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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.

32 mins ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary published Sunday.

Why it matters: Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier was used as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government.

Ina Fried, author of Login
4 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

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