A reality star has been charged with fraud for using his $2 million PPP loan to buy a Rolls Royce and bling! We're back with more news about the latest PPP guidance, plus the impact of COVID-19 on accounting jobs, some follow-up on MyPayrollHR, and Senator Burr's alleged insider trading scandal.
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Blake Oliver: [00:00:23] The best part about this, David, is what he spent the money on. Apparently, he spent $1.5 million on a Rolex Presidential watch, a diamond bracelet, a 5.73-carat diamond ring for himself, a 2019 Rolls-Royce Wraith, $40,000 in child support. Then, agents, when they stormed his property to execute a search warrant, they found $80,000 in cash, including $9,400 that Fayne had in his pockets ...
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[00:02:43] Welcome to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver.
David Leary: [00:02:46] And I'm David Leary.
Blake Oliver: [00:02:48] David, did I hear you correctly that you went to a wedding this weekend? Why aren't you social distancing?
David Leary: [00:02:54] I could not actually go to the wedding, so we had to do it via Zoom.
Blake Oliver: [00:02:57] A Zoom wedding.
David Leary: [00:02:59] Friday night, or Saturday ... Friday evening. We did the cutting of the cake, so they sent cupcakes to everybody, and we popped champagne and did a Zoom cutting of the cake together.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:11] How many people were on this wedding Zoom?
David Leary: [00:03:14] I think it was about 80.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:16] Wow.
David Leary: [00:03:17] Then, it was a lot of couples, so it's probably double that, right? There's families, et cetera. They got married earlier that day in the beach, in San Francisco. So, they did do a proper social-distance wedding. They had about six-seven people there, and they were all spaced out on their own little blanket, and they did a wedding.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:36] Aww, that's great. Did they have any Zoom issues, like people not muting themselves? I mean, 80 people is a lot.
David Leary: [00:03:43] Yes. She's a CEO, and I think he runs a sales team, so they're very good at managing; making people ... You raise your hand. You have to use all the Zoom features to manage that.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:53] Well, that's fun. I don't think I'm gonna be attending any quarantine weddings, but I do have some news, myself, which is it looks my family is gonna be relocating permanently to Arizona.
David Leary: [00:04:07] Congratulations!
Blake Oliver: [00:04:07] Thank you!
David Leary: [00:04:07] We're gonna be neighbors.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:09] We're gonna- practically neighbors, right? How far is Tucson from Phoenix?
David Leary: [00:04:13] Depends where you go in Phoenix. Anywhere from two hours to two and-a-half hours; depends on where you're at.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:17] My parents live in Phoenix, and we'd always toyed around with the idea of moving here, but my wife's company doesn't have an office in Phoenix. They have a policy where, if there's an office in the Metro, you can move there, but you can't if they don't. Well, now, with all this remote-work stuff going on, her team's gonna be remote potentially forever because they always had the ability to work from home. So, she's not encountering any resistance to us moving. The cost of living, man ... Oh, my God! Coming from L.A.? Even Scottsdale, which is a ritzy part of Phoenix, is half the price. It's just amazing. I'm in heaven!
David Leary: [00:04:53] It's spreadsheet appropriate.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:55] It's incred- it's great.
David Leary: [00:04:57] I was in Phoenix yesterday, and you would never guess there was a pandemic, or a COVID thing. It was like regular old Phoenix. I could not believe ... I think the restaurants and stuff just opened the day before, but I was really shocked at how- other than Costco ... I had some gas to fill up before I left. Other than Costco, which has a policy to make people wear masks, you would never know anything was happening in Phoenix.
Blake Oliver: [00:05:18] It's so spread out that one thing that I'm really happy about moving here is, even as Arizona reopens, which it's doing, I don't think there's going to be this giant surge in infections here, if it's done smart, because it's so spread out. Even in offices. It's not like you're crammed together like you are in L.A., or San Francisco, or New York. There's a lot more space; a lot more overhead room; ventilation; all that stuff.
David Leary: [00:05:43] A lot more separate buildings, too. There's not just a small amount of office spaces that are just built up, like skyscrapers [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:05:48] Exactly.
David Leary: [00:05:49] Everybody has their own building and their own piece of land. Yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:05:52] Yeah, so I'm hopeful. These are silver linings for me.
David Leary: [00:05:55] We'll check back in with you, in mid-August, and see how this move's going in Phoenix, when it's 117.
Blake Oliver: [00:06:03] Yeah, yeah, I might be regretting it then. Let's talk about what's going on with everything. Again - PPP/coronavirus/stimulus ...
David Leary: [00:06:16] The gods worked with us because there was somebody drilling, so we couldn't record on Friday. It's good that we didn't because we canceled it. Instead, we're recording on Sunday, but Friday night, again, new guidance around PPP drops.
Blake Oliver: [00:06:30] Yep, new guidance around PPP, late on Friday. So, there's that. Follow-up about some of the stories. Richard Burr is in the news, and we talked about him, so I've got that, and then ... Where do we begin?
David Leary: [00:06:46] I have a MyPayrollHR update.
Blake Oliver: [00:06:48] Ooh, let's do follow-up. Let's talk about that.
David Leary: [00:06:50] The fraud, it was ... Just to recap quickly, Michael Mann had a couple payroll companies. One of them was MyPayrollHR. He was using all these payroll companies along with his- I think he had about 18 other entities. He was kiting checks between a bank account he had at Pioneer Bank and bank accounts he had at Bank of America-
Blake Oliver: [00:07:11] This all seems so long ago now.
David Leary: [00:07:14] It does seem long ago. What he did, is he- somewhere along the line, he crossed the line, and he rerouted payroll direct deposit money that was supposed to go into employees' bank accounts, and the money to pay taxes. He rerouted that into his own accounts. It was a domino effect from there. So, that's kind of the quick recap of MyPayrollHR.
[00:07:33] Well, now, Pioneer Bank is countersuing him. They're kind of just saying that he defrauded them entirely, the whole time, repeatedly, for a long time. Except for, I think you, and I, before, we were looking at this, and we suspected that - how did Pioneer Bank let this happen, unless he had somebody inside the bank working with him?
