Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden pledged to probe the Trump administration’s coronavirus loan programs if he’s elected this year.
The former vice president said he would tap an inspector general on his first day in office to review “every stimulus loan given to any big company or political insider.” He was apparently referring to efforts such as the Paycheck Protection Program, which doled out forgivable loans to large firms like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers despite promising to support small businesses. Abuses by large corporations have already triggered a federal crackdown.
“Any dollar that goes to someone that does not merit it under the law, any dollar taken corruptly, we will find it, we will come get it, and we will punish the wrongdoers,” Biden said in a video his campaign posted to Twitter Tuesday.
The inspector general would have the power to refer potential abuse by companies or executives to the Department of Justice, Biden said.
Such a probe “should start tomorrow, but if it doesn’t, it will start on January 20, 2021,” he added.
The $659 billion loan program has drawn scrutiny for giving money to hundreds of publicly traded companies, including big restaurant chains and ritzy hotel firms.
The Trump administration has already pledged to review all loans larger than $2 million. The Department of Justice has also reportedly launched its own investigation and filed charges last week against two people who allegedly scammed the program.
Dozens of companies, including Shake Shack, the Lakers and Bennett’s firms, have pledged to return their loans as the feds threatened to crack down on firms abusing the program.
Fraud and abuse concerns also affected the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a massive bailout passed under George W. Bush amid the 2008 financial crisis and continued under Barack Obama. The program’s special inspector general had launched more than 150 criminal and civil probes and taken “criminal actions” against more than 50 people by October 2011, according to a report to Congress.