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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. Treasury Department is leaning against releasing the names of small businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans, as first reported by Politico and confirmed by Axios.

Why it matters: Taxpayers bailed out millions of small businesses with hundreds of billions of dollars. But they may never know where the money went ⁠— a lack of transparency that could make it harder to know how well the program worked, or if certain applications were fraudulent.

Context: PPP was structured under the SBA's Section 7(a) loan program. Historically, business recipients of Section 7(a) loans have had their names and loan amounts publicly disclosed on an annual basis.

What we're hearing: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is concerned that disclosing business names and loan amounts could put recipients at a competitive disadvantage, because PPP loans were calculated by payroll.

  • For example, one business could possibly discern how much another company pays its employees, via the PPP loan disclosure.

What we're thinking: Mnuchin's concern is valid, but only to a limited point.

  • A competitor would need to know how many employees a business has, in order to calculate average compensation. And, if a competitor knows the number of employees, it probably has pretty good insight into compensation.
  • PPP calculations were based on backward-looking payroll, has no information on job titles, and doesn't include any salary dollars in excess of $100,000 (i.e., someone making $200k was counted as making $100k).

The bottom line: Congress wants this information for oversight, and there’s nothing in the CARES Act legislation that promises confidentiality to loan applicants or recipients. Given that Mnuchin is publicly talking about a new round of stimulus, it’s hard to imagine that the two sides won’t reach some sort of compromise soon.

Go deeper: How many big companies got PPP loans

Go deeper

Aug 14, 2020 - World

Lawmakers demand answers from World Bank on Xinjiang loan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers from the World Bank about its continued operation of a $50 million loan program in Xinjiang, following Axios reporting on the loans.

Why it matters: The Chinese government is currently waging a campaign of cultural and demographic genocide against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, in northwest China. The lawmakers contend that the recipients of the loans may be complicit in that repression.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
16 mins ago - Economy & Business

Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

CES was largely irrelevant this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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