Blake Oliver: [00:07:54] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:07:54] So, it still doesn't make total sense. They've counterclaimed, now, for $46 million. I don't totally understand why they call it a counterclaim because it's filed as a response to the U.S. District Court in New York against Pioneer Bank. There's been lawsuits against the bank. People are suing the bank because they've been holding the tax money. I wouldn't say it's a counter. It's almost like a push the boulder thing. "Don't sue us! We gotta sue this guy first, so that you can sue us." It's interesting because it sounds like this money's still just tied up.
Blake Oliver: [00:08:26] Well, I've got some follow-up on Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Listeners may recall that he was accused of insider trading, I believe, back in March. He had to disclose in filings that he sold stock worth between $600 and $1.7 million. He sold 33 stock holdings on February 12, and he was receiving classified briefings from CIA officials, and top government health officials in the Senate at that time. He actually got a briefing the day before.
David Leary: [00:09:05] He's the one that ... There were a couple people that got caught for this before, but he's the one that said, "I just was watching business news, cable TV, and I just made smart decisions the next morning and sold everything."
Blake Oliver: [00:09:17] Yeah, "It had nothing to do with the classified intel I was receiving as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee." It's not just him, by the way, I should say. Senators James Inhofe - I hope that's how you say it - Republican of Oklahoma; Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, and Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, have all been accused of insider trading and have said that they did nothing wrong. But Richard Burr is the one who's taken the most heat for this because he sold a lot of his holdings. I guess that's like most of his holdings. He didn't have- he's not a rich senator.
David Leary: [00:09:51] Well, plus, the other reason he took heat is because back when he did this before, he actually was one of the only few senators that opposed the bill-
Blake Oliver: [00:10:01] Oh, the bill that would ban senators from insider trading.
David Leary: [00:10:05] Yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:10:07] Yeah, because there is a law that says you can't use classified information - information you receive as a senator - to trade on stock ... That's recent. It used to be just anybody could do it. It was not a crime. It was unethical, but it wasn't a crime. So, it is a crime. The big news is, as reported in The New York Times, that the FBI is investigating him, which is a big deal for the FBI to investigate a senator. They seized his cell phone as part of an investigation. They went to his house and took his cell phone from him. They're investigating whether or not he was trading on nonpublic information about the coronavirus.
[00:10:49] There's a question as to whether or not this investigation is somewhat politically motivated, given that he's a Republican. You would think that, perhaps, the administration would not be all that interested in investigating him. That was my initial thinking. Well, it turns out that Burr has been the face and driving force behind the bipartisan Russia interference investigation. So, is this retribution, potentially, for having let that happen- for making that happen? He's not on good terms with the White House. There's no evidence to suggest that, but it seems possible to me.
David Leary: [00:11:29] I don't know. I was really mad when that all went down because it was just unbelievable, the nerve. I think I saw, too, though, he had his phone because he communicated with other people, as far as giving them a heads up, too [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:11:43] Yeah, some other people benefited, right?
David Leary: [00:11:44] They're probably gonna find something. It's just not cool, and he's gonna lose his seat. If he doesn't lose his seat because of a criminal investigation, he's gonna lose his seat- they're gonna vote him out. Nobody's gonna stand for this. This is ...
Blake Oliver: [00:11:58] That's the follow-up I've got. Shall we turn to PPP?
David Leary: [00:12:05] I think so. That's the next big chunk, right?
Blake Oliver: [00:12:08] My lead story for the PPP ... It's come to reality TV, David. Reality TV is crossing over with the Paycheck Protection Program. The Washington Post reported that Maurice "Mo" Fayne, a trucking company owner who appears regularly on the reality show Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, has been charged with using more than $1.5 million in Small Business Administration stimulus funds to enrich himself rather than for paying workers and small business expenses, as the program requires.
[00:12:37] The best part about this, David, is what he spent the money on. Apparently, he spent $1.5 million on a Rolex Presidential watch, a diamond bracelet, a 5.73-carat diamond ring for himself, a 2019 Rolls-Royce Wraith, $40,000 in child support. Then, agents, when they stormed his property to execute a search warrant, they found $80,000 in cash, including $9,400 that Fayne had in his pockets.
David Leary: [00:13:11] Something doesn't add up right about this story, though.
Blake Oliver: [00:13:14] What is that? Yeah, tell me.
David Leary: [00:13:15] What is the crime? The only thing they really have proof of is he spent a bunch of money. Until he files his forgiveness paperwork, how ...? Unless these are coming out of the business account; like, he got a loan. It was deposited in the business checking account; then, he used the business checking account to make these purchases, I don't know where the fraud is, other than he just buys a bunch of stupid shit. That's what I'm not following. What did he actually do that was fraudulent?
Blake Oliver: [00:13:44] Well, so, what I think happened is that he had the money deposited into his bank accounts, his business bank accounts, and then he withdrew that money and spent it on these things. As part of getting the loan, you have to certify that the loan proceeds will be used to, "retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments as specified under the Paycheck Protection Program rule."
David Leary: [00:14:12] How many Paycheck Protection loans have there been now? They're pushing 4 million?
Blake Oliver: [00:14:15] 4 million, yeah.
David Leary: [00:14:16] 4 million. So, just somebody just happened to be watching his account and said, "Hey, these aren't paychecks leaving this account."
Blake Oliver: [00:14:24] Well, so, he got a-
David Leary: [00:14:25] None of it adds up.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:26] He got a $2 million loan, which is on that threshold of what they are targeting now.
David Leary: [00:14:32] That puts you on the radar, yep.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:34] It puts you on the radar. So, they're probably looking for this kind of stuff to shut it down as quickly as possible because it would be really bad PR if this happened a lot. So, it was probably super-obvious. It doesn't say this in the articles that I read, but I imagine the way they caught him is probably how they catch a lot of this stuff, which is he was posting on Instagram, or something. I'm sure if we went and dug into it, we would find out that he was bragging about spending all this money, right? So, then, somebody-
David Leary: [00:15:03] I think he got a new license plate that said "Go PPP ..." [crosstalk] his car, and it gave it away [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:15:08] Yeah, the Rolls-Royce Wraith, right? Yeah, it just ... I'm sure this is happening more than we know, but this was just an obvious case. So, I just ... $9,400 in his pockets. Almost $10,000 just in his pockets when they raided his house.
