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UNITED STATES
 SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
 
FORM 10-K
 
     ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
 
 TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 
For the transition period from ____________ to __________     
             
Commission file number: 001-37872
Priority Technology Holdings, Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Delaware47-4257046
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)
2001 Westside Parkway
Suite 155
Alpharetta,Georgia30004
(Address of principal executive offices)(Zip Code)

Registrant's telephone number, including area code: (800) 935-5961

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading symbol(s)Name of each exchange on which registered
Common stock, $0.001 par valuePRTHNasdaq Global Market

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes No

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and  (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.   Yes       No  
 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).   Yes       No  

 Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.  See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," ''accelerated filer," "smaller reporting company" and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
 
Large accelerated filerAccelerated filer
Non-accelerated filerSmaller reporting company
Emerging growth company

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management's assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  Yes      No  
 
As of June 30, 2020, the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the registrant's common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $30.0 million (based upon the closing sale price of the common stock on that date on The Nasdaq Capital Market).

As of March 24, 2021, 68,088,732 shares of common stock, par value $0.001 per share, were issued and 67,637,508 shares were outstanding.


DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE    

Portions of the definitive proxy statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A relating to the Annual Meeting of shareholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc., scheduled to be held on June 9, 2021, will be incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K. Priority Technology Holdings, Inc. intends to file such proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after its fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.




  Priority Technology Holdings, Inc.
Annual Report on Form 10-K
For the Year Ended December 31, 2020
 
Page







Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
 
Some of the statements made in this Annual Report on Form 10-K constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. Such forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding our or our management's expectations, hopes, beliefs, intentions or strategies regarding the future. In addition, any statements that refer to projections, forecasts or other characterizations of future events or circumstances, such as statements about our future financial performance, including any underlying assumptions, are forward-looking statements. The words "anticipate," "believe," "continue," "could," "estimate," "expect," "future," "goal," "intend," "likely," "may," "might," "plan," "possible," "potential," "predict," "project," "seek," "should," "would," "will," "approximately," "shall" and similar expressions may identify forward-looking statements, but the absence of these words does not mean that a statement is not forward-looking. Forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, but are not limited to, statements about:
 
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;
competition in the payment processing industry;
the use of distribution partners;
any unauthorized disclosures of merchant or cardholder data, whether through breach of our computer systems, computer viruses, or otherwise;
any breakdowns in our processing systems;
government regulation, including regulation of consumer information;
the use of third-party vendors;
any changes in card association and debit network fees or products;
any failure to comply with the rules established by payment networks or standards established by third-party processor;
any proposed acquisitions or dispositions or any risks associated with completed acquisitions or dispositions; and
other risks and uncertainties set forth in the "Item 1A - Risk Factors" section of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

We caution you that the foregoing list may not contain all of the forward-looking statements made in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
 
The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are based on our current expectations and beliefs concerning future developments and their potential effects on us. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements in deciding whether to invest in our securities. We cannot assure you that future developments affecting us will be those that we have anticipated. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties (some of which are beyond our control) or other assumptions, including the risk factors set forth on page 18 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, that may cause our actual results or performance to be materially different from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should any of our assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary in material respects from those projected in these forward-looking statements.
 
In addition, statements that "we believe" and similar statements reflect our beliefs and opinions on the relevant subject. These statements are based upon information available to us as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and while we believe such information forms a reasonable basis for such statements, such information may be limited or incomplete, and our statements should not be read to indicate that we have conducted an exhaustive inquiry into, or review of, all potentially available relevant information. These statements are inherently uncertain, and investors are cautioned not to unduly rely upon these statements.
 
You should read this Annual Report on Form 10-K with the understanding that our actual future results, levels of activity, performance and achievements may be materially different from what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
 
Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they were made. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.


1


Terms Used in the Annual Report on Form 10-K

As used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, unless the context otherwise requires, references to the terms "Company," "Priority," "we," "us" and "our" refer to Priority Technology Holdings, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries.
2


PART I.


ITEM 1. BUSINESS

Overview of the Company
 
We are a leading provider of payment infrastructure for merchant acquiring, integrated payment software and automated payable solutions. We offer a single technology platform for integrated payments, low friction merchant boarding, underwriting, risk management and compliance monitoring to businesses, enterprises and distribution partners such as retail independent sales organizations ("ISOs"), financial institutions ("FIs"), wholesale ISOs, and independent software vendors ("ISVs"). The Company, then Priority Holdings, LLC, was founded in 2005 with a mission to build a merchant inspired payments platform that would advance the goals of our small and medium-size business clients ("SMBs"), enterprise clients, and distribution partners.

Since 2013, we have grown from the 38th largest U.S. merchant acquirer to become the 12th largest and the 5th largest non-bank merchant acquirer as of the end of 2020 according to the Nilson Report issued in March 2021. In 2020 and 2019, we processed 457 million and 513 million transactions, respectively, and $42.3 billion and $43.0 billion, respectively, in bankcard payment volume across approximately 223,000 and 203,000, respectively, merchants. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia near Atlanta, we had 479 employees as of December 31, 2020 and are led by an experienced group of payments executives.
 
Our growth has been underpinned by three key strengths: (1) two proprietary product platforms: the MX product line targeting the consumer payments market and the commercial payments exchange ("CPX") product line targeting the commercial payments market, (2) focused distribution engines dedicated to selling into business-to-consumer ("B2C") and commercial payments business-to-business ("B2B") payments markets, and (3) a cost-efficient, agile payment and business processing infrastructure, known internally as Vortex.Cloud and Vortex.OS.
 
The MX product line provides technology-enabled payment acceptance and business management capabilities to merchants, enterprises and our distribution partners. The MX product line includes: (1) our MX ISO/Agent and VIMAS reseller technology systems (collectively referred to as "MX Connect") and (2) our MX Merchant products, which together provide resellers and merchant clients, a flexible and customizable set of business applications that help better manage critical business work functions and revenue performance using core payment processing as our leverage point. MX Connect provides our consumer payments reselling partners with automated tools that support low friction merchant on-boarding, underwriting and risk management, client service, and commission processing through a single mobile-enabled, web-based interface. The result is a smooth merchant activation onto our flagship consumer payments offering, MX Merchant, which provides core processing and business solutions to SMB clients. In addition to payment processing, the MX Merchant product line encompasses a variety of proprietary and third-party product applications that merchants can adopt such as MX Insights, MX Storefront, MX Retail, MX Invoice, MX B2B and ACH.com, among others. This comprehensive suite of solutions enables merchants to identify key consumer trends in their business, quickly implement e-commerce or retail point-of-sale ("POS") solutions, and even handle automated clearing house ("ACH") payments. By empowering resellers to adopt a consultative selling approach and embedding our technology into the critical day-to-day workflows and operations of both merchants and resellers, we believe that we have established and maintained "sticky" relationships. We believe that our strong retention, coupled with consistent merchant boarding, have resulted in strong processing volume and revenue growth.
 
The CPX platform, like the MX product line, provides a complete solution suite designed to monetize all types of B2B payments by maximizing automation for buyers and suppliers. CPX supports virtual card, purchase card, electronic fund transfer, ACH and check payments, intelligently routing each transaction via the optimal payment method. Underlying our MX and CPX platforms is the Company's Vortex.Cloud and Vortex.OS enterprise infrastructure, a curated cloud and application programming interface ("API") driven operating system built for scale and agility.
 
We developed an entirely virtual computing infrastructure in 2012. This infrastructure, known as Vortex.Cloud, is a highly-available, redundant, and audited payment card industry ("PCI"), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA"), NACHA, and Financial Stability Oversight Council (the "FSOC") computing platform with centralized security and technical operations. We strive to enable Vortex.Cloud to maintain greater than 99% uptime. All computational and IP
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assets of our operating companies are hosted and managed on Vortex.Cloud infrastructure. With Vortex.Cloud, we have constructed a uniform set of APIs, called Vortex.OS (operating system), that provide critical functionality to our payment divisions. The Vortex OS APIs provide electronic payments, security/crypto, data persistence, time series data (events), and artificial intelligence (AI). The MX and CPX product platforms leverage Vortex.OS and Vortex.Cloud for maximum scalability, high-availability, security, and access to advanced feature sets. The combined result is a purpose build infrastructure and product offering that produces solid organic growth and profit margin results. Furthermore, in addition to supporting a modern product stack, Vortex.Cloud and Vortex.OS enable the rapid inclusion of data and systems of acquisition targets for smooth consolidation to our operating infrastructure and accelerate achievement of revenue and cost synergies.

We sell our B2C merchant acquiring solutions primarily to SMBs through a growing and diverse reseller network, including ISOs, FIs, ISVs, Value-Added Resellers ("VARs") and other referral partners. We maintain stable, long-term relationships with our resellers, bolstered by the integration of MX Connect, a powerful customer relationship management ("CRM") and business operating system. MX Connect is used by our resellers and internal teams to manage their merchant base and accelerate the growth of their businesses through various value-added tools and resources which include marketing resources, automated onboarding, merchant underwriting, merchant activity monitoring and reporting. In addition, we offer ISVs and VARs a technology "agnostic" and feature rich API, providing developers with the ability to integrate electronic payment acceptance into their software and improve boarding efficiency for their merchant base. For the end user, MX Merchant provides a customizable, virtual terminal with proprietary business management tools and add-on applications that create an integrated merchant experience. MX Merchant's add-on applications include invoicing, website builder, inventory management and customer engagement and data analytics focused on targeted marketing among others. These proprietary business management tools and add-on applications, coupled with our omni-channel payment solutions, enable us to achieve attrition rates that, we believe, are well below industry average. MX Merchant can be deployed on hardware from a variety of vendors and operated either as a standalone product or integrated with third-party software. Through MX Merchant, we are well-positioned to capitalize on the trend towards integrated payments solutions, new technology adoption, and value-added service utilization in the SMB market. Our broad go-to-market strategy has resulted in a merchant base that is both industry and geographically diversified in the United States, resulting in low industry and merchant concentration.
 
