MILWAUKEE: Agency BVK is paying $2.3 million to settle a claim arising from its participation in the Small Business Administration’s second-draw Paycheck Protection Program loan program.
The settlement agreement, made on Thursday, states allegations only; BVK does not admit liability for the allegations.
The Justice Department alleges that the Milwaukee-based firm was handling PR for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism when it applied for the second-draw loan. The work triggered a Foreign Agents Registration Act-registration obligation, which rendered BVK ineligible for a second-draw PPP loan.
However, BVK applied for and received a $2 million second-draw loan, which the Small Business Administration later repaid. BVK’s loan application did not disclose its FARA-registration obligation, according to a statement from Gregory Haanstad, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
The government’s investigation resulted from a whistleblower complaint filed under provisions of the False Claims Act. The whistleblower will receive a share of the settlement.
The Paycheck Protection Program was enacted in the early months of COVID-19 to help businesses cover payroll and other costs. The Second Draw PPP Loan, put into place late in 2020, had the same general loan terms as the first, helping organizations pay for costs of payroll, as well as mortgage interest, rent and other expenses.