David Leary: [00:15:24] Which is more than a lot of people's PPP loan.
Blake Oliver: [00:15:28] Yeah, right.
David Leary: [00:15:28] He just had it in his pocket.
Blake Oliver: [00:15:28] Yeah. He supposedly has 100 employees. I don't know if that's even true, but he said on his loan application that he had 107 employees.
David Leary: [00:15:40] That's what's the confusing part about this. There's not a case being made of like, oh, he lied on the application. He did not ... They're just saying he didn't spend it on the correct things, which is interesting because shouldn't you be allowed to submit your forgiveness paperwork at the end and show what you're spending it on/not spending it on? I mean-
Blake Oliver: [00:15:59] Well, if he'd had-
David Leary: [00:15:59] I don't know. I think it's a jump, here [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:16:02] Yeah. Well, here's the funny part. So, his lawyer said that, "There has been considerable confusion among small business owners about PPP guidelines, particularly around the question of whether and how business owners are permitted to pay themselves a salary or owners draw. This ambiguity and confusion for business owners needs to be addressed immediately as the PPP program is still in its infancy." Which makes me think that they're going to try and argue that he gave the money to himself as payroll and, therefore, was not misusing the funds according to the certification. He paid himself the money, which other PPP recipients have done. They've issued bonuses to their executives after receiving the PPP money, right?
David Leary: [00:16:49] Yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:16:50] So, I wonder if this will actually stick or if the ambiguity around the rules is gonna allow him to get out of it? I mean, either way [crosstalk] He won't get it forgiven, that's for sure, but is it actually a crime? Hard to say, right?
David Leary: [00:17:04] That's the article- that's the part I did not get. This got a lot of show; it was on Twitter. It gets a lot of flash, but I'm not sure there's a crime yet. Nobody made a clear case that he committed a crime or a fraud. He just spent the money on really stupid things.
Blake Oliver: [00:17:19] Well, so-
David Leary: [00:17:20] Which should be a crime, maybe [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:17:21] Let's talk about this ambiguity and the new guidance that came out on Friday.
David Leary: [00:17:26] Well, even before you jump into the new guidance that came in Friday. I mean, Marco Rubio had a video this week, and he talked about how he met with Steven Mnuchin about how they need to have more flexibility and it needs to be easier with the forgiveness. Some of the reasons were, a lot of it, the argument of just the timeline. It's almost impossible for every single person to have that perfect eight weeks [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:17:45] Yeah, the guidance just came out, so a lot of companies are more than four weeks into their forgiveness period.
David Leary: [00:17:52] Yeah, but a lot of companies aren't even open yet. They haven't even spent any [crosstalk] They really have been- they hinted at new forgiveness, and now, they've introduced a bill. They wanna introduce a bill that ... Because when this all started, Marco Rubio's argument is we just didn't know enough, when we introduced the first CARES Act, so they wanna introduce this special bill about the forgiveness and about the taxability, because that was the big news drop last week, the end of the month, was, hey, it's all gonna be taxable. So, they wanna release a bill that addresses these two things. I'll let you continue on with what happened Friday night [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:18:32] Did they say any specifics, though, about what they wanna do to make this easier? Moving the eight-week period was one of those things; letting businesses decide when that starts?
David Leary: [00:18:41] No, but he said - in his tweet - "Expect some more flexibility and loan-forgiveness guidelines. We will begin to work on a bipartisan bill providing even more flexibility."
Blake Oliver: [00:18:52] Great.
David Leary: [00:18:52] So, you can buy a Rolls Royce.
Blake Oliver: [00:18:53] That was Rubio, right?
David Leary: [00:18:54] That was Rubio.
Blake Oliver: [00:18:55] So, get ready for the new bill to pass, like the day before the loan period expires or something. So, let's talk about what happened on Friday. The SBA released more information, more guidance, and the application itself - the actual loan forgiveness application. So, now we can actually put the numbers in and see what our clients or our businesses are going to get forgiven. Tony Nitti - and I've never said his last name out loud, so I apologize if that's completely wrong - he wrote this amazing walkthrough of the application, line by line, how you do it, with a case study example.
[00:19:35] It is long. I tried to follow along this morning. I was reading it at breakfast, and my eyes just start glazing over. I started thinking to myself, oh, my God, this loan forgiveness application is so insanely complicated, even accountants are gonna have trouble filling this thing out. That's why we need an expert like Tony to tell us how it works. Think about just your typical small business that doesn't have an accountant guiding them through this. Most don't.
David Leary: [00:20:00] It's an 11-page PDF to account for one box that was on the original application form, which is the wages box.
Blake Oliver: [00:20:05] Yes. It's nuts. It's absolutely nuts. So, I mean, this- unless they simplify this, it's gonna be an absolute disaster. It's gonna discourage businesses from applying, which we've talked about. We talked about that last week. It still is a problem because there's PPP money that is still out there. People have realized it's so difficult; this loan forgiveness thing is so uncertain, so complicated, the businesses have just stopped taking the money. Before we get into that, though, I wanna read a section from the article, which is great.
[00:20:36] So, Tony writes, "While the application included instruction, the SBA failed to provide two additional items that would have greatly benefit of borrowers. 1. narrative-based guidance similar to previously issued interim final rules, which ideally would clear up much of the confusion surrounding critical definitions from what items are included in payroll costs to the treatment of guaranteed payments, or self-rental payments. 2. Detailed blueprints for constructing a fully functioning time machine, so nearly 2 million small business owners could magically transport back to a time when this forgiveness guidance would actually be useful." I just enjoyed that snarky remark because the SBA deserves it, at this point, and anything that you can do to make this stuff more interesting is fun. I loved reading that.
David Leary: [00:21:25] One thing, though, we can rest ... We've impacted something, Blake.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:30] Yeah?
