Contracting Abuses Could be Solved With New Bill

Press Release

Contracting Abuses Could be Solved With New Bill

July 29, 2010

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Small Business Administration and its Programs,” which focused on longstanding contracting abuses at the U.S. Small Business Administration.   

At the hearing Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D – NY) stated, "A main focus of the Committee's oversight work has been the agency's procurement programs. With large businesses receiving small business contracts and fraud regularly being uncovered, it is critical that the Committee examine these programs.  We will continue our investigations until the agency fully resolves these issues.” (  

Since 2003, more than a dozen federal investigations have uncovered the diversion of billions of dollars a year in federal small business contracts to corporate giants.  To date no legislation has been passed to curb these abuses.

Most Washington insiders believe the best solution to the problem is H.R. 2568, the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act.  Representative Hank Johnson (D – GA) introduced the bill during the 111th Congress.  The bill currently has 25 co-sponsors. The American Small Business League (ASBL) wrote the original draft of the bill in consultation with noted contracting expert professor Charles Tiefer. The bill is based on current provisions of the Small Business Act, which define a small business as a firm that is "independently owned."  H.R. 2568 will prevent the federal government from reporting awards to publicly traded firms as small business awards. Publicly traded firms do not qualify as "independently owned."  (  

The bill has been in consideration in Congresswoman Velázquez’s committee since February of 2009.

As recently as June, the American Small Business League (ASBL) released an analysis of the recipients of federal small business contracts during FY 2009.  The ASBL conducted a review of the top 100 contract recipients and identified 61 large firms, which received 64.5 percent of the total dollars the government claimed to have awarded to small businesses. (

“H.R. 2568 is a deficit neutral, and much needed solution to these long standing abuses.  The diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants has gone on for over a decade. Even though many members of Congress have talked about solving the issue, no legislation has been passed,” ASBL President Lloyd Chapman said. “Now is the time to pass this legislation as a means of boosting the middle class economy. If Congresswoman Velázquez is serious about ending these abuses, I can’t see why she wouldn’t pass this legislation out of her committee before the end of this Congressional session.”




Contracting Reform Bill Will Trump Obama Jobs Bill

Press Release

Contracting Reform Bill Will Trump Obama Jobs Bill

July 28, 2010

This week the United States Senate is slated to vote on another round of lending focused “jobs legislation,” which may do little to stimulate the nation’s economy or create jobs.  H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 would direct $30 billion in federal assistance to community banks as a means of bolstering lending. (  

The American Small Business League (ASBL) is concerned that Congress and the Obama Administration are focusing attention on tired solutions that have not worked, while ignoring solutions that would directly funnel billions of dollars a year in federal spending to America’s 27 million small business owners.

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau small businesses are responsible for more than 50 percent of the nation’s non-farm private sector workforce, 90 percent of innovations, 90 percent of exports and nearly 100 percent of net new jobs.  A recent study from the Kauffman Foundation found that companies less than 5 years old create nearly all-net new jobs. (

The ASBL strongly believes the best way to stimulate the nation’s economy is to direct federal infrastructure spending to the middle class. 

Since 2003, more than a dozen federal investigations have uncovered the diversion of more than $100 billion a year in federal small business contracts to some of the largest corporations in the United States and Europe.  H.R. 2568, the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act would stop the diversion of government small business contracts to corporate giants, and redirect those funds to small businesses in the middle class.  The ASBL believes that if passed, H.R. 2568 would do more to stimulate the nation’s economy than anything proposed by the Obama Administration or Congress to date. (  

Recently, the Congressional Oversight Panel, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) released highly critical reports regarding the Obama Administration’s efforts to further bolster community bank lending to small businesses.  Both reports indicated that small businesses across the country are in need of business opportunities and increased demand for their products and services as opposed to increased access to capital. ( ;  

“It does not make sense to continue giving billions of dollars a year in federal small business contracts to corporate giants, and then turn around and try lending billions of dollars to small businesses who are floundering in a dire economic environment,” ASBL President Lloyd Chapman said.