In addition to our B2C offering, we have diversified our source of revenues through our growing presence in the B2B market. We work with enterprise clients and leading financial institutions seeking to automate their accounts payable processes. We provide curated managed services and a robust suite of integrated accounts payable automation solutions to industry leading financial institutions and card networks such as Citibank, MasterCard, Visa and American Express, among others. Unlike the consumer payments business which advocates a variable cost indirect sales strategy, Priority Commercial Payments supports a direct sales model that provides turnkey merchant development, product sales, and supplier enablement programs. CPX offers clients a seamless bridge for buyer to supplier (payor to provider) payments by integrating directly to a buyer's payment instruction file and parsing it for payment to suppliers via virtual card, purchase card, ACH +, dynamic discounting, or check. Successful implementation of our Accounts Payable ("AP") automation solutions provides suppliers with the benefits of cash acceleration, buyers with valuable rebate/discount revenue, and the Company with stable sources of payment processing and other revenue. Considering that the commercial payments volume in the United States is over twice the size of consumer payments and substantially less penetrated for electronic payments, we believe that this market represents a high growth opportunity for us.

Our Integrated Partners component which offers solutions for ISVs, third-party integrators, and merchants that allow for the leveraging of our core payments engine via application program interfaces ("APIs") resources. Integrated Partners connects businesses with other businesses and their customers in the real estate, hospitality, and health care marketplaces.

We generate revenue primarily from fees charged for processing payment transactions, and to a lesser extent, from monthly subscription services and other solutions provided to merchants. Processing fees are generated from the ongoing sales of our merchants under multi-year merchant contracts, and thus are highly recurring in nature. Due to the nature of our strong reseller-centric distribution model and differentiated technology offering, we can drive efficient scale and operating leverage, generating robust margins and profitability.
 
For the year ended December 31, 2020, we generated revenue of $404.3 million, net income attributable to the stockholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc. of $25.7 million and Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA (a non-GAAP liquidity measure) of $63.8 million, compared to revenue of $371.9 million, net loss of $33.6 million, and Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA of
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$72.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. For a discussion of Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA and a reconciliation to net income (loss), the most directly comparable measure under GAAP, please see the section entitled "Item 7 - Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Conditions and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources" in Part II of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.


Industry Overview
 
The B2C payment processing industry provides merchants with credit, debit, gift and loyalty card and other payment processing services, along with related value-added solutions and information services. The industry continues to grow, driven by wider merchant acceptance, increased consumer use of electronic payments and advances in payment technology. The proliferation of bankcards and use of other payment technologies has made the acceptance of electronic payments through multiple channels a virtual necessity for many businesses, regardless of size, to remain competitive. This increased use and acceptance of bankcards and the availability of more sophisticated products and services has resulted in a highly competitive and specialized industry.
 
Services to the SMB merchant market have been historically characterized by basic payment processing without ready access to more sophisticated technology, value-added solutions, or customer service that are typically offered to large merchants. To keep up with the changing demands of how consumers wish to pay for goods and services, we believe that SMB merchants increasingly recognize the need for value-added services wrapped around omni-channel payment solutions that are tailored to their specific business needs.
 
Key Industry Trends
 
The following are key trends we believe are impacting the merchant acquiring / payment processing industry:
 
Trend Toward Electronic Transactions. We believe the continued shift from cash/paper payments toward electronic / card payments will drive growth for merchant acquirers and processors as volume continues to grow correspondingly. We believe the continued migration from cash to card and overall market growth will continue to provide tailwinds to the electronic payments industry.

Increasing Demand for Integrated Payments. Merchant acquirers are increasingly differentiating themselves from competitors via innovative technology, including integrated POS solutions ("integrated payments"). Integrated payments refer to the integration of payment processing with various software solutions and applications that are sold by VARs and ISVs. Integrated software tools help merchants manage their businesses, streamline processes, lower costs, increase accuracy, and drive growth for businesses. The broader solutions delivered as part of an integrated payments platform have become an increasingly important consideration point for many SMBs, whereas pricing was historically the key factor influencing the selection of a merchant acquirer. Merchant acquirers that partner with VARs and ISVs to integrate payments with software or own the software outright may benefit most from new revenue streams and higher merchant retention.

Mobile Payments. Historically, e-commerce was conducted on a computer via a web browser; however, as mobile technologies continue to proliferate, consumers are making more purchases through mobile browsers and native mobile applications. We believe this shift represents a significant opportunity given the high growth rates of mobile payments volume, higher fees for card-not-present and cross-border processing and potential for the in-app economy to stimulate and/or alter consumer spending behavior.

Migration to EMV. EMV, which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, is the global payments standard that utilizes chip technology on cards designed to increase security. EMV technology employs dynamic authentication for each transaction, rendering any data copied from magnetic strip readers to produce counterfeit cards unusable. Demand for EMV ready terminals should remain resilient in the near term due to the following:

The United States was one of the last countries to adopt EMV technology, leaving a large group of merchants still transitioning to the EMV standards; and

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U.S. merchants are penalized for failing to comply with EMV standards by bearing the chargeback risk when presented with an EMV enabled card when the terminal is non-compliant.

The large majority of our third-party products are EMV enabled, and we expect that most new hardware sales will be EMV enabled devices, although all hardware sales constitute only a small portion of our total revenue.
 
B2B payments is the largest payment market in the United States by volume and presents a significant opportunity for payment providers to capitalize on the conversion of check and paper-based payments to electronic payments, including card-based acceptance. As businesses have increasingly looked to improve efficiency and reduce costs, the electronification of B2B payments has gained momentum.

Electronics Payments Overview
 
The payment processing and services industry provides the infrastructure and services necessary to enable the acceptance, processing, clearing and settlement of electronic payments predominantly consisting of credit card, debit card, ACH payments, gift cards and loyalty rewards programs. Characterized by recurring revenues, high operating leverage, and robust cash flow generation, the industry continues to benefit from the mass migration from cash and checks to electronic payments.
 
There are five key participants in the payment processing value chain: (i) card issuing banks, (ii) merchant acquirers, (iii) payment networks, (iv) merchant processors and (v) sponsor banks. Each of these participants performs key functions in the electronic payments process, while other entities, such as terminal manufacturers, gateway providers and independent sales organizations also play important functions within the value chain.
 
Card Issuing Banks – Typically financial institutions that issue credit/debit cards to consumers (also underwrite the risk associated the cards), authorize (check for fraud and sufficient funds) transactions and transfer funds through the payment networks for settlement. Some card issuers do not have the ability to process transactions in-house, in which case the issuer may engage a card processor.

Merchant Acquirers – Firms that sign up merchants to their platform through a variety of sales channels, enabling them to accept, process and settle electronic payments. Additionally, merchant acquirers provide other value-added services to help merchants run their businesses more efficiently, such as helping to select POS hardware and providing customer support and services.

Payment Networks – Card brand companies, such as MasterCard or Visa, that set rules and provide the rails to route transactions and information between card issuers, merchant acquirers and payments processors in real-time over vast communication networks.

Merchant Processors – Firms that provide the technology needed to allow for payment authorization, data transmission, data security and settlement functions. Oftentimes the term merchant acquirer and processor are used synonymously; however, they perform two distinct functions (sometimes provided by the same entity).

Sponsor Banks – Financial Institutions that are acquiring members of Visa and MasterCard and provide sponsorship access to acquirers and processors to the card networks. Sponsor banks provide merchants the ultimate access to the card networks for their processing activity.
 
The industry also includes other third-party providers, including service, software and hardware companies that provide products and services designed to improve the experience for issuers, merchants and merchant acquirers. This category includes mobile payment enablers, terminal manufacturers, and ISV's.
 
Each electronic payment transaction consists of two key steps: the front-end authorization and back end settlement.

Front End Authorization – The original request for payment authorization that occurs when the card is swiped or inserted at the POS or the data is entered into an online gateway.

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Back End Settlement – The settlement and clearing process consists of settling outstanding payables and receivables between the card issuing bank & merchant bank. This process is facilitated by a back-end processor that utilizes the network's platform to send outstanding payable information and funds between the two parties.

A credit or debit card transaction carried out offline or through signature debit is a two-message process, with the front end occurring at the POS and the back end occurring later as a part of a batch processing system that clears all of the day's payments from transaction occurring throughout the day. Credit and debit card transactions carried out with personal identification numbers consist of a single message, whereby the authorization and clearing occur immediately – the money is instantly debited from the cardholder's checking account, although the settlement of funds (the transfer to the merchant's account) may happen later as part of a batch process.
 
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Competitive Strengths
 
We possess certain attributes that we believe differentiate us as a leading provider of merchant acquiring and commercial payment solutions in the United States. Our key competitive strengths include:
 
Purpose-Built Proprietary Technology
 
We have strategically built our proprietary software to provide technology-enabled payment acceptance and business management solutions to merchants, enterprises and resellers. The MX product line is embedded into the critical day-to-day workflows and operations of both merchants and resellers, leading to highly "sticky" relationships and high retention. CPX provides a complete commercial solution suite that monetizes commercial payments and maximizes automation for buyers and suppliers. By integrating with Vortex.Cloud and Vortex.OS, MX and CPX can scale in a cost-effective and efficient manner, while enhancing features and functionality. Both product lines also support low friction merchant onboarding and an integrated value-added product offering for merchants, resellers and ISVs in the consumer and commercial payment space. Furthermore, in addition to supporting a modern user experience, Vortex.Cloud enables the rapid inclusion of data and systems of acquisition targets for smooth consolidation to our operating infrastructure and accelerates achievement of revenue and of cost synergies.

Diverse Reseller Community
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We maintain strong reseller relationships with approximately 1,300 ISOs, FIs, ISVs, VARs and other referral partners. MX Connect enables resellers to efficiently market merchant acquiring solutions to a broad base of merchants through this one-to-many distribution model. Resellers leverage MX Connect's powerful CRM and business operating features to manage their internal sales teams and engage their merchant base through various value-added tools and resources, such as marketing resources, automated onboarding, merchant underwriting, merchant activity monitoring and reporting, to support the growth of their businesses. We believe that our ability to service our reseller partners through a comprehensive offering provides a competitive advantage that has allowed the company to build a large, diverse merchant base characterized by high retention. The strength of our technology offering is manifest in the fact that we maintain ownership of merchant contracts, with most reseller contracts including strong non-solicit and portability restrictions.
 
Comprehensive Suite of Payment Solutions
 
MX Merchant offers a comprehensive and differentiated suite of traditional and emerging payment products and services that enables SMBs to address their payment needs through one provider. We provide a payment processing platform that allows merchants to accept electronic payments (e.g. credit cards, debit cards, and ACH) at the point of sale ("POS"), online, and via mobile payment technologies. In addition, through MX Merchant, we deliver innovative business management products and add-on features that meet the needs of SMBs across different vertical markets. Through our MX Merchant platform, we believe we are well-positioned to capitalize on the trend towards integrated payments solutions, new technology adoption and value-add service utilization that is underway in the SMB market. We believe our solutions facilitate a superior merchant experience that results in increased customer lifetime value.
 