David Leary: [00:21:30] Nobody was releasing numbers, and we were some of the first people to really start hammering on that, and [crosstalk] spun up a website to track it. So, Steven Mnuchin - and we missed this last week - but on May 6, he announced that SBA.gov is finally providing daily end-of-day updates on PPP loans. So, now, you can go in and see ... They even updated it, believe or not, Saturday night; so as of last night, They're truly, truly giving the numbers out on a regular basis now.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:59] Where are we at with the amount that has been accessed, distributed, received?
David Leary: [00:22:05] This is the round-two data, which doesn't help because it's just the round-two data. You have to go find the old data and add it back in. The round-two data - they're at 2.7 million loans for $195 billion. That is looking at, still, 5,400 participating lenders. The average loan size of this round is $70,000.
Blake Oliver: [00:22:27] Got it. Way lower than the previous tranche of loans, which was closer to what ... Over $100,000 [crosstalk]
David Leary: [00:22:34] I bet it's pushing 180- yeah [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:22:34] -closer to $200,000, right? So, that's good, but a good chunk of the second piece of PPP is still unclaimed. It's not ... People aren't applying for it. Of the first tranche, do we still know ...? Do we know how much has actually been disbursed at this point? It was supposed to all be disbursed within 10 days, but I think that is not necessarily happening. I saw a whole mess on Twitter about one lender in particular, Kabbage. Were you following this, David?
David Leary: [00:23:06] I was trying to. There was more and more about Kabbage popping up. People were applying through Kabbage. I think the bad part is they were getting messages, and email that says, "Hey, your loans are ready to be approved," or, "You need to sign something;" then you log into the site and then, either the thing you want is not available ... The worst part is people weren't getting responses back. It was almost like Kabbage was radio silent for a bit.
Blake Oliver: [00:23:28] They were approving loans. Then people were getting frustrated with Kabbage because they couldn't get any word on it, and they were going and trying to apply through other lenders. The lenders would come back and say, "No, you've already been approved." So, it's like Kabbage had locked up their EIN with a loan application that they weren't getting funded.
[00:23:46] I wonder how many business owners are in that situation, where they have applied; they're locked in with a lender, but they're not getting the money yet. Something that makes me think this is true was a survey of small business owners asking them, "How many of you have actually gotten funding yet?" This was on Accounting Today on May 14. This week, 39 percent of applicants are still waiting for approval, down from 59 percent just two weeks ago, and 45 percent last week.
[00:24:15] So, I'm having trouble squaring this. 39 percent of applicants are still waiting for approval. That is from Paychex. Paychex polled 300 randomly selected U.S. business owners with two to 500 employees. So, we've got a second round of PPP money, a good chunk of which is still available and unclaimed; people are not applying. But of that first round, people are still waiting to get their money.
David Leary: [00:24:41] So, basically $500 billion has been approved, and a lot of people still have yet to get it.
Blake Oliver: [00:24:47] So, the bottleneck is- it's gotta be the banks. That's where the problem is because it's been approved by the SBA. They're reporting they've approved it. People still don't have the money. That's all [crosstalk] We don't know that for sure, but what else could it be?
David Leary: [00:25:01] I mean, the trouble here is you have to have the cash to deposit in people's accounts. It's not like you get the application; you send it to the SBA; the SBA puts money in your account, so then, you can loan it out to the small business owner, if you're the bank or the lender-
Blake Oliver: [00:25:15] Right. You have to have capital-
David Leary: [00:25:15] I know that my lender that I applied with, they were like, "Oh, we have to source some more money. We don't have any more money to give out." It wasn't even an application thing; it was they ran out of money. What I find interesting with the tech thing - Kabbage, and then, Divvy had some problems - is that all these companies are- they have a partner bank. Ultimately, I think a lot of the tech companies that are in this game have ... They're not actually supplying the money. They're just basically middleman to a partner bank who's supplying the money.
Blake Oliver: [00:25:44] Right.
David Leary: [00:25:44] Is it the partner bank that's ... Where's the downfall here? I don't know where this process is breaking, but it makes me wonder ... Some of the big, big companies - the Intuits, or the PayPals - are they funding these loans themselves to speed that process [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:26:04] Yeah, we don't know.
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Blake Oliver: [00:27:27] So, one more thing that happened last week, a big change that happened is ... Well, do you remember how Mnuchin was threatening to audit every business that got a PPP loan?
David Leary: [00:27:38] Yes, because that's when everything- the pendulum really swung to "We're gonna go after everybody." Now, it's starting to swing the other way, where, "Spend it on what you want," right?
Blake Oliver: [00:27:46] There was all that bad PR about public companies getting the money. Hedge funds may be getting the money. Nonprofits with large endowments getting the money. Then, Mnuchin started saying, "We're gonna audit people over 2 million; businesses over $2 million in PPP money are definitely gonna get audited." Then, they started saying that everybody's gonna get audited potentially.
David Leary: [00:28:08] They created this safe harbor [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:28:09] They created the safe harbor.
David Leary: [00:28:09] It was the 15th. Now it's tomorrow.
Blake Oliver: [00:28:13] If you don't wanna get criminal charges for this certification that you made that was improper, then return the money. Originally, it was May 7, was it?
David Leary: [00:28:23] May 15 [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:28:24] Then they kept pushing it, right?
David Leary: [00:28:26] Yep.
Blake Oliver: [00:28:26] So, now, I guess because of all the lack of interest - they scared away everybody from this program or a good chunk of people - they have changed their tune once again. Now, the SBA is saying that businesses who received less than $2 million in PPP money will be assumed to have performed the required certification concerning the necessity of their loan requests in good faith. So, you're not gonna get audited. They're just gonna assume that you certified properly, after all of this ...
[00:28:57] Accounting firms- I can't tell you how many emails I got from accounting firms advising their clients about this whole certification fiasco, and consider whether or not you need the money. I'm wondering how many of these businesses that got loans under $2 million returned the money because of that, and they're now like, "I've returned the money, but they weren't gonna audit me!"
David Leary: [00:29:17] I imagine it's not a huge amount, though, because even the public companies that have gotten the bad press about this, only a third of them have returned the money.
