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Ashford Group to return $59 million U.S. payroll loan

(Reuters) - Ashford Group of companies, run by a donor of U.S. President Donald Trump, said on Saturday it would return a $58.7 million loan it received from the government’s program to help small businesses survive the economic impact of the coronavirus.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer had sent a letter to the Small Business Administration (SBA) demanding a review of all loans made to Ashford, run by Trump donor and Dallas hotelier Monty Bennett.

According to media reports, the hospitality firm is the biggest known applicant of the government’s small-business relief program.

The company said it would return the funds due to the SBA’s “recently changed rules” and “inconsistent federal guidance that put the companies at compliance risk.”

The group's publicly traded companies overseen by Bennett include Ashford Inc AINC.A, Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc AHT.N and Braemar Hotels & Resorts Inc BHR.N.

Schumer said in his letter that he was “deeply concerned that large, publicly traded companies, like Ashford, may be exploiting the Program.”

The company said in its statement, “Some media and members of Congress have falsely implied” that Ashford accessed loopholes to qualify for the funds.”

Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alistair Bell