Highly Scalable Business Model with Operating Leverage
 
As a result of thoughtful investments in our technology, we have developed robust and differentiated infrastructure that has enabled us to scale in a cost-efficient manner. Our purpose-built proprietary technology platforms, MX and CPX, each serve a unique purpose within consumer and commercial payments, enabling the company to realize significant operating leverage within each business segment. Furthermore, the agility of our Vortex.Cloud and Vortex.OS enterprise infrastructure enables us to quickly and cost efficiently consolidate acquisitions to drive revenue and cost synergies. Our operating efficiency supports a low capital expenditure environment to develop product enhancements that drive organic growth across our consumer and commercial payment ecosystems and attract both reselling partners and enterprise clients looking for best-in-class solutions. By creating a cost-efficient environment that facilitates the combination of ongoing product innovation to drive organic growth and stable cash flow to fund acquisitions, we anticipate ongoing economies of scale and increased margins over time.
 
Experienced Management Team Led by Industry Veterans
 
Our executive management team has a record of execution in the merchant acquiring and technology-enabled payments industry. Our team has continued to develop and enhance our proprietary and innovative technology platforms that differentiate us with merchants and resellers in the industry. Since founding the Company, our leadership team has built strong, long-term relationships with reseller and enterprise partners by leveraging the MX and CPX product platforms to meet the needs of businesses in specific vertical markets. We invest to attract and retain executive leadership that align with the opportunities in the market and our strategic focus.


Growth Strategies
 
We intend to continue to execute a multi-pronged growth strategy, with diverse organic initiatives supplemented by acquisitions. Growth strategies include:
 
Organic Growth in our Consumer Reseller and Merchant Base
 
We expect to grow through our existing reseller network and merchant base, capitalizing on the inherent growth of existing merchant volume and reseller merchant portfolios. By providing resellers with agile tools to manage their sales businesses and grow their merchant portfolio, we have established a solid base from which to generate new merchant adoption and retain
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existing merchants. By engaging in a consultative partnership approach, we maintain strong relationships with our reseller partners and continues to exhibit strong merchant adoption and volume growth trends. Through our resellers, we provide merchants with full-service acquiring solutions, as well as value-added services and tools to streamline their business processes and enables them to focus on driving same store sales growth.
 
Expand our Network of Distribution Partners
 
We have established and maintain a strong position within the reseller community, with approximately 1,300 partners. We intend to continue to expand our distribution network to reach new partners, particularly with ISVs and VARs to expand technology and integrated partnerships. We believe that our MX Connect technology offering enables us to attract, and retain, high quality resellers focused on growth.
 
Increase Margin per Merchant with Complementary Products and Services
 
We intend to drive the adoption of our value-added services and tools with our merchant base. MX Merchant allows merchants to add proprietary Priority applications as well as other third-party applications from the MX Merchant Marketplace to build customized payment solutions that are tailored to a merchant's business needs. As we continue to board new merchants and promote our MX Merchant solution, we can cross-sell these add-on applications. By increasing attachment rates, along with continued benefit from economies of scale, we expect to see improved margins per merchant. Merchants utilizing MX Merchant exhibit somewhat higher retention, contributing to our improving overall retention rates. We believe we are well-positioned to capitalize on the secular trend towards integrated payments solutions, new technology adoption and value-add service utilization in the SMB market.
 
Deploy Industry Specific Payment Technology
 
We intend to continue to enhance and deploy our technology-enabled payment solutions in attractive industries. Through MX Merchant, we have developed proprietary applications and added third-party tools that address the specific needs of merchants in certain verticals, including retail, health care and hospitality. We continue to identify and evaluate new and attractive industries where we can deliver differentiated technology-enabled payment solutions that meet merchants' industry-specific needs.
 
Expand Electronic Payments Share of B2B Transactions with CPX
 
We have a growing presence in the commercial payments market where we provide curated managed services and AP automation solutions to industry leading financial institutions and card networks such as Citibank, MasterCard, Visa and American Express. The Commercial payments market is the largest and one of the fastest growing payments market in the United States by volume. We are well positioned to capitalize on the secular shift from check to electronic payments, which currently lags the consumer payments markets, by eliminating the friction between buyers and suppliers through our industry leading offering, and driving strong growth and profitability.
 
Accretive Acquisitions
 
We intend to selectively pursue strategic and tactical acquisitions that meet certain criteria, with a consistent long-term goal of maximizing stockholder value. We actively seek potential acquisition candidates that exhibit certain attractive attributes including, predictable and recurring revenue, scalable operating model, low capital intensity complementary technology offerings and strong cultural fit. Our Vortex.Cloud operating infrastructure is purpose-built to rapidly and seamlessly consolidate complementary businesses into our ecosystem, optimizing revenue and cost synergies.


Sales and Distribution
 
We reach our consumer payment merchants through three primary sales channels: 1) Retail ISOs/Agents and Financial Institutions, 2) Wholesale ISOs, and 3) Independent Software Vendors and Value-Added Resellers. MX Connect allows resellers to engage merchants for processing services and a host of value-added features designed to enhance their customer
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relationship. Merchants utilize our diverse product suite to manage their business, increasing our ability to retain the merchant if the ISO were to leave the Company.
 
Retail ISOs/Agents and Financial Institutions (i.e. community banks) – A non-risk bearing independent group of sales agents, individual sales agents, or financial institutions (mostly community banks) that operates as a sales force on behalf of the Company. Retail resellers are not employed by us but rather are independently contracted to acquire merchants to utilize our payment processing and product offerings. While the reseller serves as the merchant's key contact, the processing contract is between us and the merchant and agreements with resellers include non-solicitation rights. We manage the transaction risk on behalf of retail resellers.

Wholesale ISO – A risk bearing independent group of sales agents operating as a sales force on behalf of the Company. Wholesale ISOs are not employed by us but rather are independently contracted to acquire merchants to utilize our payment processing and product offerings. While the ISO serves as the merchant's key contact, the processing contract is between us and the merchant, and agreements with ISOs include non-solicitation rights. Wholesale ISOs are responsible and bear all transaction risk on their merchant portfolios. We underwrite all such merchants even though wholesale ISOs bear the risk.

ISVs and VARs - ISVs develop and sell business management software solutions while VARs sell third-party software solutions to merchants as part of a bundled package that includes the computer systems which operates the software. We partner with ISVs and VARs that can integrate our capabilities into a variety of software applications (e.g. medical billing software). These integrated payment solutions create an extremely "sticky" customer relationship.
 
Priority Commercial Payments obtains its "buyer" clients through direct sales initiative and referral and business partnerships with integrated software partners, the card networks (MasterCard, Visa, American Express) and large US banking institutions. We support a direct vendor sales model that provides turnkey merchant development, product sales, and supplier enablement programs. By establishing a seamless bridge for buyer-to-supplier (payor-to-provider) payments that is integrated directly to a buyer's payment instruction file to facilitate payments to vendors via all payment types (virtual card, purchase card, ACH +, dynamic discounting), we have established ourselves as an emerging force in commercial payments.
 
Our market strategy has resulted in a merchant base that we believe is diversified across both industries and geographies resulting in, what we believe, is more stable average profitability per merchant. Only one single reseller relationship contributes more than 10% of total bankcard processing volume, and that one relationship represents approximately 17.1% of our total bankcard processing volume.


Security, Disaster Recovery and Back-up Systems
 
As a result of normal business operations, we store information relating to our merchants and their transactions. Because this information is considered sensitive in nature, we maintain a high level of security to attempt to protect it. Our computational systems are continually updated and audited to the latest security standards as defined by payment card industry and data security standards ("PCI DSS"), FSOC, and HIPAA audits. As such, we have a dedicated team responsible for security incident response. This team develops, maintains, tests and verifies our incident response plan. The primary function of this team is to react and respond to intrusions, denial of service, data leakage, malware, vandalism, and many other events that could potentially jeopardize data availability, integrity, and confidentiality. This team is responsible for investigating and reporting on all malicious activity in and around our information systems. In addition to handling security incidents, the incident response team continually educates themselves and us on information security matters.
 
High-availability and disaster recovery are provided through a combination of redundant hardware and software running at two geographically distinct data centers. Each data center deployment is an exact mirror of the other and each can handle all technical, payment, and business operations for all product lines independently of the other. If one site or service becomes impaired, the traffic is redirected to the other automatically. Business Continuity Planning drills are run each quarter to test fail-over and recovery as well as staff operations and readiness.
 

Third-Party Processors and Sponsor Banks
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We partner with various vendors in the payments value chain to assist us in providing payment processing services to merchant clients, most notably processors and sponsor banks, which sit between us (the merchant acquirer) and the card networks. Processing is a scale driven business in which many acquirers outsource the processing function to a small number of large processors. In these partnerships, we serve as a merchant acquirer and enter into processing agreements with payment processors, such as First Data or TSYS, to assist us in providing front-end and back-end transaction processing services for our merchants. These third parties are compensated for their services. These processors in turn have agreements with card networks such as Visa and MasterCard, through which the transaction information is routed in exchange for network fees.
 
To provide processing services, acquirers like Priority we must be registered with the card networks (e.g. Visa and MasterCard). To register with a card network in the United States, acquirers must maintain relationships with banks willing to sponsor the acquirer's adherence to the rules and standards of the card networks, or a sponsor bank. We maintain sponsor bank relationships with Wells Fargo, Synovus Bank, Pueblo Bank, Sutton Bank, and Axiom Bank. For ACH payments, the Company's ACH network (ACH.com) is sponsored by Atlantic Capital Bank and Fifth Third Bank. Sponsor bank relationships enable us to route transactions under the sponsor bank's control and identification number (referred to as a BIN for Visa and ICA for MasterCard) across the card networks (or ACH network) to authorize and clear transactions.
 

Risk Management
 
Our thoughtful merchant and reseller underwriting policies combined with our forward-looking transaction management capabilities have enabled us to maintain low credit loss performance. Our risk management strategies are informed by a team with decades of experience managing merchant acquiring risk operations that are augmented by our modern systems designed to manage risk at the transaction level.
 