Blake Oliver: [00:29:25] Right, but it's really frustrating. The Wall Street Journal had a great quote from a business owner, Richard Forrestel Jr.; he's the treasurer of Cold Spring Construction in Akron, New York. He plans to return - at least as of the publication of this article - plans to return the $2.2 million PPP loan his 110-person family-owned construction company received in late April. Cold Spring, which specializes in road and bridge work, hasn't lost any business because of the pandemic, but Mr. Forrestel fears that New York could cut back on construction to balance a budget ravaged by the pandemic.
[00:30:01] "This is a classic bait and switch," Mr. Forrestel said of the PPP changes. The company's expenses have increased because of new safety precautions, he said. But they're still gonna give the money back because it's over $2 million. They can't risk the penalties, potentially. They could use the money, though. I mean, if you ask me, that sounds like need. It's just so ambiguous, though, they're not willing to take that risk.
David Leary: [00:30:25] Have real penalties been announced, or is it just you're going to have to pay the- it just turns into a loan? That's always been the confusing part of this whole thing is it was always like, if you don't spend it, it's just a loan.
Blake Oliver: [00:30:37] Yeah, what are the penalties? What are the civil penalties? What are the criminal penalties? We don't know.
David Leary: [00:30:44] At this point, the reason they were saying only a third of public companies have returned it is it's just bad press is the penalty. So, if you have a non-consumer-facing product, or company, you just don't care. Why would you return it?
Blake Oliver: [00:30:59] Yeah. One of the really confusing things about this whole process- this whole forgiveness application, is this idea that you have to spend 75 percent on payroll costs. If you spend less than that, then it gets reduced, the forgiveness amount. That is one of the biggest problems with this whole program ,in the eyes of many business owners, who can't bring their employees back, whose employees are on unemployment, and the employees don't wanna come back because of that. It makes it really complicated.
[00:31:28] Well, apparently that 75-percent requirement is not even in the legislation. It's a rule that SBA made up. It's not in the law. In the SBA's Inspector General report on May 8 that we talked about last week says that the rule was never mandated by the legislation. Is this even going to stand up in court? Is it gonna be enforceable? Yet, both Mnuchin, and Marco Rubio said that it would require legislative action to change the 75-percent rule that doesn't exist, apparently, in the law.
David Leary: [00:32:01] Yeah, and that's what Rubio was saying. They're gonna have to pass a special law just about the forgiveness, the timeline [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:32:09] Why do they have to pass a law for something that wasn't in the legislation in the first place that was a rule that the SBA created? That's what I don't understand. Maybe I've got it wrong, but ...
David Leary: [00:32:18] Well, I think that's the problem. They created a law that had too many holes in it. So, then the IRS, and the SBA are just making it up as they go, and they keep conflicting with each other. I think they're gonna have to ... Now that they understand all the nuances, now, they can actually make decisions and give guidance. I think that's the bigger problem. I don't think the SBA and IRS had proper guidance to begin with. They had too many holes in the original law.
Blake Oliver: [00:32:42] I guess so.
David Leary: [00:32:43] It's turning into a political battle. Even on Rubio's website, now, he has a ... Because it's election year, he has a propaganda video about how successful the PPP program is. That's why I truly believe, eight weeks from now, if you're not on the list of fraud, it's just gonna get forgiven. I honestly, truly believe that- 100-percent forgiven because it's an election year, Nobody is gonna be the one that is like, "I ruined small businesses." Unless they know you're fraudulent - which, in theory, because everything went through the banks, those probably have gotten flagged already - everybody's gonna get forgiven.
Blake Oliver: [00:33:18] They have one last thing to consider in all of this, which is that the list of loan recipients is likely going to become public under the Freedom of Information Act requests. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, ProPublica have filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Washington asking the SBA to disclose who is receiving the funds and in what amounts.
[00:33:41] President Trump, in a press conference, he said, in response to a question about whether or not he'd support releasing the full list of businesses who have received PPP loans, he said, "I wouldn't mind doing that. I don't know what the legal status of something like that is. I would like to do that, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not involved in the process, but I would certainly like to have it listed. I would have to find out if there is a legal problem, but if there isn't, I would do it gladly." So, that list is probably gonna get out there.
David Leary: [00:34:10] I think it probably should because we might find out how many Trump companies have gotten it, right? It'd be good that we see this list, I think, in general.
Blake Oliver: [00:34:18] I have a personal connection to this now because, after the guidance came out on Friday night saying that loans under $2 million are not going to get audited, or they're just gonna assume the certification is correct. I said, well, I'm a sole proprietor. Sole proprietors can apply. Let's see if I can go apply. How easy is it? I'm gonna try this myself. I had applied for a client of mine, but not for myself, and there's money available, and apparently it's not gonna get used, so why not?
[00:34:48] I went on the Cross River Bank website; I filled out the application using my net self-employment income for the last 12 months; put those numbers in; uploaded my documents. I got approved the next day. So, apparently I'm getting a loan. According to what the SBA has said, they're just gonna take my word that it's necessary. This is the crazy thing about sole proprietors, too.
David Leary: [00:35:14] It's easier, right, for you to [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:35:16] It's easier because the net- it's based on net self-employment income, and it's just assumed that the entire amount is for payroll. So, I don't have to run payroll or anything. It's assumed that I'm spending 100 percent on payroll for myself. So, I wonder how many people like me there are just are getting free money like this. I talked about it with my wife, and we're thinking, well, we feel kind of bad. It's thousands of dollars. Maybe just donate it to charity, or go spend it on a small business that needs the money, or something because it's ridiculous. I'm getting more money from the PPP than people who are getting stimulus checks, and I don't even qualify for a stimulus check.
David Leary: [00:35:58] Yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:35:59] I feel like when that kind of gets out there, when there's a list of relatively high net worth individuals who got all this money ... Because there's gonna be a lot of sole proprietors that make a lot of money, or S-Corp people, like one-employee S-Corps that get the money, and the list gets out there-
David Leary: [00:36:14] Yeah, they're structured that way for tax advantages, and now they'll also take care of this. Yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:18] Yeah, so it's basically like a stimulus payment to an individual, essentially. It could be a lot of money depending on how much you make. That's gonna be very interesting. I don't mind my name being on the list because if somebody calls and asks me about it, I'm gonna complain about how crappy this program is.
