PPP loan;

  2. Ineligible for the PPP loan amount received or used the PPP loan proceeds for unauthorized uses;

  3. Ineligible for PPP loan forgiveness in the amount determined by the lender in its full approval or partial approval decision issued to the SBA; and/or

  4. Ineligible for PPP loan forgiveness in any amount when the lender has issued a full denial decision to the SBA. (13 C.F.R. § 134.1201(b))

However, a borrower cannot directly file with OHA an appeal of a decision made by a lender concerning a PPP loan.

Time Limits for Filing an Appeal

An appeal petition must be filed with OHA within 30 calendar days after the appellant’s receipt of the final SBA loan review decision.

Where to File

Appeals must be filed by using the OHA Case Portal.

Deferment Pending Appeal

A timely appeal by a PPP borrower of a final SBA loan review decision extends the deferment period of the PPP loan until a final decision is issued under 13 C.F.R. § 134.1211. The appellant must provide their lender with a copy of the timely appeal petition upon filing in order for the lender to extend the deferment period of the PPP loan until a final decision is issued.

Who May File an Appeal?

Only the borrower on a loan, or its legal successor in interest, for which the SBA has issued a final SBA loan review decision that makes a finding in 13 C.F.R. § 134.1201(b)(1) through (4) has standing to appeal the final SBA loan review decision to OHA. Lenders and individual owners of a borrower entity do not have standing to appeal a final SBA loan review decision.

Appeal Contents

The appeal petition must include the following information:

  1. A copy of the final SBA loan review decision that is being appealed and the date it was received by the borrower. A Notice of Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness Payment does not provide a borrower with a right to appeal to OHA.

  2. A full and specific statement as to why the final SBA loan review decision is alleged to be erroneous, together with all factual information and legal arguments supporting the allegations. There is no required format for an appeal petition. However, the appeal petition must meet the following requirements:

    1. The maximum length of an appeal petition (not including attachments) is 20 pages. A table of authorities is required only for petitions citing more than 20 cases, regulations, or statutes.

    2. Exhibits and attachments must be clearly labeled.

    3. The name, address, telephone number, email address, and signature of the appellant or its attorney must be included.

An appeal petition that does not contain all of this information may be dismissed, with or without prejudice, at the judge’s own initiative, or upon motion by the SBA. If an appeal is dismissed with prejudice, a borrower generally will not be able to refile.

Notice and Order

Once an appeal is received, an OHA judge will be assigned the matter and issue a Notice and Order establishing the dates and deadlines for the proceeding utilizing the OHA Case Portal.

Administrative Record and Evidence Beyond the Record

The SBA is responsible for producing the administrative record within 20 calendar days after issuance of the Notice and Order. This record must include all non-privileged, relevant documents that the SBA considered in making its final loan review decision or that were before the SBA at the time of the final loan review decision. The SBA is not required to produce all documents pertaining to the appellant borrower and may claim privilege over and withhold certain materials.

If the appellant believes documents are missing from the administrative record, or disagrees about claims of privilege, it may file an objection within 30 calendar days after the issuance of the Notice and Order.

Evidence beyond the written administrative record is generally impermissible. Neither discovery nor oral hearings are permitted in appeals from final SBA loan review decisions. All loan review appeals must be decided solely on a review of the administrative record, the appeal petition, any response, any reply or supplemental pleading, and filings related to objection to the administrative record.

Confidential Information

The regulations contemplate that confidential and proprietary information submitted as part of the appeal is exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Either the SBA or the appellant may seek a protective order to ensure protection and non-disclosure.

Response to Appeal Petition

Only the SBA may respond to an appeal. The SBA response must be timely filed within 45 calendar days from the issuance of the Notice and Order and set for the relevant facts and legal arguments in response to the issues presented on appeal. An appellant reply to SBA’s response is not permitted unless the OHA judge directs otherwise, so it is very important for the appellant’s initial appeal brief to be complete and persuasive.

Standard of Review

The appellant bears the burden of proof, and the standard of review is whether the final SBA loan review decision was based on clear error of fact or law.

Decision on Appeal

The OHA judge will issue an initial decision on the appeal within 45 calendar days after the close of the record, as practicable. Either the SBA or the appellant may either (1) request reconsideration, or (2) request a review by the administrator. If a request for reconsideration or review is not made within 30 calendar days, the initial decision becomes a final decision.

A request for reconsideration must be filed within 10 calendar days after service of the written decision and must clearly show an error of fact or law. A request for review by the administrator must be filed within 30 calendar days after service of an initial decision or a reconsidered initial decision. Final decisions may be appealed to the appropriate federal district court only.

Effects of the Decision

OHA may affirm, reverse, or remand an SBA loan review decision. If remanded back to the SBA for a new loan decision, OHA no longer has jurisdiction over the matter unless a new appeal is filed as a result of a new SBA loan review decision.

Conclusion

It is our hope that the foregoing overview makes the PPP appeal process less confusing and intimidating for PPP borrowers. It is important to note, however, that the SBA’s rules and regulations contain additional requirements beyond the primary requirements discussed above. Accordingly, it is important for borrowers to consult with legal counsel well in advance of initiating a PPP appeal before OHA.

© 2022 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 11
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About this Author

Aron C. Beezley Government Contracts Attorney Bradley D.C.
Partner

Aron Beezley is the co-leader of Bradley’s Government Contracts Practice Group. Ranked nationally in Government Contracts Law by Chambers in 2019-2021, named one of the “Top Attorneys Under 40” nationwide in Government Contracts Law by Law360 in 2016-2017, and listed in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” in Government Contracts Law in 2014-2021, Aron’s vast experience includes representation of government contractors in numerous industries and in all aspects of the government-contracting process, including negotiation, award,...

202-719-8254
Nathaniel J. Greeson Government Contracts Lawyer Bradley Law Firm
Associate

Nathaniel Greeson helps clients solve government contracts challenges. Nathaniel represents clients in a range of government procurement issues, including bid protests, claims, disputes, audits and investigations. He has extensive experience with GAO bid protests, agency-level protests, Court of Federal Claims (COFC) bid protests, and SBA OHA size and NAICS appeals, as well as experience with agency-level requests for equitable adjustments (REA) and claims, and Boards of Contract Appeals claims.

Nathaniel advises government contractors on compliance issues, prime/subcontractor...

202.719.8202
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