Milwaukee Public Relations Firm to Pay $2.25 Million to Resolve Allegations It Wrongfully Received a Paycheck Protection Program Loan
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Wisconsin
Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on October 13, 2022, BVK, Inc., agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle a claim arising from its participation in the Small Business Administration’s second-draw Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan program.
Congress created the PPP loan program in March 2020 in an effort to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the PPP, eligible businesses could receive loans guaranteed by the SBA and, if the business spent the loan proceeds on qualified expenses, SBA would repay the loan on the borrower’s behalf.
In December 2020, Congress authorized certain borrowers who received an earlier PPP loan to obtain an additional “second-draw” loan. The second-draw loans included additional eligibility requirements, including a rule that any organization required to register with the Attorney General under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) was not permitted to receive a second-draw loan. A FARA registration obligation is triggered by certain work performed on behalf of foreign governments.
BVK is a public relations firm with its primary office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. BVK received both a first and second draw PPP loan. The government alleges that at the time BVK applied for the second-draw loan, it was performing public relations work on behalf of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. According to the government, this work triggered a FARA-registration obligation, which in turn rendered BVK ineligible for a second-draw PPP loan. However, BVK applied for and received a $2 million second-draw loan, which SBA later repaid. BVK’s loan application did not disclose its FARA-registration obligation.
The government’s investigation resulted from a whistleblower complaint filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The whistleblower will receive a share of the settlement. This case is pending as United States ex rel. GNGH 2, Inc. v. Birdsall Voss & Associates, Inc., No. 21-c-1437.
Assistant United States Attorney Carter Stewart represented the government in this matter. The settlement agreement states allegations only; BVK does not admit liability for the allegations.
For further information contact:
Public Information Officer
Updated October 13, 2022