Luke LaHaie is on no one’s list of Wall Street heavy-hitters. But from the comfort of his Chicago condo, he’s just become the biggest player in a hot new thing in American finance: pandemic relief loans.

His little-known firm, The Loan Source, has scooped up $3.3 billion of small-business loans issued under the federal Paycheck Protection Program. LaHaie, 35, is racing to buy even more.

The Loan Source is part of a largely hidden ecosystem that’s sprung up around the PPP program, which was designed to keep small businesses afloat. It’s capitalizing on free money from the Federal Reserve to buy PPP loans from the banks that actually lent out the money, with the goal of eking out a small profit in the unglamorous business of servicing the debt.

LaHaie is one of the new breed of pandemic pros who are trying to make a little money off the PPP program, often at little risk to themselves. The loans in question are guaranteed by the government. That means defaults aren’t a worry, whether small businesses survive or not.

A data tracker developed by a team of 40 researchers and policy specialists, led by Harvard University economics professor Raj Chetty, shows the program has protected very few paychecks. They detected just a 3% difference in employment patterns for businesses above and below the PPP’s 500-employee cutoff. That implies the $521 billion program disbursed $289,000 for each job saved.

The Pitch

LaHaie, meanwhile, spends much of his day on the phone with banks, which have already made the easy money, reaping more than $10 billion in origination and processing fees. Now they’re left with the burdensome administrative task of servicing the debt and helping many borrowers who qualify for loan forgiveness.

LaHaie’s pitch: sell us your PPP loans, at a small discount

U.S. stocks finished lower Tuesday, after moving between small losses and gains throughout the session, ahead of the first presidential debate before the November election.

How did stock indexes perform?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell 131.40 points, or 0.5%, to end at 27,452.66; while the S&P 500 index

closed 16.13 points, or 0.5%, lower at 3,335.47, and Nasdaq Composite Index


32.28 points, or 0.3%, finishing at 11,085.25. All three major equity indexes snapped three sessions of gains.

On Monday, the S&P 500 rose 53.14 points, or 1.6%, to end at 3,351.60. The Nasdaq climbed 203.96 points, or 1.9%, to close at 11,117.53. The Dow advanced 410.10 points, or 1.5%, finishing at 27,584.06, while booking its third session of gains in a row.

What drove the market?

After a positive start to kick off the final week of trading in September, major equity-indexes fell, with the global tally of COVID-19 deaths surpassing a milestone of one million.

Read: Coronavirus tally: Global deaths of COVID-19 top 1 million, 33.4 million cases and U.S. counts more than 250,000 deaths

The handling of the pandemic and plans for the U.S.’s economic recovery are topics on the roster for the presidential debate between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden in Cleveland Tuesday evening. The U.S. has the highest case tally at 7.1 million, and highest death toll at 205,085 of any country.

Investors will be looking for further guidance on new policy measures from Trump and more signs that Biden is prepared to take the reins as commander-in-chief, should he prevail in the November contest.

Overall, the debate which starts at 9 p.m. ET could help to set the tone for markets for the next 35 days until the