David Leary: [00:36:34] They can contact you about it.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:36] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:36:36] Obviously, the forgiveness calculator came out that the SBA provided.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:41] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:36:41] The AICPA had a press release on May 14 that they offer a loan forgiveness calculator ... It's a press release, and it links to all these documents that- they talk about how they had an AICPA town hall, and all of this stuff, but there's no link to the calculator. I gave up. I could not find the calculator. The AICPA loan forgiveness calculator is divided into three subcategories: non-payroll-expense tracking; full-time employee equivalent reduction over and eight-week period; a payroll accumulator.
[00:37:17] I can't find the link. There is no link to this forgiveness calculator. It's just a complete fail. It's a great- it's a headline. I clicked on it, but where's the calculator? How simple is this? If you create a press release, put the link in it, AICPA. I gave up. I stopped looking because the other three links in here just take you to some oddball PDFs. You think, if you have a press release, it says ... If you're so proud of this calculator you've created, where's the link?
Blake Oliver: [00:37:48] Where's the link? Well, now the calculator is probably at a date because they made that thing before the actual real calculator came out. So, now they gotta redo it.
David Leary: [00:37:55] I think this is probably a recommended calculator, yes [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:37:58] There's a major change, which is we all assumed that SBA would use 30 hours per week for full time, but they're actually using 40 hours per week for full-time equivalent, so that changes a lot of calculations. Anyway, I got some more numbers for you on COVID in the accounting profession before we move on. We'll broaden this away from Paycheck Protection Program-
David Leary: [00:38:18] Before we do that, should we even mention that there is a new $3 trillion package?
Blake Oliver: [00:38:23] I didn't even look at what's in this $3 trillion because I heard this is dead on arrival. The House passed it, but the Senate is not even considering any more stimulus money, right now, right?
David Leary: [00:38:32] Yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:38:32] Is there anything noteworthy in here?
David Leary: [00:38:37] They want to help with payroll again, and they wanna do $10 billion in emergency disaster grants and strengthen the employee-retention tax credit. So, it's not really clear what that is. Is this funding the EIDL that did not get funded, or is this something new again? They want to extend out the federal unemployment-
Blake Oliver: [00:38:59] Oh, no.
David Leary: [00:38:59] -so, instead of it being through July; all the way through January, so the rest of ... Going into 2021.
Blake Oliver: [00:39:06] Oh, yeah, this is dead on arrival. That's insane. What is wrong with these Democrats? One of the big problems with PPP is that business owners can't bring back employees because the employees often make more money on federal unemployment than they do working. So, how are these businesses gonna reopen if they can't bring people back to work because those people are sitting at home collecting fat checks? It doesn't work.
[00:39:33] Here's how Trump will win in the fall. If the Democratic Party becomes the party of shutdown, Trump will win. I don't care what the polls say, right now, about how many people support lockdowns versus opening up again. That's gonna shift real fast as the economy plummets. I think it's a terrible strategy. This will not work.
David Leary: [00:39:57] Yeah. I think there's $175 billion in rent. There's another second round of direct payments the IRS ... Which, so many people haven't even received their first round yet. Yeah, it's just- it's another bill. They're gonna argue it out. So, it's now into the Senate. We'll see if it goes anywhere. Like you said, it is an election year, so I could see all this money being thrown out there again.
Blake Oliver: [00:40:20] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:40:20] It's more complications. How do you track people that they got their rent subsidy or whatever ... However they're gonna do this ... Is that gonna go to people and expect them to pay their rent, or is it just gonna go straight up to pay people's mortgages. It's just a lot of more grayness, versus it's probably the best ... Instead of taking that and divvying it up in all these buckets, just do the direct deposits. Just send people checks.
Blake Oliver: [00:40:48] Just give some people checks, yeah; which there is also in that bill, right? Another round of stimulus?
David Leary: [00:40:53] Yes, there's another round of that, yeah. In a way, that's kind of the smallest part, right?
Blake Oliver: [00:40:56] Right. So weird.
David Leary: [00:40:58] It's $1,200 per person.
Blake Oliver: [00:41:00] What they should be doing is just giving people the stimulus and then not increasing the unemployment because then people would go back to work to put that on top of their stimulus. We don't wanna disincentive people from working.
David Leary: [00:41:13] Yeah, because that's ... The stimulus is a one-time check for 1,200 bucks. Unemployment is $600 per week extra from the federal unemployment.
Blake Oliver: [00:41:21] But you're not allowed to work while you're collecting it, so people don't wanna go back to work, meaning that businesses that are in areas that are reopening can't start up again because they don't have employees.
David Leary: [00:41:35] Yeah, and at this point, Goldman Sachs had an article that they're projecting unemployment's gonna hit 25 percent. So, why even filter it through unemployment; just give everybody the money.
Blake Oliver: [00:41:45] Just give them the money. People who wanna go back to work can go back to work. People who are at risk, they have the money, then, where they don't have to. That would be a much better compromise. I get there's people who don't wanna do any of that - unemployment and stuff. I'm not that extreme. I think there is a middle road here. I hope that the Democrats and Republicans can figure this out.
[00:42:08] While we're talking about unemployment, accounting is not immune from this. We're a recession-proof profession, but that doesn't mean that we don't have layoffs. I spotted some data from CPA Trendlines, their research division. Thus far, 67,600 jobs have been lost in tax and accounting. So, basically, four years of accounting job growth has been wiped out in one month. We're back to where we were in April of 2016.
[00:42:41] Shutting down is affecting a lot of businesses, even people who can work from home. It's not just the retail workers, the restaurant workers. This is getting serious. I was one of the people very early on saying we need to do something about COVID, and testing back in- the very beginning of March is when I first started becoming aware of this just because of what was going on in the news. I was saying, "We need to act now. We need to act now!"
[00:43:02] Well, here I am, now, on the other side, saying the economic disaster is coming. We need to act now. We need to act now! I feel like every time, the government is just moving way too slow. I mean, this is why I'm glad I've moved to Arizona now; L.A. County is gonna stay locked down until June or July, probably. So, restarting that economy is gonna be really hard. It's just gonna be a disaster, I feel like.