Initial Underwriting- Central to our risk management process is our front-line underwriting policies that vet all resellers and merchants prior to their contracting with us. Our automated risk systems pull credit bureau reports, corporate ownership details, as well as anti-money laundering, Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ("FinCEN") information from a variety of integrated data bases. This information is put into the hands of a tenured team of underwriters who conduct any necessary industry checks, financial performance analysis or owner background checks, consistent with our policies. Based upon these results the underwriting department rejects or approves and sets appropriate merchant and reseller reserve requirements which are held by our bank sponsors on our behalf. Resellers are subject to quarterly and/or annual assessments for financial strength compliance with our policies and adjustments to reserve levels. The results of our initial merchant underwriting inform the transaction level risk limits for volume, average ticket, transaction types and authorization codes among other items that are captured by our CYRIS risk module—a proprietary risk system that monitors and reports transaction risk activity to our risk team. This transaction level risk module, housed within MX Connect, forms the foundational risk management framework that enables the company to optimize transaction activity and processing scale while preserving a modest aggregate risk profile that has resulted in historically low losses.
 
Real-Time Risk Monitoring- Merchant transactions are monitored on a transactional basis to proactively enforce risk controls. Our risk systems provide automated evaluation of merchant transaction activity against initial underwriting settings. Transactions that are outside underwriting parameters are queued for further investigation. Also, resellers whose merchant portfolio represents a concentration of investigated merchants are evaluated for risk action (i.e., increased reserves or contract termination).
 
Risk Audit- Transactions flagged by our risk monitoring systems or that demonstrate suspicious activity traits that have been flagged for review can result in funds being held and other risk mitigation actions. These can include non- authorization of the transaction, debit of reserves or even termination of processing agreement. Merchants are periodically reviewed to assess any risk adjustments based upon their overall financial health and compliance with Network standards. Merchant transaction activity is investigated for instances of business activity changes or credit impairment (and improvement).
 
Loss Mitigation- In instances where particular transactions and/or individual merchants are flagged for fraud, where transaction activity is resulting in excessive chargebacks, several loss mitigation actions may be taken. These include charge-back dispute
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resolution, merchant and reseller funds (reserves or processed batches) withheld, inclusion on Network Match List to notify the industry of a "bad actor", and even legal action.
 
 
Acquisitions and Dispositions of Businesses
 
Merger with Finxera Holdings, Inc.

On March 5, 2021, the Company entered into an Agreement and Plan of Merger (the “Merger Agreement”) with Finxera Holdings, Inc. (“Finxera”), Prime Warrior Acquisition Corp., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of the Company (“Merger Sub”) and, solely in its capacity as the representative of the stockholders or optionholders of Finxera (the “Equityholder Representative”), Stone Point Capital LLC. Priority will acquire, through a merger of Merger Sub with and into Finxera, the Finxera business. Finxera is a provider of deposit account management payment processing services to the debt settlement industry in the United States.

The Merger Agreement provides that, among other things and on the terms and subject to the conditions of the Merger Agreement, (a) Merger Sub will merge with and into Finxera (the “Merger”), with the separate existence of Merger Sub ceasing and Finxera continuing as the surviving entity of the Merger (the “Surviving Entity”); (b) at the effective time of the Merger (the “Effective Time”) each share of common stock, par value $0.01 per share, of Merger Sub issued and outstanding immediately prior to the Effective Time shall be converted into one validly issued, fully paid and non-assessable share of common stock, par value $0.01 per share, of the Surviving Entity; and (c) the shares of common stock of Finxera designated as “Class A Common Stock”, “Class B Common Stock” and preferred stock “Series C Participating Preferred Stock” issued and outstanding immediately prior to the closing of the transactions contemplated by the Merger Agreement (the “Closing”) will be converted into rights to receive certain cash and stock consideration and a contingent right to receive a portion of any payments made following the determination of the purchase price adjustments (a “Deferred Payment”).

Consideration for the Merger will consist of a combination of cash and stock, with the purchase price comprising of: (a) $425,000,000, plus (b) the aggregate value of the current assets of the Finxera and each of its subsidiaries (the “Group Companies”) less the aggregate value of the current liabilities of the Group Companies, in each case, determined on a consolidated basis without duplication, as of the close of business on the business day immediately preceding the date of the Closing (which may be a positive or negative number), plus (c) the sum of all cash and cash equivalents of the Group Companies as of the close of business on the business day immediately preceding the date of the Closing, minus (d) the amount of indebtedness of the Group Companies as of the close of the business day immediately prior to the date of the Closing, minus (e) the amount of unpaid transaction expenses, minus (f) 25% of the earnings of the Group Companies during the period between the signing of the Merger Agreement and the Closing.

Each option to purchase one or more shares of Class B Common Stock of Finxera issued pursuant to the Finxera Holdings, Inc. 2018 Equity Incentive Plan (the “Company Options”), vested as of immediately prior to the Closing (the “Vested Company Option”), that is issued and outstanding immediately prior to the Closing will be deemed to be exercised and converted into the right to receive a cash payment with respect to such Vested Company Option and a contingent right to receive a portion of any Deferred Payments.

Support Agreement

In accordance with the terms of the Merger Agreement, Thomas C. Priore, the Thomas Priore 2019 GRAT, the Thomas C. Priore Irrevocable Insurance Trust U/A/D 1/8/2010 (the “Stockholders”) and Finxera have entered into that certain Support Agreement, dated as of March 5, 2021 (the “Support Agreement”), pursuant to which each of the Stockholder (a) agrees to execute and deliver the Stockholders’ Agreement and the Registration Rights Agreement on the date of the Closing and (b) after the date of the Support Agreement and prior to the date of the Closing, shall not sell, assign, transfer or otherwise dispose of any of such Stockholder’s Company Common Shares, unless as a condition to such sale, assignment, transfer or other disposition, each such transferee executes and delivers a joinder agreement to the Support Agreement in a form reasonably acceptable to Finxera, provided, that such Stockholder shall be permitted to sell up to an aggregate of 5% of such Stockholder’s Company Common Shares upon written notice to Finxera.

Debt Commitment Letter
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On March 5, 2021, Priority Holdings, LLC (“Holdings”) entered into that certain debt commitment letter (the “Debt Commitment Letter”) with Truist Bank and Truist Securities, Inc. (collectively, the “Debt Commitment Parties”), pursuant to which, among other things, the Debt Commitment Parties have committed to provide Holdings with (a) $300,000,000 of term loan commitments (the “Initial Term Loan Facility”); (b) $290,000,000 of delayed draw term loan commitments (the “Delayed Draw Term Loan Facility”); and (c) a $40,000,000 revolving credit facility (the “Revolving Credit Facility” and together with the Initial Term Loan Facility and the Delayed Draw Term Loan Facility, collectively, the “Debt Financing”), in each case on the terms and subject to the conditions set forth in the Debt Commitment Letter. The proceeds of the Initial Term Loan Facility and the Revolving Credit Facility will be used, among other things, to refinance certain of Holdings’ existing indebtedness, to pay fees and expenses in connection with such refinancing and for working capital and general corporate requirements. The proceeds of the Delayed Draw Term Loan Facility will be used to finance a portion of the cash consideration in connection with the Merger and to pay fees and expenses in connection therewith.

Equity Commitment Letter

On March 5, 2021, the Company entered into that certain preferred stock commitment letter (the “Equity Commitment Letter”) with Ares Capital Management LLC (“ACM”) and Ares Alternative Credit Management LLC (“AACM” and together with ACM, the “Equity Commitment Parties”), pursuant to which, among other things, the Equity Commitment Parties have agreed to purchase perpetual senior preferred equity securities (the “Preferred Stock”) of the Company (a) to be issued in connection with the refinancing and repayment in full of certain Credit and Guaranty Agreements as described in the Equity Commitment Letter (the “Closing Date Refinancing”) (the “Initial Preferred Stock” and the issuance and sale thereof and certain warrants representing 2.50% of the fully diluted Company Common Shares at the Closing, the “Initial Preferred Stock Financing”) in an amount equal to (i) in the case of ACM, $90.0 million and (ii) in the case of AACM, $60.0 million, (b) to be issued in connection with the Merger (the “Acquisition Preferred Stock” and the issuance and sale thereof, the “Acquisition Preferred Stock Financing”) in an amount equal to (i) in the case of ACM, $30.0 million and (ii) in the case of AACM, $20.0 million and (c) available to be issued in connection with one or more acquisitions by the Company or its subsidiaries as permitted by the Equity Commitment Letter (the “Delayed Preferred Stock” and the issuance and sale thereof, the “Delayed Preferred Stock Financing” and together with the Initial Preferred Stock Financing and the Acquisition Preferred Stock Financing, the “Preferred Stock Financing”) an amount equal to (i) in the case of ACM, $30.0 million and (ii) in the case of AACM, $20.0 million.

The Company has also agreed to issue to the Equity Commitment Parties warrants to purchase shares of common stock of the Company equal to an aggregate of 2.5% of the outstanding shares of common stock at a nominal exercise price.

The Preferred Stock will require quarterly dividend payments initially equal to a LIBOR rate plus 12% per annum of the liquidation preference, of which at least LIBOR plus 5% is to be payable in cash and the remainder paid in kind. In certain circumstances, including if the Company does not pay the minimum cash dividend, the required dividend may be increased.

The Preferred Stock will be redeemable beginning two years after the first issuance of Preferred Stock at a price equal to 102% of the liquidation preference of the Preferred Stock plus any accrued and unpaid dividends or, beginning three years after the first issuance of Preferred Stock, at a price equal to the liquidation preference plus any accrued and unpaid dividends. Prior to two years after the first issuance, the Preferred Stock is redeemable at a make-whole rate. In the event of a change of control or liquidation event, the Company will be required to redeem the outstanding Preferred Stock.

The Preferred Stock will not have any voting rights except as required under Delaware law, but certain actions by the Company will require the consent of holders of a majority of the Preferred Stock. In addition, the Preferred Stock will include certain covenants restricting, among other things, restricted payments, the incurrence of indebtedness, acquisitions and investments.

For information regarding our business and asset acquisitions, see Note 4, Asset Acquisitions, Asset Contributions, and Business Combinations, to our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. For information regarding our business disposal, see Note 2, Disposal of Business.
 

Competition
 
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The U.S. acquiring industry is highly competitive, with several large processors accounting for the majority of processing volume; when excluding banks, we ranked 5th among U.S. merchant acquiring as of 2020, according to the 2020 Nilson Report issued in March 2021. When comparing top non-bank U.S. merchant acquirers by volume, FIS (which now includes Worldpay) held the leadership position at the end of 2020 followed by Global Payments (which now includes TSYS), and Fiserv (which now includes First Data).
 