U.S. Small-Business Aid May Create $300 Billion of `Junk' Loans


U.S. Small-Business Aid May Create $300 Billion of `Junk' Loans

By Laura Keeley and David Henry
July 26, 2010

President Barack Obama is on the verge of creating as much as $300 billion in credit for small businesses as bankers raise doubt about whether there’s demand for new loans and how much will be repaid.

The U.S. Senate may vote this week on a bill to funnel $30 billion of capital to community banks, whose business customers typically are small firms. Banks could leverage the sum to make $300 billion in loans that create jobs, according to a Senate summary. That could more than double the commercial and industrial loans at eligible banks as of the first quarter, according to data compiled by KBW Inc.

Bankers say the problem isn’t scarce credit, it’s lack of demand from creditworthy firms in a weak economy. The result may be more loans given to distressed firms and higher losses. While bank regulators don’t compile default rates, the biggest lenders have charge-offs of 4 percent to 14 percent tied to small businesses. Eliot Stark, managing director at Capital Insight Partners Inc., said their credit record resembles “junk.”

“The highest demand for loans is from the companies least qualified, the companies that have really struggled because of the economic downturn,” said Stark, a former Comerica Inc. executive whose Chicago-based investment bank helps community lenders raise capital. The way lawmakers see it, “everyone’s a good borrower, and that’s just not the case.”

Vote Pending

Obama’s program passed the House last month and is awaiting Senate approval after disputes over the cost, tax breaks added to the bill and concern that it’s another bank bailout like the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Terms call for banks with assets of less than $10 billion to receive U.S. Treasury Department investments in preferred stock or other instruments to promote small-business loans, according to Senate documents.

“If we can help the big banks, then we should certainly be able to help small-business lending,” Obama said June 30. He’s been pushing to increase credit for entrepreneurs since October and summoned leaders of the biggest banks to the White House in December. The Small Business Administration estimates the nation’s 30 million small firms defined as those with fewer than 500 employees create 64 percent of new jobs.

The Independent Community Bankers of America is “wildly supportive” of the bill, said chief economist Paul Merski, whose Washington-based lobby represents almost 5,000 lenders. The American Bankers Association favors passage and the National Federation of Independent Business, which lobbies for small companies, says it supports financing for “creditworthy” firms that have trouble getting loans.

Cost Estimate

Taxpayers could break even if the program is properly structured so that interest and fees cover losses, Stark said. Banks will be charged an initial interest rate of 5 percent, declining to 1 percent if they increase small-business loans or rising as high as 7 percent if the loans stay the same or decrease, according to Richard Carbo, spokesman for the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship committee.

The program will earn $1.1 billion over 10 years, and “this is nothing like TARP,” Carbo said. With no cost to taxpayers, “this is one of the most efficient bang-for-your buck initiatives you can put forward,” Gene Sperling, counselor to the Treasury secretary, said in an interview.

Bank loans to small firms fell 5.6 percent to $670 billion as of March from $710 billion in June 2008, according to the Federal Reserve. First-quarter commercial and industrial loans for commercial banks with $10 billion or less in assets -- the threshold for the U.S. program -- totaled about $240 billion, according to analyst Melissa Roberts at KBW in New York.

Default Rates

Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender, is trying to “make every good loan we can,” said David Darnell, president of global commercial banking, in a June 3 statement. “Our clients are telling us that until they see sales pick up, they are reluctant to hire and invest.”

Wells Fargo & Co., which says it’s the biggest small- business lender, is “sitting here with tons of liquidity and we’re marching double time in search of more loans,” Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf said in an interview. “In most cases when I hear stories about small businesses not getting loans, it’s the case that more credit will not help them. They need more equity, they need more profitability.”

Nationwide default rates for small businesses aren’t known, say U.S. officials, with spokesmen for the Fed, Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. saying their agencies don’t compile a figure. Among the group of banks surveyed by KBW’s Roberts, 2.81 percent of loans were non-current or charged off as of the first quarter.


Other gauges show higher defaults, with the SBA reporting a 6.8 percent rate this year on its main “7(a)” loan program through May, higher than junk bonds. Defaults on U.S. corporate speculative-grade debt since 1981 averaged 4.5 percent, according to Standard & Poor’s.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., ranked second by assets, reported small-business charge-offs fell to 4.04 percent in the second quarter from 4.70 percent a year earlier. Charge-offs for all commercial loans at the New York-based bank were 0.74 percent.