David Leary: [00:43:26] Now, it's hitting ... We talked about everybody working from home affecting commercial real estate, like office space. Now, I saw there's an article ... It's The Real Deal; it's New York Real Estate News. "Retail rent collection plunges to 58 percent in April."
Blake Oliver: [00:43:43] Wow.
David Leary: [00:43:43] More than one in five large national chains are not paying the rent. So, this is not like, oh, Julie's Hair Salon that's a struggling small business, and she didn't get her PPP loan, and she's not paying her rent because she's not open. This is Foot Lockers, H&M, General Nutrition Centers. I saw that Starbucks is negotiating with all their landlords.
Blake Oliver: [00:44:03] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:44:04] You have major, major companies that aren't paying rent.
Blake Oliver: [00:44:08] Going concern warnings are on the rise. For our listeners who may be students, or non-accountants, a going concern warning is when the accountants doing the financials fear that a company could default on its debt in the next 12 months. If there's a risk of that- substantial risk, then you have to report in your financial statements that there are doubts that you will be able to continue as a going concern. So, that's called a going concern warning.
[00:44:37] Some recent ones include Chesapeake Energy, which is a fracking company. Hertz car-rental company. Dave and Busters, the restaurant chain. Norwegian Cruise Line, El Al, or is that LL, the airline? It's a big problem. It can't be an either/or. It can't be shut down or open. Those extremes don't make sense because they both have very, very bad consequences, where a full shutdown can cost a trillion dollars a month. Not to mention, then, the resulting economic damage after that. That's just during it. Fully opening up, now we're talking about this giant surge of infections coming in the fall or winter, which is totally realistic.
David Leary: [00:45:19] I think it's gonna be a supply and demand type of a curve, right?
Blake Oliver: [00:45:20] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:45:20] It's gonna swing a little too hard this way. Then we'll dial it back, and we're gonna find this happy medium here. But we're just not there yet. You're right, it can't be one or the other. It can all be locked down. It can't be the other direction.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:34] It's not all doom and gloom.
David Leary: [00:45:35] No.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:36] According to that CPA Trendlines report, with the job loss, as I mentioned, there's also some good news. About 42 percent of firms are planning for a drop in net profit, but 45 percent still think this year will bring in more revenue than last year. So, about half of firms are projecting they're gonna lose business, but half of firms are saying, "We're gonna grow during this whole thing." So, that's good.
David Leary: [00:46:00] I mean, well, the forgiveness loan paperwork will be going on for months and months and months, and you can charge for filling out that form, right?
Blake Oliver: [00:46:08] You absolutely can. You couldn't charge for the application form, but you can charge for the forgiveness form, I think? I hope so.
David Leary: [00:46:14] People may be willing to pay a premium for the forgiveness-form help because the loan, it was just different. Now, people are scared. So, now, you could probably, as an accounting firm, charge a premium to help people fill out that form.
Blake Oliver: [00:46:26] Well, and the application was relatively easy. The forgiveness application ... The loan application was easy. The forgiveness application is insane.
David Leary: [00:46:34] So, I don't wanna talk about unemployment, and more terrible news, but there was an article on SaaStr. The reason I'm hitting this is because of our podcast. There's a big question - why are investors doing so well even though unemployment's so bad? There's a disconnect of the stock market versus what it feels like out there in the real world. Do you have any guess why?
Blake Oliver: [00:46:55] There's a disconnect between the stock market and the real world-
David Leary: [00:47:01] It has to do with our podcast. So, just think about what our podcast is called.
Blake Oliver: [00:47:08] Well, cloud.
David Leary: [00:47:09] That's exactly it. It's the cloud. All the companies-
Blake Oliver: [00:47:11] People being able to work remotely-
David Leary: [00:47:13] Well, it's not people working remotely. It's Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook - all the companies that are bullying up the stock market right now are all cloud. It's all the cloud [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:47:26] Because they can continue to operate. They can continue to sell their products, and they dominate the stock market.
David Leary: [00:47:33] Yeah, and then that's what's driving the stock market up. That's why there's a disconnect between what's happening out there. I thought that was kind of an interesting stat.
Blake Oliver: [00:47:44] Yeah, it's fascinating. There's actually ... Half of firms are growing. Half of firms are gonna shrink. It's gonna be that way in the economy, overall, where the cloud-based businesses that can operate remotely, that sell stuff we need ... I haven't looked at Zoom stock in a while, but I know that's way up, right? All these things are necessary. We knew they were gonna grow anyway, this has just accelerated it.
[00:48:09] I have some crazy stats about remote work; the growth of that. We don't have time to talk about it today because I just realized we're almost out of time. It's crazy. But I do wanna hit it next week, so I wanna tease you with one stat, which is the percentage of professionals who are now working remote. Before, do you know what it was before, the percentage of professionals?
David Leary: [00:48:32] Maybe a top best would have been three percent and maybe only full time was less than one percent. I think, we've talked about this, historically speaking.
Blake Oliver: [00:48:40] Yeah, so it was three percent of the U.S. population worked 100-percent remotely before COVID; three percent, and that's all professions. Of professionals and business services - people who are able to more easily work remotely because we're just sitting in front of a computer - the number was five percent, according to McKinsey.
David Leary: [00:49:00] At best. At best.
Blake Oliver: [00:49:01] At best. That number- and that was full time remote. That number has jumped 69 percent. So, 74 percent of professionals and business services employees are now working fully remote. That is an incredible jump. For information services, that is up to 84 percent from nine percent before. Crazy. So, three quarters of professionals are working fully remote. When this ends, it's not like it's gonna go back to five percent.
David Leary: [00:49:31] No, it's gonna stay [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:49:31] No way.
David Leary: [00:49:33] What's insane to me about it, and I just look at own industry, accounting firms for a decade have fought ... It's impossible. Nobody could work from home. Then, overnight now, it's 50 percent. It's amazing how things just accelerated. I think that's one thing I'd look at- this we're in. Retail. Colleges. I feel like everything that's been on a 10-year timeline has just gotten accelerated. Colleges are gonna have to reinvent themselves, and what their offering is and going online. That's happening, and it's happening faster than ever. Retail was already teetering, as it is, and they've had to do that. Restaurants now are reinventing themselves. Everything that was on a 10-year timeline just got accelerated to the last eight weeks.