The concentration at the top of the industry partly reflects consolidation; however, we believe that consolidation has also resulted in many large processors having multiple, inflexible legacy IT systems that are not well equipped to adjust to changing market requirements. We believe that the large merchant acquirers whose innovation has been hindered by these redundant, legacy systems risk losing market share to acquirers with more agile and dynamic IT systems, such as Priority.

Pricing has historically been the key factor influencing the selection of a merchant acquirer. However, providers with more advanced tech-enabled services (primarily online and integrated offerings) have an advantage over providers operating legacy technology and offering undifferentiated services that have come under pricing pressure from higher levels of competition. High quality customer service further differentiates providers as this helps to reduce attrition. Other competitive factors that set acquirers apart include price, partnerships with financial institutions, servicing capability, data security and functionality. Leading acquirers are expected to continue to add additional services to expand cross-selling opportunities, primarily in omni-channel payment solutions, POS software, payments security, customer loyalty and other payments-related offerings.
 
The largest opportunity for acquirers to expand is within the small to medium-sized merchant market. According to the SMB Group, a markets insight firm for small and medium-sized businesses, the majority of small and medium-sized businesses recognize the upside tech-enabled solutions provide to daily operations and long-term growth potential. As small businesses increasingly demand integrated solutions tailored to specific business functions or industries merchant processors are adopting payment enabled software offerings that combine payments with core business operating software. By subsisting within SMB's critical business software processors are able to improve economic results through better merchant retention and often higher processing margins. Through our MX Merchant platform, we are well-positioned to capitalize on the trend towards integrated solutions, new technology adoption and value added-service utilization in the SMB market.
 

Government Regulation and Payment Network Rules
 
We operate in an increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment. We are subject to a variety of federal, state and local laws and regulations and the rules and standards of the payment networks that are utilized to provide our electronic payment services, as more fully described below.
 
Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the "Dodd-Frank Act")
 
The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 resulted in significant structural and other changes to the regulation of the financial services industry. The Dodd-Frank Act directed the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the "Federal Reserve Board") to regulate the debit interchange transaction fees that a card issuer or payment card network receives or charges for an electronic debit transaction. Pursuant to the so-called "Durbin Amendment" to the Dodd-Frank Act, these fees must be "reasonable and proportional" to the cost incurred by the card issuer in authorizing, clearing and settling the transaction. Pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Federal Reserve Board, debit interchange rates for card issuers with assets of $10 billion or more are capped at $0.21 per transaction and an ad valorem component of 5 basis points to reflect a portion of the issuer's fraud losses plus, for qualifying issuers, an additional $0.01 per transaction in debit interchange for fraud prevention costs. The cap on interchange fees has not had a material direct effect on our results of operations.
 
In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act limits the ability of payment card networks to impose certain restrictions because it allows merchants to: (i) set minimum dollar amounts (not to exceed $10) for the acceptance of a credit card (and allows federal governmental entities and institutions of higher education to set maximum amounts for the acceptance of credit cards) and (ii) provide discounts or incentives to encourage consumers to pay with cash, checks, debit cards or credit cards.
 
The rules also contain prohibitions on network exclusivity and merchant routing restrictions that require a card issuer to enable at least two unaffiliated networks on each debit card, prohibit card networks from entering into exclusivity arrangements and
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restrict the ability of issuers or networks to mandate transaction routing requirements. The prohibition on network exclusivity has not significantly affected our ability to pass on network fees and other costs to our customers, nor do we expect it to in the future.
 
The Dodd-Frank Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), which has assumed responsibility for enforcing federal consumer protection laws, and the FSOC, which was established to, among other things, identify risks to the stability of the United States financial system. The FSOC has the authority to require supervision and regulation of nonbank financial companies that the FSOC determines pose a systemic risk to the United States financial system. Accordingly, we may be subject to additional systemic risk-related oversight.

Payment Network Rules and Standards
 
As a merchant acquirer, we are subject to the rules of Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and other payment networks. In order to provide services, several of our subsidiaries are either registered as service providers for member institutions with MasterCard, Visa and other networks or are direct members of MasterCard, Visa and other networks. Accordingly, we are subject to card association and network rules that could subject us to a variety of fines or penalties that may be levied by the card networks for certain acts or omissions.
 
Banking Laws and Regulations
 
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (the "FFIEC") is an interagency body comprised of federal bank and credit union regulators such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC"), the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. The FFIEC examines large data processors in order to identify and mitigate risks associated with systemically significant service providers, including specifically the risks they may pose to the banking industry.

We are considered by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council to be a technology service provider ("TSP") based on the services we provide to financial institutions. As a TSP, we are subject to audits by an interagency group consisting of the Federal Reserve System, FDIC, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Privacy and Information Security Laws
 
We provide services that may be subject to various state, federal and foreign privacy laws and regulations. These laws and regulations include the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which applies to a broad range of financial institutions and to companies that provide services to financial institutions in the United States, certain health care technology laws, including HIPAA and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Act, and the California Consumer Protection Act ("CCPA"), which establishes a new privacy framework for covered businesses by creating an expanded definition of personal information, establishing new data privacy rights for consumers in the State of California, imposing special rules on the collection of consumer data from minors, and creating a new and potentially severe statutory damages framework for violations of the CCPA and for businesses that fail to implement reasonable security procedures and practices to prevent data breaches. We are also subject to a variety of foreign data protection and privacy laws, including, without limitation, Directive 95/46/EC, as implemented in each member state of the European Union and its successor, the General Data Protection Regulation. Among other things, these foreign and domestic laws, and their implementing regulations, in certain cases restrict the collection, processing, storage, use and disclosure of personal information, require notice to individuals of privacy practices, and provide individuals with certain rights to prevent use and disclosure of protected information. These laws also impose requirements for safeguarding and removal or elimination of personal information.
 
Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Regulation
 
The United States federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations, including the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (collectively, the "BSA"), and the "BSA" implementing regulations administered by FinCEN, a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury, require, among other things, each financial institution to: (1) develop and implement a risk-based anti-money laundering program; (2) file reports on large currency transactions; (3) file suspicious activity reports if the financial institution believes a customer may be violating U.S. laws and regulations; and (4) maintain transaction records. Given that a number of our clients are financial institutions that are directly subject to U.S. federal anti-
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money laundering laws and regulations, we have developed an anti-money laundering compliance program to best assist our clients in meeting such legal and regulatory requirements.
 
We are subject to certain economic and trade sanctions programs that are administered by OFAC of the United States Department of Treasury, which place prohibitions and restrictions on all U.S. citizens and entities with respect to transactions by U.S. persons with specified countries and individuals and entities identified on OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals list (for example, individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, countries subject to certain economic and trade sanctions, as well as terrorists, terrorist organizations and narcotics traffickers identified by OFAC under programs that are not country specific). Similar anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing and proceeds of crime laws apply to movements of currency and payments through electronic transactions and to dealings with persons specified on lists maintained by organizations similar to OFAC in several other countries and which may impose specific data retention obligations or prohibitions on intermediaries in the payment process. We have developed and continue to enhance compliance programs and policies to monitor and address such legal and regulatory requirements and developments. We continue to enhance such programs and policies to ensure that our customers do not engage in prohibited transactions with designated countries, individuals or entities.
 
Telephone Consumer Protection Act
 
We are subject to the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and various state laws to the extent we place telephone calls and short message service ("SMS") messages to clients and consumers. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulates certain telephone calls and SMS messages placed using automatic telephone dialing systems or artificial or prerecorded voices.
 
Escheat Laws

We are subject to U.S. federal and state unclaimed or abandoned property state laws in the United States that requires us to transfer to certain government authorities the unclaimed property of other that we hold when that property has been unclaimed for a certain period of time. Moreover, we are subject to audit by state and foreign regulatory authorities with regard to our escheatment practices.

Other Regulation
 
The Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008 requires certain merchant acquiring entities and third-party settlement organizations to provide information returns for each calendar year with respect to payments made in settlement of electronic payment transactions and third-party payment network transactions occurring in that calendar year. Reportable transactions are also subject to backup withholding requirements.
 
The foregoing is not an exhaustive list of the laws, rules and regulations to which we are subject to and the regulatory framework governing our business is changing continuously.
 

Intellectual Property
 
We have developed a payments platform that includes many instances of proprietary software, code sets, workflows and algorithms. It is our practice to enter into confidentiality, non-disclosure, and invention assignment agreements with our employees and contractors, and into confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with other third parties, to limit access to, and disclosure and use of, our confidential information and proprietary technology. In addition to these contractual measures, we also rely on a combination of trademarks, copyrights, registered domain names, and patent rights to help protect the Priority brand and our other intellectual property.


Human Capital Management

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As of December 31, 2020, we employed 479 employees, of which 472 were employed full-time. We have employees residing in 30 states across the country. None of our employees are represented by a labor union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Growth and Development

Our strategy to develop and retain the best talent includes an emphasis on employee training and development. We promote our core values of ownership, innovation, camaraderie, service, authenticity and trust as an organization and offer awards to colleagues who exemplify these qualities. We require a mandatory online training curriculum for our employees that includes annual anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training.

Well-being and Safety during COVID-19 Pandemic

The success of our business is connected to the well-being of our employees. Accordingly, we are committed to the health, safety and wellness of our employees. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we implemented significant changes that we determined were in the best interest of our employees and the communities in which we operate. This included enabling all of our employees to seamlessly shift to work from home. Over the past few years, we have made investments in our operating environments and technology that support day-to-day execution by employees working from home which allowed for the smooth transition. Additional health and safety measures have been implemented for employees who have elected to work within office locations.

Inclusion and Diversity

Our inclusion and diversity program focuses on our employees, workplace and community. We believe that our business is strengthened by a diverse workforce that reflects the communities in which we operate. We believe all of our employees should be treated with respect and equality, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, or other characteristics. As part of this goal, we launched a Diversity and Inclusion roundtable series for all employees to participate. Inclusion and diversity remains a common thread in all of our human resource practices so that we can attract, develop, and retain the best talent for our workforce.


Availability of Filings

Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the "Exchange Act"), are made available free of charge on our internet web site at www.prth.com, as soon as reasonably practicable after we have electronically filed the material with, or furnished it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). The SEC maintains an internet site that contains our reports, proxy and information statements and our other SEC filings. The address of that web site is https://www.sec.gov/. The contents of our websites are not intended to be incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K or in any other report or document we file with the SEC, and any references to our websites are intended to be inactive textual references only.
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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
 
An investment in our common stock and our financial results are subject to a number of risks. You should carefully consider the risks described below and all other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents incorporated by reference. Our business, prospects, financial condition or operating results could be harmed by any of these risks, as well as other risks not currently known to us or that we currently consider immaterial. Additional risks and uncertainties, including those generally affecting the industry in which we operate and risks that management currently deems immaterial, may arise or become material in the future and affect our business.

