PARK CITY, Utah – Allison Baver had a dream come true when she won an Olympic medal in short track speed skating.
In October 2019, she set her sights on the film and television industry by incorporating her own production company. When the pandemic arrived months later, Baver was among the business owners who sought help from the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.
The Small Business Administration reports that the average PPP loan was $ 206,000. Allison Baver Entertainment received the maximum amount of the program – $ 10 million.
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Why Baver Entertainment needed so much is unclear. By email, Baver declined to answer FOX 13 questions and said she was not available until the end of July. Neither Baver nor anyone associated with his company has been charged with any crimes.
On social media, Baver recently posted articles saying she was visiting film festivals and filming locations.
According to data released by the Small Business Administration, which administers the PPP, Baver Entertainment said $ 8.6 million in aid was intended for the payroll. The company said it has 430 employees.
But Baver Entertainment was telling the Utah Department of Workforce Services that it has between one and four employees.
The lower numbers would be more typical of a production company, says Marshall Moore, vice president of operations at Utah Film Studios in Park City. Production companies will hire more workers â actors, crew and support staff â when they shoot.
âYou’ll get small budgets under a million dollars and sometimes they’ll work with 30 to 50 people,â Moore said. âAnd then you can go further. “
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âOver a million dollars, 5 million to 10 million dollars, sometimes these teams are about 120 people and that includes the producers, the cameramen, the handles, the electricity,â he added.
What would it take to employ more than 400?
âI mean, for me it would be ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’,â Moore said. “It would be Marvel.”
The P3 is often described as a loan, but the loan can be canceled if the recipient maintains their payroll and only uses the money for other approved expenses, including utilities and rent or mortgage. Candidates were supposed to describe the expenses they had in February 2020.
âThe purpose of the Paycheque Protection Program was to reduce unemployment,â said Richard Gordon, professor of law at Case Western Reserve University and director of its financial integrity unit.
He says the PPP did not require banks processing applications to verify that the borrower was telling the truth about their employees and their needs.
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With the PPP, âthe US government is actually the co-signer,â Gordon said. “So if the borrower doesn’t pay the US government back, that is, we, the taxpayer, will eventually pay off the loan.”
Baver is a native of Pennsylvania who moved to Utah to train. She made three Olympic teams. Baver won a bronze medal with a relay team at the 2010 Games.
For the PPP loan, Baver Entertainment turned to Pennsylvania-based Meridian Bank to process its request. The bank’s CEO declined to discuss the app with FOX 13.
Baver Entertainment has production credit this year for a drama starring actor Elijah Wood titled âNo Man of Godâ. IMDB says Baver Entertainment provided funding.
Gordon, who hasn’t researched Baver Entertainment and only talks in general, said PPP can’t be used as capital to grow. He also doesn’t think funding for a film would be allowed under the PPP unless everyone on set is on the recipient’s payroll in February 2020.
âI think Congress could have made this pretty close to the absence of fraud if it was handled by the Internal Revenue Service,â Gordon said.
The IRS âknows our employees. They know exactly how much they are paid because they know how much they are being withheld. Only three other Utah companies have received $ 10 million, according to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis of PPP data. These three were all in business long before Baver Entertainment.
Some more established production companies have received much less from the PPP. The Jim Henson Co. asked for $ 2.3 million and said it has 110 employees.
New Regency Productions, the film company behind films such as âThe Revenant,â âBohemian Rhapsody,â and the latest release of âLittle Women,â received $ 1 million and reported 50 employees.
In December, Variety attributed to Baver that his upcoming productions included a horror comedy now called “Monsters.” When FOX 13 reached out to the writer-director named in the article, his rep responded by saying that the project had been put on hold when the pandemic arrived and they had heard nothing more.
Baver also told the news site that his company was working on a horror film called “Dead Princess”. Production was halted by the pandemic and is expected to resume this year.
Baver Entertainment’s listed address is the former Olympian’s townhouse in Taylorsville. According to documents filed with the Salt Lake County Recorder, the Baver Homeowners Association filed a notice in January 2020 that the townhouse was behind on its fees; the HOA was planning to sell the property to settle the debt.
In July 2020, about three months after Baver Entertainment received the $ 10 million, the HOA filed a new notice stating that the debt had been paid. The sale was canceled.