Small Business Advocates, Lenders & Online Credit Marketplaces Unveil Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights

Coalition including Accion, Aspen Institute, Fundera, Funding Circle, Lending Club, MultiFunding, Opportunity Fund & Small Business Majority announces first-ever consensus on responsible small business lending practices

Aug 06, 2015, 10:00 ET from The Aspen Institute

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To protect Main Street from predatory lending, today a coalition of nonprofit and industry lenders, credit marketplaces, brokers, think tanks, and small business advocates launched the Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights at a special event in Washington DC.

Karen Mills, former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the keynote speaker at the event said, "Small business owners are seeing the number of alternative sources for financing their companies grow at an unprecedented rate, and while this is a good thing in terms of increasing access to capital, borrower protections have not caught up. Seeing industry and other stakeholders take responsible steps like this toward ensuring the basic rights and safeguards is noteworthy and will help shape the dialogue going forward in a way that protects America's small businesses, without stifling innovation and access."

The Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights was designed to foster greater transparency and accountability across the small business lending sector. It outlines six key rights the Responsible Business Lending Coalition believes all small business borrowers deserve:

  1. The Right to Transparent Pricing and Terms, including a right to see an annualized interest rate and all fees
  2. The Right to Non-Abusive Products, so that borrowers don't get trapped in a vicious cycle of expensive re-borrowing
  3. The Right to Responsible Underwriting, so that borrowers are not placed in loans they are unable to repay
  4. The Right to Fair Treatment from Brokers, so that borrowers are not steered into the most expensive loans
  5. The Right to Inclusive Credit Access, without discrimination
  6. The Right to Fair Collection Practices, to prevent harassment and unfair treatment

The Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights will be unveiled at the National Press Club in Washington DC today with a keynote from Mills, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Michael Barr, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. The panel will feature Accion CEO Gina Harman, Fundera co-founder and CEO Jared Hecht, Funding Circle co-founder and U.S. managing director Sam Hodges, Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche, MultiFunding founder and CEO Ami Kassar, Opportunity Fund founder and CEO Eric Weaver, Small Business Majority founder and CEO John Arensmeyer. Joyce Klein of the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit educational and policy studies organization that facilitated the coalition, emceed the event.

Catarah Hampshire and Shoneji Robison, co-owners of Southern Girl Desserts, will share their story of experiencing the worst of the current small business loan landscape. Hampshire and Robison will speak about their attempts to obtain credit and how pricing and terms weren't transparent. Sucked into a cycle of re-borrowing high-cost, short-term loans, the entrepreneurs nearly lost their business and were close to letting their 14 employees go. "They made it sound so simple and affordable," said Hampshire. "All too quickly, we realized we were trapped in a debt spiral."

The full text of the Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights and other information is available at: www.ResponsibleBusinessLending.org.

Any small business lender, broker, or marketplace can stand up for small businesses by attesting that they abide by all aspects of the Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights on a form signed by their CEO.  This form and the names of organizations that have become signatories are online at www.ResponsibleBusinessLending.org. Organizations that are not lenders, brokers, or marketplaces can simply visit the website to become endorsers of the Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights.

Follow the event on Twitter using @AspenMicro and #smallbizbbor or via the livestream at: www.visualwebcaster.com/responsiblebusinesslending

QUOTES FROM EVENT PARTICIPANTS

Accion CEO Gina Harman: "We are increasingly concerned that the promise of  'fast and easy' is replacing the need for credit products to be 'thoughtful and appropriate' for the business. Too many of those small businesses we are working with today have chosen products that seemed right but have proven damaging to their businesses.  We are optimistic that we will be able to leverage technology in a way that serves people's needs and builds on the relationship of trust we have established over the past 20 years."

The Aspen Institute Director Joyce Klein: "The way small businesses borrow money is being transformed, with faster and easier ways to access credit, but abusive lending practices have also increased and borrower protections haven't caught up. The Aspen Institute is proud to have worked with this diverse group to define a values-based approach to industry practices."

Fundera co-founder and CEO Jared Hecht: "The principles set forth in the Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights are necessary to ensure that business owners can secure financing in a fair and transparent manner. The fight for transparency has been integral to our business, and having industry-leading partners endorse these principles is an important first step toward making financing safe and sustainable for all small businesses."

Funding Circle co-founder and US managing director Sam Hodges: "Funding Circle was founded on the very notion that small businesses, the growth engine of our economy, deserve a better borrowing experience. We are proud to partner with other industry leaders to defend Main Street from predatory players and set the first-ever gold standard for a transparent, accountable and fair small business lending market."

Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche: "Over the last 8 years Lending Club has set the industry standard for transparency, customer-friendly terms and responsible credit products to help consumers and small businesses achieve their financial goals. We believe setting consistent rights and principles for the benefit of small business owners is necessary and important. We hope the entire small business financing community will join us in upholding these rights."

Multifunding CEO and founder Ami Kassar: "We started Multifunding over five and a half years ago with the commitment and vision that small business owners and entrepreneurs were entitled to a more transparent borrowing experience. This Borrowers' Bill of Rights is a huge step forward in improving the borrowers' experience across the board."

Opportunity Fund founder and CEO Eric Weaver: " In our twenty years in business, we've never seen it this bad. Opportunity Fund's team is increasingly working to help entrepreneurs avoid and recover from predatory lending. There are some very troubling practices in the small business credit market that we need to contain without stifling innovation."

Small Business Majority founder and CEO John Arensmeyer:  "Our goal is to ensure that the transformation going on in small business lending truly benefits America's small businesses, including those that have been underserved. This means making sure the industry--which holds the promise to meet small businesses' capital needs--is built on transparency and fairness, and puts the interests of small businesses at the center of the lending process. We'll be reaching out directly to small businesses through our Entrepreneurship Program, which educates owners on a variety of business issues, to ensure they have information about the Borrower's Bill of Rights and the principles behind it."

ABOUT THE EVENT PARTICIPANTS

Accion is the largest nationwide nonprofit micro- and small business lending network in the United States, connecting small business owners with the accessible financing and advice it takes to create or grow healthy businesses. Since 1991, members of the Accion U.S. Network have collectively made over 54,000 loans, totaling over $454 million. Additionally, over 500,000 business owners have turned to Accion for financial and business advice via workshops, online tools, and one-on-one consultations. Globally, Accion is a pioneer in microfinance, reaching millions of individuals through its international network of partners. Find out more at: us.accion.org.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. Find out more at: www.aspeninstitute.org.

Fundera is the most trusted online marketplace that connects small business owners with the best funding provider for their business. It works impartially with a network of over 25 prescreened lenders to assemble the highest quality funding sources at no cost to the borrower. Fundera operates as a marketplace, where borrowers can apply to multiple lenders with one common application, enabling them to manage the entire financing process in one single place while securing the best offers at the lowest rates. Fundera's mission is to bring greater transparency, accountability, and fairness to the online lending industry at large, and has been advocating for a Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights since its founding in 2014. Fundera has raised $5 million from investors including Khosla Ventures, First Round Capital, and Lerer Ventures. The company is based in New York City. Find out more at: www.fundera.com.

Funding Circle is the world's leading online marketplace for business loans, matching small businesses who want to borrow with investors who want to lend in both the UK and the US. Since launching in 2010, investors at Funding Circle - including 40,000 individuals, financial institutions and even the UK Government - have now invested more than $1 billion in 8,000 businesses globally. It has raised $273 million in equity capital from the same investors that backed Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb and Alibaba. Find out more at: www.fundingcircle.com

Lending Club (NYSE: LC) is the world's largest online marketplace connecting investors and borrowers. Lending Club's mission is to transform the banking system to make credit more affordable and investing more rewarding. Lending Club utilizes technology and innovation to reduce costs and offer borrowers better rates and investors better returns. As of March 31, 2015, over $9.3 billion in loans have been facilitated through the Lending Club platform. Find out more at: www.lendingclub.com.

MultiFunding is a national loan advisory firm helping small businesses obtain financing. We facilitate the appropriate loan for entrepreneurs' unique needs. Our mission is clear--we want every company we work with to get to a point where they are bankable through an SBA-backed loan or another traditional bank loan.  We feel strongly that small business owners deserve the right to receive affordable funding that will allow them the best opportunities to grow and create jobs. Find out more at: www.multifunding.com.

Opportunity Fund is the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and a national leader for the microfinance movement. We believe that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives. We say "Yes!" to small business owners because entrepreneurship remains a proven pathway to greater economic opportunity. As California's leading microfinance provider, our team has deployed $100 million and helped more than 12,000 people since 1994. Find out more at: www.opportunityfund.org.

Small Business Majority is a national small business advocacy organization, founded and run by small business owners to focus on solving the biggest problems facing America's 28 million small businesses today. We actively engage small business owners to drive smart public policy and get entrepreneurs the resources they need to thrive. We conduct extensive opinion and economic research and work with our rapidly growing network of 40,000 small business owners across the country to ensure their voices are an integral part of the public policy debate. Find out more at: www.smallbusinessmajority.org.

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SOURCE The Aspen Institute



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