Risk Factors Related to Our Business

Our business has been and is likely to continue to be negatively affected by the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, continues to adversely affect commercial activity and has contributed to significant declines in economic activity. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected a number of operational factors, including:

• merchant temporary closures and failures;
• continued and/or worsening unemployment which may negatively influence consumer spending;
• third-party disruptions, including potential outages at network providers, and other suppliers; and
• increased cyber and payment fraud risk.

These factors may remain prevalent for a significant period of time and may continue to adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. The full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and difficult to predict at this time, including, but not limited to, the duration and spread of the pandemic, its severity, the restrictive actions taken to contain the virus or treat its effects, its effects on our customers and how quickly and to what extent normal economic and operating conditions, operations and demand for our services can resume. Accordingly, while the COVID-19 pandemic could have an adverse effect on our revenues and financial results for reporting periods after 2020, the ultimate effects on our operations, financial condition and cash flows cannot be determined at this time.

Unauthorized disclosure of merchant or cardholder data, whether through breach of our computer systems, computer viruses, or otherwise, could expose us to liability, protracted and costly litigation and damage our reputation.

Our services include the processing, transmission and storing of sensitive business and personal information about our merchants, merchants’ customers, vendors, partners, and other third parties. This information may include credit and debit card numbers, bank account numbers, personal identification numbers, names and addresses or other sensitive business information. This information may also be stored by third parties to whom we outsource certain functions or other agents (“associated third parties”). We may have responsibility to the card networks, financial institutions, and in some instances, our merchants, and/or ISOs, for our failure or the failure of our associated third parties to protect this information. .

Information security risks for us and our competitors have substantially increased in recent years in part due to the proliferation of new technologies and the increased sophistication, resources and activities of hackers, terrorists, activists, organized crime, and other external parties, including hostile nation-state actors. The techniques used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade service, sabotage systems or utilize payment systems in an effort to perpetrate financial fraud change frequently and are often difficult to detect. Threats may derive from human error, fraud or malice on the part of employees or third parties, or may result from accidental technological failure. Computer viruses can be distributed and spread rapidly over the internet and could infiltrate our systems or those of our associated third parties. Additionally, denial of service or other attacks could be launched against us for a variety of purposes, including interfering with our services or to create a diversion for other malicious activities. Our defensive measures may not prevent down-time, unauthorized access or use of sensitive data. While we maintain insurance coverage that will cover certain aspects of cyber risks, such insurance coverage may be insufficient to cover all losses. Furthermore, we do not control the actions of our third-party partners and customers in their systems. These third parties may experience security breaches and any future problems experienced by these third parties, including those resulting
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from cyber attacks or other breakdowns or disruptions in services, could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business or expose us to liability. Further, our agreements with our bank sponsors and our third-party payment processors (as well as payment network requirements) require us to take certain protective measures to ensure the confidentiality of merchant and consumer data. Any such actions, attacks or failure to adequately comply with these protective measures could hurt our reputation, force us to incur significant expenses in remediating the resulting impacts, expose us to uninsured liability, result in the loss of our bank sponsors or our ability to participate in the payment networks, or subject us to fees, penalties, sanctions, litigation or termination of our bank sponsor agreements or our third-party payment processor agreements.

As a result of information security risks, we must continuously develop and enhance our controls, processes, and practices designed to protect our computer systems, software, data and networks from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. This continuous development and enhancement will require us to expend additional resources, including to investigate and remediate significant information security vulnerabilities detected. Despite our investments in security measures, we are unable to assure that any security measures will not be subject to system or human error.

Our systems or our third-party providers’ systems may fail, which could interrupt our service, cause us to lose business, increase our costs and expose us to liability.

We depend on the efficient and uninterrupted operation of our computer systems, software, data centers and telecommunications networks, as well as the systems and services of third parties. A system outage or data loss could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Not only could we suffer damage to our reputation in the event of a system outage or data loss, but we may also be liable to third parties. Many of our contractual agreements with financial institutions and certain other customers require the payment of penalties if we do not meet certain operating standards. Our systems and operations or those of our third-party providers could be exposed to damage or interruption from, among other things, fire, natural disaster, power loss, or telecommunications failure.

The payment processing industry is highly competitive and such competition is likely to increase, which may adversely influence the prices we can charge to merchants for our services and the compensation we must pay to our distribution partners, and as a result, our profit margins.

The payment processing industry is highly competitive. We primarily compete in the small to medium-size ("SMB") merchant industry. We compete with, financial institutions and their affiliates, independent payment processing companies, and ISOs. We also compete with many of these same entities for production through distribution partners. Many of our distribution partners are not exclusive to us but also have relationships with our competitors, such that we have to continually expend resources to maintain those relationships. Our growth will depend on the continued growth of payments with credit, debit and prepaid cards ("Electronic Payments"), particularly Electronic Payments to SMB merchants, and our ability to increase our market share through successful competitive efforts to gain new merchants and distribution partners.

Additionally, many financial institutions and their subsidiaries or well-established payment-enabled technology providers with which we compete, have substantially greater capital, technological, management and marketing resources than we have. These factors may allow our competitors to offer better pricing terms to merchants and more attractive compensation to distribution partners, which could result in a loss of our potential or current merchants and distribution partners. Our current and future competitors may also develop or offer services that have price or other advantages over the services we provide.

We also face new, well capitalized, competition from emerging technology and non-traditional payment processing companies as well as traditional companies offering alternative electronic payments services and payment enabled software solutions. If these new entrants gain a greater share of total electronic payments transactions, they could impact our ability to retain and grow our relationships with merchants and distribution partners. Acquirers may be susceptible to the adoption by the broader merchant community of payment enabled software versus terminal based payments.

 Increased merchant, referral partner or ISO attrition could cause our financial results to decline.

We experience attrition in merchant credit and debit card processing volume resulting from several factors, including business closures, transfers of merchant accounts to our competitors, unsuccessful contract renewal negotiations and account closures that we initiate for various reasons such as heightened credit risks or contract breaches by merchants. Our referral partners are
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a significant source of new business. If a referral partner or an ISO switches to another processor, terminates our services, internalizes payment processing that we perform, merges with or is acquired by one of our competitors, or shuts down or becomes insolvent, we may no longer receive new merchant referrals from such referral partner, and we risk losing existing merchants that were originally enrolled by the referral partner or ISO. We cannot predict the level of attrition in the future and it could increase. Higher than expected attrition could negatively affect our results, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
 
Changes in card association and debit network fees or products could increase costs or otherwise limit our operations.
 
From time to time, card associations and debit networks increase the organization and/or processing fees (known as interchange fees) that they charge. It is possible that competitive pressures will result in us absorbing a portion of such increases in the future, which would increase our operating costs, reduce our profit margin, and adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition. In addition, the various card associations and networks prescribe certain capital requirements. Any increase in the capital level required would further limit our use of capital for other purposes.

Changes in payment network rules or standards could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
Payment network rules are established and changed from time to time by each payment network as they may determine in their sole discretion and with or without advance notice to their participants. The timelines imposed by the payment networks for expected compliance with new rules have historically been, and may continue to be, highly compressed, requiring us to quickly implement changes to our systems which increases the risk of non-compliance with new standards. In addition, the payment networks could make changes to interchange or other elements of the pricing structure of the merchant acquiring industry that would have a negative impact on our results of operations.

In order to remain competitive and to continue to increase our revenues and earnings, we must continually update our products and services, a process which could result in increased costs and the loss of revenues, earnings, merchants and distribution partners if the new products and services do not perform as intended or are not accepted in the marketplace.
 
The electronic payments industry in which we compete is subject to rapid technological changes and is characterized by new technology, product and service introductions, evolving industry standards, changing merchant needs and the entrance of non-traditional competitors. We are subject to the risk that our existing products and services become obsolete, and that we are unable to develop new products and services in response to industry demands. Our future success will depend in part on our ability to develop or adapt to technological changes and the evolving needs of our resellers, merchants and the industry at large. In addition, new products and offerings may not perform as intended or generate the business or revenue growth expected. Defects in our software and errors or delays in our processing of electronic transactions could result in additional development costs, diversion of technical and other resources from our other development efforts, loss of credibility with current or potential distribution partners and merchants, harm to our reputation, fines imposed by card networks, or exposure to liability claims. Any delay in the delivery of new products or services or the failure to differentiate our products and services could render them less desirable, or possibly even obsolete, to our merchants. Additionally, the market for alternative payment processing products and services is evolving, and we may develop too rapidly or not rapidly enough for us to recover the costs we have incurred in developing new products and services.

Acquisitions create certain risks and may adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations.

We have actively acquired businesses and expect to continue to make acquisitions of businesses and assets in the future. The acquisition and integration of businesses and assets involve a number of risks. These risks include valuation (negotiating a fair price for the business and assets), integration (managing the process of integrating the acquired business’ people, products, technology, and other assets to realize the projected value and synergies), regulatory (obtaining any applicable regulatory or other government approvals), and due diligence (identifying risks to the prospects of the business, including undisclosed or unknown liabilities or restrictions). There can be no assurances that we will be able to complete suitable acquisitions for a variety of reasons, including the identification of and competition for acquisition targets, the need for regulatory approvals, the
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inability of the parties to agree to the structure or purchase price of the transaction and our inability to finance the transaction on commercially acceptable terms. In addition, any potential acquisition can subject us to a variety of other risks:

If we are unable to successfully integrate the benefits plans, duties and responsibilities, and other factors of interest to management of employees of the acquired business, we could lose employees to our competitors in the region, which could significantly affect our ability to operate the business and complete the integration;

If the integration process causes any delays with the delivery of our services, or the quality of those services, we could lose customers to our competitors;

Any acquisition may otherwise cause disruption to the acquired company’s business and operations and relationships with financial institution sponsors, customers, merchants, employees and other partners;

Any acquisition and the related integration could divert the attention of our management from other strategic matters including possible acquisitions and alliances and planning for new product development or expansion into new markets for payments technology and software solutions; and

The costs related to the integration of an acquired company’s business and operations into ours may be greater than anticipated.
 
