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NJ Public Relations Firm Received Improper Covid-19 PPP Loans

Parsippany-Troy Hills

By: Richard L. Smith 

A New Jersey public relations firm entered into a settlement agreement with the United States resolving allegations that the company violated the False Claims Act by taking a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to which the company was not entitled, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Congress created the PPP in March 2020, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to provide emergency financial support to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act authorized billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses struggling to pay employees and other business expenses.

According to the allegations in the complaint and the contentions of the United States in the settlement agreement:

Coyne Public Relations LLC (Coyne) knowingly applied for and received a PPP loan totaling $2 million, even though it was ineligible for such a loan because it was a required registrant under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

Coyne thereafter sought and received forgiveness of the total amount of the loan.

Coyne fully cooperated in the investigation and resolution of this matter.

In accordance with the terms of the settlement Coyne agrees to pay the United States $2.24 million.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties, called relators, to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery.

In this matter, the relator is receiving $203,183 as his share in the recovery.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Supervisory Criminal Investigator Angelo Palmeri in New York, with the investigation.