Bank of America wrote off 14 percent of small-business loans in 2010’s first half, more than 10 times the rate for other commercial loans. Spokesman Jefferson George declined to comment on the default rate. Citigroup Inc.’s Robert Julavits said the New York bank doesn’t disclose its defaults.

More than 240 banks have failed since the start of 2009 as consumers and businesses fell behind on loans. Most of the failures were community lenders.

Small-business loans show higher credit losses than larger companies in “good or bad” times, said American Express Co. CEO Kenneth I. Chenault in a June 2 teleconference. Spokesman Tom Sclafani said AmEx, which offers a line of credit cards to small firms, doesn’t release default data.

Borrowers Balk

The biggest card firm dedicated to small business was Advanta Corp., based in Spring House, Pennsylvania. Advanta cut off its approximately 1 million accounts last year after defaults soared to 20 percent. They eventually topped 50 percent as small firms were “devastated” by the recession, according to Advanta, which went bankrupt in November.

Small borrowers are higher risks because their size leaves less room for error, bankers say. Half fail within their first five years, according to the SBA, and the recession eroded the value of hard assets such as property and equipment to pledge as collateral, said Alfred Osborne, senior associate dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles.

“We can create lots of jobs making bad loans,” NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg said. “We did that during the housing bubble.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Keeley in New York at; David Henry in New York at


Existing procurements got bulk of Recovery Act contract dollars


Existing procurements got bulk of Recovery Act contract dollars

By Matthew Weigelt
Washington Technology
July 22, 2010

The federal government awarded more than two-thirds of the $26 billion in Recovery Act contract obligations through acquisition vehicles in place before the stimulus bill became law, according to a new report.

Pressure to act quickly on high-priority projects drove officials toward existing contracts, the Government Accountability Office reported on July 21. Officials were not concerned that a contract had been awarded before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was enacted in February 2009. When the contract was originally awarded, officials said the government had met its competition requirements, GAO reported.

As of May, the government has awarded 68 percent of the $26 billion through pre-existing contracts, and 32 percent through new contracts. Of the newly awarded contracts, 89 percent of the funds were awarded competitively. The other 11 percent of the money, awarded without competition, went to companies in small-business programs, GAO reported.

Directed by the Obama administration to spend the stimulus money quickly, program and contracting officials found programs, projects and contracts that would allow them to award the money in a short time. In talking to contracting officers at five federal agencies, GAO said the officials considered both the risks of using non-competitive contracts and the benefits of spending the money faster than going through the process of awarding a new contract.

For example, a sole-source, small-business contract took the Army Corps of Engineers roughly four months to award, while a new competitive contract would have taken more than a year, GAO reported.

The administration objects to sole-source contracts, but GAO found agencies justified their reasons for awarding a contract without competition.

In addition, GAO found that early on inspectors general dedicated more time focusing on work that they believed was of higher risk, rather than looking at contract spending, including contracts awarded without competition.

GAO said it was okay to attend to the riskier projects when agencies were under pressure to spend the money. However, GAO officials are concerned that a lot of contracts have been awarded without competition -- and without audits -- through the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program without audits, according to the report.

It’s significant, GAO said, because, while the 8(a) program has safeguards, they aren’t always set up properly.

In response, Joseph Jordan, SBA’s associate administrator for government contracting, objected to GAO’s implication that the 8(a) program is more susceptible to fraud than other programs.

“Suggestions of wrong-doing without supporting evidence are detrimental to the 8(a) program and its thousands of eligible program participants,” Jordan wrote. Even so, SBA officials have worked to prevent fraud, he added.

Inspectors general from the Defense Department and NASA said they were beginning audits on Recovery Act money. NASA’s IG told GAO it intends to launch audits of the funds, which includes seven contracts that were awarded through the 8(a) program.

In addition, the Energy Department IG didn’t consider its Recovery Act contracting as a high-risk area because a significant portion of the department's funds went out through grants, according to its response to the GAO report.