We are subject to economic and political risk, the business cycles of our merchants and distribution partners and the overall level of consumer and commercial spending, which could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
The electronic payments industry depends heavily on the overall level of consumer, commercial and government spending. We are exposed to general economic conditions that affect consumer confidence, consumer spending, consumer discretionary income and changes in consumer purchasing habits. A sustained deterioration in general economic conditions or increases in interest rates could adversely affect our financial performance by reducing the number or aggregate dollar volume of transactions made using electronic payments. If our merchants make fewer sales of their products and services using electronic payments, or consumers spend less money through electronic payments, we will have fewer transactions to process at lower dollar amounts, resulting in lower revenue. In addition, a weakening in the economy could force merchants to close at higher than historical rates, resulting in exposure to potential losses and a decline in the number of transactions that we process. We also have material fixed and semi-fixed costs, including rent, debt service, contractual minimums and salaries, which could limit our ability to quickly adjust costs and respond to changes in our business and the economy.
 
Global economic, political and market conditions affecting the U.S. markets may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition, including our revenue growth and profitability.
 
Worldwide financial market conditions, as well as various social and political tensions in the United States and around the world, may contribute to increased market volatility, may have long-term effects on the United States and may cause economic uncertainties or deterioration in the United States. The U.S. markets experienced extreme volatility and disruption during the economic downturn that began in mid-2007, and the U.S. economy was in a recession for several consecutive calendar quarters during the same period. In addition, the fiscal and monetary policies of foreign nations, such as Russia and China, may have a severe impact on U.S. financial markets.

Any new legislation that may be adopted in the United States could significantly affect the regulation of U.S. financial markets. Areas subject to potential change, amendment or repeal include the Dodd-Frank Act and the authority of the Federal Reserve Board and the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The United States may also potentially withdraw from or renegotiate various trade agreements and take other actions that would change current trade policies of the United States. We cannot predict which, if any, of these actions will be taken or, if taken, their effect on the financial stability of the United States. Such actions could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, particularly in view of the regulatory oversight we presently face. We cannot predict the effects of these or similar events in the future on the U.S.
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economy in general, or specifically on our business model or growth strategy, which typically involves the use of debt financing. To the extent a downturn in the U.S. economy impacts our merchant accounts, regulatory changes increase the burden we face in operating our business, or disruptions in the credit markets prevent us from using debt to finance future acquisitions, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely impacted.
 
We rely on financial institutions and other service and technology providers. If they fail or discontinue providing their services or technology generally or to us specifically, our ability to provide services to merchants may be interrupted, and, as a result, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely impacted.
 
We rely on various financial institutions to provide clearing services in connection with our settlement activities. If such financial institutions should stop providing clearing services, we must find other financial institutions to provide those services. If we are unable to find a replacement financial institution, we may no longer be able to provide processing services to certain customers, which could negatively affect our revenues, earnings and cash flows.

We also rely on third parties to provide or supplement bankcard processing services and for infrastructure hosting services. We also rely on third parties for specific software and hardware used in providing our products and services. The termination by our service or technology providers of their arrangements with us or their failure to perform their services efficiently and effectively may adversely affect our relationships with our merchants and, if we cannot find alternate providers quickly, may cause those merchants to terminate their relationship with us.
 
We also rely in part on third parties for the development and access to new technologies, or updates to existing products and services for which third parties provide ongoing support, which increases the cost associated with new and existing product and service offerings. Failure by these third-party providers to devote an appropriate level of attention to our products and services could result in delays in introducing new products or services, or delays in resolving any issues with existing products or services for which third-party providers provide ongoing support.
 
Fraud by merchants or others could cause us to incur losses.

We have potential liability for fraudulent electronic payment transactions or credits initiated by merchants or others. Examples of merchant fraud include when a merchant or other party knowingly uses a stolen or counterfeit credit or debit card, card number, or other credentials to record a false sales or credit transaction, processes an invalid card, or intentionally fails to deliver the merchandise or services sold in an otherwise valid transaction. Criminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to engage in illegal activities such as counterfeiting and fraud. Failure to effectively manage risk and prevent fraud could increase in the future. Increases in chargebacks or other liabilities could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

We incur liability when our merchants refuse or cannot reimburse us for chargebacks resolved in favor of their customers.
 
We have potential liability for chargebacks associated with the transactions we process. If a billing dispute between a merchant and a cardholder is not ultimately resolved in favor of the merchant, the disputed transaction is "charged back" to the merchant's bank and credited or otherwise refunded to the cardholder. The risk of chargebacks is typically greater with those merchants that promise future delivery of goods and services rather than delivering goods or rendering services at the time of payment. If we or our bank sponsors are unable to collect the chargeback from the merchant's account or reserve account (if applicable), or if the merchant refuses or is financially unable (due to bankruptcy or other reasons) to reimburse the merchant's bank for the chargeback, we may bear the loss for the amount of the refund paid to the cardholder. Any increase in chargebacks not paid by our merchants could increase our costs and decrease our revenues. We have policies to manage merchant-related credit risk and often mitigate such risk by requiring collateral and monitoring transaction activity. Notwithstanding our programs and policies for managing credit risk, it is possible that a default on such obligations by one or more of our merchants could have a material adverse effect on our business.

If we fail to comply with the applicable requirements of the card networks, they could seek to fine us, suspend us or terminate our registrations for membership. If we incur fines or penalties for which our merchants or ISOs are responsible that we cannot collect, we may have to bear the cost of such fines or penalties.

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We are subject to card association and network rules that could subject us to a variety of fines or penalties that may be levied by the card networks for certain acts or omissions. The rules of the card networks are set by the card networks themselves and may be influenced by card issuers, some of which are our competitors with respect to processing services. Many banks directly or indirectly sell processing services to merchants in direct competition with us. These banks could attempt, by virtue of their influence on the networks, to alter the networks’ rules or policies to the detriment of non-members, including us. The termination of our registrations or our membership status as a service provider or merchant processor, or any changes in a card association or other network rules or standards, including interpretation and implementation of the rules or standards, that increase the cost of doing business or limit our ability to provide transaction processing services to our customers, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. If a merchant or an ISO fails to comply with the applicable requirements of the card associations and networks, we or the merchant or ISO could be subject to a variety of fines or penalties that may be levied by the card associations or networks. If we cannot collect or pursue collection of such amounts from the applicable merchant or ISO, we may have to bear the cost of such fines or penalties, resulting in lower earnings for us. The termination of our registration, or any changes in the Visa or Mastercard rules that would impair our registration, could require us to stop providing Visa and Mastercard payment processing services, which would make it impossible for us to conduct our business on its current scale.

The loss of, for example, key personnel or of our ability to attract, recruit, retain and develop qualified employees could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our success depends upon the continued services of our senior management and other key personnel who have substantial experience in the electronic payments industry and the markets in which we offer our services. In addition, our success depends in large part upon the reputation within the industry of our senior managers who have developed relationships with our distribution partners, payment networks and other payment processing and service providers. Further, in order for us to continue to successfully compete and grow, we must attract, recruit, develop and retain personnel who will provide us with expertise across the entire spectrum of our intellectual capital needs. Our success is also dependent on the skill and experience of our sales force, which we must continuously work to maintain. While we have many key personnel who have substantial experience with our operations, we must also develop our personnel to provide succession plans capable of maintaining the continuity of our operations. The market for qualified personnel is competitive, and we may not succeed in recruiting additional personnel or may fail to effectively replace current personnel who depart with qualified or effective successors.


Legal, Regulatory Compliance and Tax Risks
 
Legal proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
 
In the ordinary course of business, we may become involved in various litigation matters, including but not limited to commercial disputes and employee claims, and from time to time may be involved in governmental or regulatory investigations or similar matters arising out of our current or future business. Any claims asserted against us, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, could harm our reputation and have an adverse impact on our relationship with our merchants, distribution partners and other third parties and could lead to additional related claims. Certain claims may seek injunctive relief, which could disrupt the ordinary conduct of our business and operations or increase our cost of doing business. Our insurance or indemnities may not cover all claims that may be asserted against us, and any claims asserted against it, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, may harm our reputation and cause us to expend resources in our defense. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that we will be successful in defending ourselves in future litigation. Should the ultimate judgments or settlements in any pending litigation or future litigation or investigation significantly exceed our insurance coverage, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to extensive government regulation, and any new laws and regulations, industry standards or revisions made to existing laws, regulations or industry standards affecting the electronic payments industry may have an unfavorable impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
Our business is affected by laws and regulations and examinations that affect us and our industries., Regulation and proposed regulation of the payments industry has increased significantly in recent years. Failure to comply with regulations or guidelines may result in the suspension or revocation of a license or registration, the limitation, suspension or termination of service, and
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the imposition of civil and criminal penalties, including fines, or may cause customers or potential customers to be reluctant to do business with us, any of which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition.

Interchange fees are subject to intense legal, regulatory, and legislative scrutiny. In particular, the Dodd-Frank Act limits the amount of debit card fees charged by certain issuers, allowing merchants to set minimum dollar amounts for the acceptance of credit cards and allowing merchants to offer discounts or other incentives for different payment methods. These types of restrictions could negatively affect the number of debit transactions, which would adversely affect our business. The Dodd-Frank Act also created the CFPB, which has assumed responsibility for enforcing federal consumer protection laws, and the FSOC, which has the authority to determine whether any non-bank financial company, which may include us within the definitional scope, should be supervised by the Federal Reserve because it is systemically important to the United States financial system. Any such designation would result in increased regulatory burdens on our business, which increases our risk profile and may have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We and many of our merchants may be subject to Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices. That statement and other laws, rules and or regulations, including the Telemarketing Sales Act, may directly impact the activities of certain of our merchants and, in some cases, may subject us, as the merchant's electronic processor or provider of certain services, to investigations, fees, fines and disgorgement of funds if we were deemed to have improperly aided and abetted or otherwise provided the means and instrumentalities to facilitate the illegal or improper activities of the merchant through our services. Various federal and state regulatory enforcement agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general, have authority to take action against non-banks that engage in unfair or deceptive practices or violate other laws, rules and regulations and to the extent we are processing payments or providing services for a merchant that may be in violation of laws, rules and regulations, we may be subject to enforcement actions and as a result may incur losses and liabilities that may impact our business.

Our business may also be subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the "FCRA"), which regulates the use and reporting of consumer credit information and also imposes disclosure requirements on entities that take adverse action based on information obtained from credit reporting agencies. We could be liable if our practices under the FCRA are not in compliance with the FCRA or regulations under it.