Blake Oliver: [00:50:18] It's all happening- yeah, it's all gonna happen in a year. The businesses that can't adapt will go out of business; some sooner than that.
David Leary: [00:50:26] It sounds cliché because I think Mark Cuban's using it and some other people, this kind of America 2.0, but in a way, yeah, we are gonna ... It's a big- it's not a gradual jump. It's happening very quickly. What we're gonna be 12 months out is completely different, from a work perspective, than we were 12 months ago. Like I said, it probably would've taken 12 to 24 years for this change to happen, and it's happening overnight. We should talk about Xero's numbers-
Blake Oliver: [00:50:52] It's amazing.
David Leary: [00:50:53] -before we forget.
Blake Oliver: [00:50:54] Can we save- is it all right if we save that? Because I told my son that he had to have quiet time for an hour, and we're now past that. So, I'm gonna be in trouble if I don't wrap this up.
David Leary: [00:51:06] All right, yeah. They might not be worth [inaudible] talking about them next week. I guess that's my only reservation. Next week, will Xero's numbers ever make the cut?
Blake Oliver: [00:51:18] We'll start with it next week.
David Leary: [00:51:19] All right [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: [00:51:19] Just to get it out of the way, because I've also got app news that we missed; some new features and stuff. I wanna hit on the tech side since we are The Cloud Accounting Podcast and not just talk about PPP compliance and all that.
David Leary: [00:51:31] Yeah, there was some last week, but then there was not much this week other than Dropbox's numbers, too, which I'm surprised that they have had usage go up. That's very strange to me, as well. All right, yeah, we will skip on that. There was nothing else important. All right-
Blake Oliver: [00:51:42] I have one piece of listener mail that I'd like to hit.
[00:51:48] You've Got Mail
Blake Oliver: [00:51:52] This is from Michael Ference. He emailed me and he said, "Hi, Blake. I’m a listener to the Cloud Accounting podcast and I had a question. I’m currently taking over Treasurer duties for a Parent Teacher Organization. All reimbursements are currently paper based. Is there a cloud software you recommend for expense reimbursements that will link directly to QuickBooks. We probably do 200+ reimbursements a year directly to teachers and staff. Thanks for your time, Michael ."
David Leary: [00:52:20] Please, please, please let me take this, please.
Blake Oliver: [00:52:22] This is- yeah, this is for you.
David Leary: [00:52:24] Okay, so Michael, now, because I helped out with the PTA at my kid's school and the same scenario, you have lots of these reimbursements ... There's lots of tech you can do to solve this. You could get Expensify; you could get Receipt Bank; AutoEntry ... The list just goes on and on and on. There's lots of ways to do this.
[00:52:40] The problem is it's not like a business or a staff. In many cases, you have a parent that bought cookies at Costco, and they need to be reimbursed $17, and it's a one-off. Then, somebody else's is a one-off. You just have too many one-offs in a scenario ... As we thought about it, the real work would be trying to roll out this app constantly to a bunch of one-off people that aren't employees.
Blake Oliver: [00:53:05] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:53:05] That's the difficulty you run into, where you're just like, "Forget it. Here's the old paper form. Fill it out and we'll cut you a check." So, the technology's there to solve this. It's the logistics of how do you roll this out across a bunch of teachers and oddball parents; not oddball in a bad way, but just odd ... It's hit and miss, right? That parent may never spend money again; you never have to reimburse them again. To onboard them on an app for one reimbursement? That's the difficulty.
[00:53:30] Then, on top of that, even though now a lot of teachers have had to shift to online, and do Zoom, and they're adopting technology, a lot of teachers either don't even have a smartphone they can run this stuff on, but they're just not set up to do this, technology-wise. They're just not ready to do this.
Blake Oliver: [00:53:47] David, what's the solution?
David Leary: [00:53:49] You just keep rolling the way you've been rolling, unfortunately; you just use the paper.
Blake Oliver: [00:53:53] Paper forms? I used to have a client where they had this issue where it would be a lot of one-offs. I just had them email the reimbursement requests. It was a Google- you could do a Google form and then, just process through that like your normal AP process, or something. At least you've got a streamlined form that they fill out.
David Leary: [00:54:13] One process could be is you have it ... You almost have somebody bite the bullet, where you put that one person ... Maybe it's the front desk admin. That person's on the app and then, everybody just gives her the receipt. She doles out, out of petty cash, the cash to reimburse instantly, and then she submits it into the accounting system. That way-
Blake Oliver: [00:54:36] Oh, that makes sense, yeah.
David Leary: [00:54:36] -you could have one person be that bottleneck. Basically, about all you're doing is you're kicking the can down the road, and somebody else is gonna do all the work, instead of you, as the treasurer.
Blake Oliver: [00:54:43] So, the issue is the training of one-off reimbursements. It's not worth the time to get somebody set up on an app, get them an account, teach them how to use it, if they're just gonna do one.
David Leary: [00:54:53] Yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:54:53] It's better just to have them submit traditionally through a form and then get reimbursed. But you could have ... I like that middle ground, which is you have an app that one person, or maybe a few people are trained to use, and they process the reimbursements.
David Leary: [00:55:08] It could be where maybe it's just the teachers. You just get the staff to do it. It's just tricky. We have not solved it either. Maybe that's my answer on this.
Blake Oliver: [00:55:19] Well, that's all the time we've got today. If people wanna reach you online, David, where is the best place for them to track you down?
David Leary: [00:55:27] Twitter and LinkedIn. I'm @DavidLeary. If you're on LinkedIn, please just say you're a listener of the show, so I don't converse with more robots.
Blake Oliver: [00:55:34] Likewise for me. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Say that you are a listener of the podcast in your message. You can reach me on Twitter. Follow me at: @BlakeTOliver, or email any of your questions to email@example.com. Just know that if you do, I may read them on the air and answer them, as well, because that was a great insight, David. I would have not thought of that issue. Until next week, have a good rest of your Sunday.
David Leary: [00:56:01] You, too. Bye, everybody.
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