DEO wants more money in business-loans case


The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is asking a court to award it more money in a case stemming from a Legislature-created loan program to help companies rebound from the recession.

The department asked Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee to amend a final judgment against the Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida (BBIF) to add prejudgment interest of $201,792 and boost the total monetary award to nearly $1.3 million.

The department filed its motion Thursday. Its request followed an appellate decision that added prejudgment interest, money that accrues on a monetary award from the time of the plaintiff’s injury or damage to when a judge orders the award.

The department had sued the BBIF in 2013, saying it had overcharged participants in the Economic Gardening Business Loan Pilot Program and should have returned the money. DEO coordinated the loan program.

The $8.5 million program in question, a low-interest loan program for the state’s small businesses, was created by lawmakers in 2009 as a response to the then-ongoing recession. BBIF was picked as a loan administrator.

The program allowed administrators to get a loan origination fee, payable at closing, of 1 percent of each loan and to take a yearly “servicing fee” of 0.625 percent of a loan’s outstanding principal balance.

But DEO soon told BBIF that it had misunderstood the calculations and demanded it return fees and money not yet loaned. That’s because BBIF incorrectly charged a monthly fee of 0.625 percent, the suit said, rather than an annual fee of the same rate.

But the investment fund didn’t comply, DEO said, and the agency sued on breach of contract and conversion claims. Conversion is broadly defined as a civil-law form of theft, or wrongly taking someone else’s property or money for one’s own use.

A lower court granted summary judgment, given when there are no important facts in dispute and one side is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. It awarded $1.1 million in damages to DEO; the appellate panel later agreed.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


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