Debate season has brought about quite a bit of talk about how Donald Trump runs his businesses and how the Clinton Foundation gets its donor dollars. Nav, a business score education organization, decided to run business credit scores for both The Trump Organization and the Clinton Foundation (you can view the full Nav report details here). The results might surprise you.
What’s a Business Credit Score?
Similar to your personal credit scores, business credit scores and reports suggest a way to determine the credibility of a company by looking into how it has handled debts and obligations in the past.
“Suppliers, vendors and even business partners can look up your business’s credit score, anytime they want, without notifying you and without your permission,” Gerri Detweiler, head of Market Education for Nav, said.
Businesses leave an information trail when using credit, which is collected by business credit reporting agencies. A business credit score could be determined by the use of business credit cards, repaying equipment leases or business loan, or working with creditors that report business activity to credit reporting agencies, Detweiler said.
According to the Nav report, many types of businesses rely on business credit scores similar to the way people rely on personal credit scores — these scores can determine interest rates and loan approvals. Lenders, vendors and suppliers may look up a business’ credit scores to make financing or trade credit decisions. They may also use the scores when determining whether to extend terms to a business, such as letting it pay for goods or services in 30 days (net-30) or 60 days (net-60). The U.S. government can also review business credit when a company applies for a large contract. Even potential business partners may look into a company’s reports before deciding to do business with it.
Business scores often take a harder hit because of late payments than personal scores. Delinquencies or slow payments, for example, might be reported if they’re only a day late for a business, compared to the 30-day grace period typically offered with personal credit, according to Nav.
And, just like with personal scores (which you can view two of on Credit.com for free, updated every 14 days), there can be reporting mistakes that can ding your business credit score, Detweiler said.
The Trump Organization’s Business Credit Score
According to Nav, The Trump Organization, Inc.’s business credit score is a 19 out of 100 as of Sept. 23, 2016, which puts it below the national average score by more than 30 points. The Nav report said the score indicates the Trump Organization “is very likely to default on its credit payments” and that “this will make it difficult to get financing.” It puts Trump’s Organization in a “medium-to-high risk” category.
What Hurt the Trump Score
“Derogatory information, including a tax lien, judgement and collection accounts are affecting the Trump Organization’s credit scores,” Detweiler said. Derogatory information can include things like bankruptcies, but Trump’s bankruptcies did not show up on the report — most likely because they were old or for other businesses he is associated with, Detweiler said.
“Payment status is the most important factor when it comes to business credit scores, accounting for approximately 50% or more of the score,” Detweiler said. The Trump Organization’s payment history shows it pays an average of 26 days beyond terms (DBT), compared to the national average of 12 DBT.
Up for Debate
Interestingly, the report also shows a tax lien, a judgement and three collection accounts, all of which ding the Trump Organization’s score, but the status of these is unclear.
The first, from the Environmental Control Board, said “paid in full, amount paid $0” and is dated 2015. Another is an account in collections reported by Altus Global Trade, which shows up twice: One appears to be closed and the other seems to be uncollected, according to the report. There’s no start date. The amount paid is listed as $0.
“This could be a duplicate, it could be resolved, it could be a mistake,” Detweiler said. “Just like personal credit, this is an illustration of why, as a business owner, you want to check your business credit report, and if it isn’t accurate, then you need to dispute it.” So, in effect, Trump or someone from his organization should dispute these items on his business credit report if they believe they are inaccurate. “If these items bringing down the credit score are mistakes, they could be fixed,” Detweiler said.
The other items are a state tax lien for $526, which shows as released and presumably was paid. (Note: Tax liens can stay on your credit report for a given number of years, even after they’re paid.) There was also a judgement regarding ABC Imaging of Washington, D.C., for $3,294 from December 2013.
Two separate things that worked in the Trump Organization’s favor are its business credit trail, which extends for more than 35 years, and that the bankruptcies weren’t on the organization’s report.
The Clinton Foundation Score
According to Nav, the Clinton Foundation’s business credit score is a 42 out of 100 as of Sept. 23, 2016, which puts it below the national average score by about seven points. The Nav report said the score indicates the Foundation is “somewhat likely to default on its credit payments” and that “this could make it difficult to get financing and the terms may be unfavorable.” It puts the Clinton Foundation into a “medium-risk” category.
What Hurt the Clinton Score
What works against the Clinton Foundation is that it is a relatively new organization and it is a foundation — its credit history only dates to 2013 and it has a relatively “thin file,” Detweiler said. Because it is a foundation, it may not use a lot of credit, so there may not be as many active trade lines as a regular business, she said. That’s because foundations are often funded through donor dollars. “According to the reports, the foundation has no derogatory information, low credit utilization, a mix of different accounts and a projected payment trend of zero days beyond terms,” Detweiler said.
If You’re Establishing a Business
Establishing good credit in business is similar to establishing good credit habits in your personal life.
“A good course of action to establish good business credit scores would be to take care of any delinquent accounts that are being reported, and — most importantly — make on-time or early payments in the future,” Detweiler said.
Even if you’re not running for president, it’s important to keep a close eye on your business’s credit reports to make sure they don’t contain errors and, if you do find any, you repair the problem.