Separately, the Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008 included an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code that requires the filing of yearly information returns by payment processing entities and third-party settlement organizations with respect to payments made in settlement of electronic payment transactions and third-party payment network transactions occurring in that calendar year. Transactions that are reportable pursuant to these rules are subject to backup withholding requirements. We could be liable for penalties if our information returns do not comply with these regulations.

These and other laws and regulations, even if not directed at us, may require us to make significant efforts to change our products and services and may require that we incur additional compliance costs and change how we price our services to merchants. Implementing new compliance efforts may be difficult because of the complexity of new regulatory requirements and may cause us to devote significant resources to ensure compliance. Furthermore, regulatory actions may cause changes in business practices by us and other industry participants which could affect how we market, price and distribute our products and services, which could limit our ability to grow, reduce our revenues, or increase our costs. In addition, even an inadvertent failure to comply with laws and regulations, as well as rapidly evolving social expectations of corporate fairness, could damage our business or our reputation.
 
We may not be able to successfully manage our intellectual property and may be subject to infringement claims.

We rely on a combination of contractual rights and copyright, trademark, patent and trade secret laws to establish and protect our proprietary technology. Third parties may challenge, circumvent, infringe or misappropriate our intellectual property, or such intellectual property may not be sufficient to permit us to take advantage of current market trends or otherwise to provide competitive advantages, which could result in costly redesign efforts, discontinuance of service offerings or other competitive harm. Others, including our competitors, may independently develop similar technology, duplicate our services or design around our intellectual property and, in such cases, we could not assert our intellectual property rights against such parties. Further, our contractual arrangements may not effectively prevent disclosure of our confidential information or provide an adequate remedy in the event of unauthorized disclosure of our confidential information. We may have to litigate to enforce or
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determine the scope and enforceability of our intellectual property rights and know-how, which is expensive, could cause a diversion of resources and may not prove successful. Also, because of the rapid pace of technological change in our industry, aspects of our business and our services rely on technologies developed or licensed by third parties, and we may not be able to obtain or continue to obtain licenses and technologies from these third parties on reasonable terms or at all. The loss of intellectual property protection or the inability to license or otherwise use third-party intellectual property could harm our business and ability to compete.

We may also be subject to costly litigation if our services and technology are alleged to infringe upon or otherwise violate a third-party's proprietary rights. Third parties may have, or may eventually be issued, patents that could be infringed by our products, services or technology. Any of these third parties could make a claim of infringement against us with respect to our products, services or technology. We may also be subject to claims by third parties for patent, copyright or trademark infringement, breach of license or violation of other third-party intellectual property rights. Any claim from third parties may result in a limitation on our ability to use the intellectual property subject to these claims. Additionally, in recent years, individuals and groups have been purchasing intellectual property assets for the sole purpose of making claims of infringement or other violations and attempting to extract settlements from companies like ours. Even if we believe that intellectual property related claims are without merit, defending against such claims is time consuming and expensive and could result in the diversion of the time and attention of our management and employees. Claims of intellectual property infringement or violation also might require us to redesign affected products or services, enter into costly settlement or license agreements, pay costly damage awards, or face a temporary or permanent injunction prohibiting us from marketing or selling certain of our products or services. Even if we have an agreement for indemnification against such costs, the indemnifying party, if any in such circumstances, may be unable to uphold our contractual obligations. If we cannot or do not license the infringed technology on reasonable terms or substitute similar technology from another source, our revenue and earnings could be adversely impacted.
 
Changes in tax laws and regulations could adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows from operations.
 
Changes in tax laws in our significant tax jurisdictions could materially increase the amount of taxes we owe, thereby negatively impacting our results of operations as well as our cash flows from operations. For example, restrictions on the deductibility of interest expense in a U.S. jurisdiction without a corresponding reduction in statutory tax rates could negatively impact our effective tax rate, financial position, results of operations, and cash flows in the period that such a change occurs and future periods.
 
Our risk management policies and procedures may not be fully effective in mitigating our risk exposure in all market environments or against all types of risks.

We operate in a rapidly changing industry. Accordingly, our risk management policies and procedures may not be fully effective to identify, monitor, manage and remediate our risks. Some of our risk evaluation methods depend upon information provided by others and public information regarding markets, merchants or other matters that are otherwise inaccessible by us. In some cases, that information may not be accurate, complete or up-to-date. Additionally, our risk detection system is subject to a high degree of "false positive" risks being detected, which makes it difficult for us to identify real risks in a timely manner. If our policies and procedures are not fully effective or we are not always successful in capturing all risks to which we are or may be exposed, we may suffer harm to our reputation or be subject to litigation or regulatory actions that materially increase our costs and subject us to reputational damage that could limit our ability to grow and cause us to lose existing merchant clients.
 
Risk Related to Our Capital Structure
 
We face risks related to our substantial indebtedness.
 
We have a substantial amount of indebtedness and may incur other debt in the future. Our level of debt and the covenant to which we agreed could have negative consequences on us, including, among other things, (1) requiring us to dedicate a large portion of our cash flow from operations to servicing and repayment of the debt; (2) limiting funds available for strategic initiatives and opportunities, working capital and other general corporate needs and (3) limiting our ability to incur certain kinds or amounts of additional indebtedness, which could restrict our ability to react to changes in our business, our industry and economic conditions.
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Substantially all of our indebtedness is floating rate debt. As a result, an increase in interest rates generally, such as those we have recently experienced, would adversely affect our profitability. We may enter into pay-fixed interest rate swaps to limit our exposure to changes in floating interest rates. Such instruments may result in economic losses should interest rates decline to a point lower than our fixed rate commitments. We would be exposed to credit-related losses, which could impact the results of operations in the event of fluctuations in the fair value of the interest rate swaps due to a change in the credit worthiness or non-performance by the counterparties to the interest rate swaps.

The credit agreements governing our existing credit facilities and any other debt instruments we may issue in the future will contain restrictive covenants that may impair our ability to conduct business.
 
The credit agreements governing our existing credit facilities contain operating covenants and financial covenants that may limit management's discretion with respect to certain business matters. In addition, any debt instruments we may issue in the future will likely contain similar operating and financial covenants restricting our business. Among other things, these covenants will restrict our ability to:

pay dividends, or redeem or purchase equity interests;
incur additional debt;
incur liens;
change the nature of our business;
engage in transactions with affiliates;
sell or otherwise dispose of assets;
make acquisitions or other investments; and
merge or consolidate with other entities.

In addition, the credit agreements governing our Senior Credit Facilities contain a total net leverage ratio financial covenant. See Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.” A breach of any of these covenants (or any other covenant in the documents governing our Senior Credit Agreement) could result in a default or event of default under our Senior Credit Agreement. If an event of default occurred, the applicable lenders or agents could elect to terminate borrowing commitments and declare all borrowings and loans outstanding thereunder, together with accrued and unpaid interest and any fees and other obligations, to be immediately due and payable. In addition, or in the alternative, the applicable lenders or agents could exercise their rights under the security documents entered into in connection with our Senior Credit Agreement. Any acceleration of amounts due under the Senior Credit Agreement would likely have a material adverse effect on us.

Because we have no current plans to pay cash dividends on our common stock for the foreseeable future, you may not receive any return on investment unless you sell your common stock for a price greater than that which you paid for it.
 
We intend to retain future earnings, if any, for future operations, expansion, and debt repayment and have no current plans to pay any cash dividends for the foreseeable future. The declaration, amount, and payment of any future dividends on shares of common stock will be at the sole discretion of our board of directors. Our board of directors may take into account general and economic conditions, our financial condition, and results of operations, our available cash and current and anticipated cash needs, capital requirements, contractual, legal, tax, and regulatory restrictions, implications on the payment of dividends by us to our stockholders or by our subsidiaries to us, and such other factors as our board of directors may deem relevant. In addition, our ability to pay dividends is limited by covenants of our existing and outstanding indebtedness and may be limited by covenants of any future indebtedness we or our subsidiaries incur. As a result, you may not receive any return on an investment in our common stock unless you sell our common stock for a price greater than that which you paid for it.
 
Mr. Thomas Priore, our President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, controls the Company, and his interests may conflict with ours or yours in the future.
 
Thomas Priore and his affiliates have the ability to elect all of the members of our board of directors and thereby control our policies and operations, including the appointment of management, future issuances of our common stock or other securities, the payment of dividends, if any, on our common stock, the incurrence or modification of debt by us, amendments to our
26


Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation and our Amended and Restated Bylaws, and the entering into of extraordinary transactions, and their interests may not in all cases be aligned with your interests. In addition, Thomas Priore may have an interest in pursuing acquisitions, divestitures, and other transactions that, in his judgment, could enhance his investment, even though such transactions might involve risks to you. For example, he could cause us to make acquisitions that increase our indebtedness or cause us to sell revenue-generating assets. Additionally, in certain circumstances, acquisitions of debt at a discount by purchasers that are related to a debtor can give rise to cancellation of indebtedness income to such debtor for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
 
Our Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation provides that neither he nor any of his affiliates, or any director who is not employed by us (including any non-employee director who serves as one of our officers in both his director and officer capacities) will have any duty to refrain from engaging, directly or indirectly, in the same business activities or similar business activities or lines of business in which we operate. So long as Thomas Priore continues to own a significant amount of our combined voting power, even if such amount is less than 50%, he will continue to be able to strongly influence or effectively control our decisions. Furthermore, so long as Thomas Priore and his respective affiliates collectively own at least 50% of all outstanding shares of our common stock entitled to vote generally in the election of directors, they will be able to appoint individuals to our board of directors. In addition, given his level of control, Thomas Priore will be able to determine the outcome of all matters requiring stockholder approval and will be able to cause or prevent a change of control of the Company or a change in the composition of our board of directors and could preclude any unsolicited acquisition of the Company. The concentration of ownership could deprive you of an opportunity to receive a premium for your shares of common stock as part of a sale of the Company and ultimately might affect the market price of our common stock.
 
We may redeem your unexpired warrants prior to their exercise at a time that is disadvantageous to you, thereby making your warrants worthless.
 
We have the ability to redeem outstanding warrants (the "Warrants") at any time after they become exercisable and prior to their expiration, at $0.01 per warrant, if the last reported sales price (or the closing bid price of our common stock in the event the common stock is not traded on any specific trading day) of the common stock equals or exceeds $16.00 per share for any 20 trading days within a 30-trading day period ending on the third business day prior to the date we send proper notice of such redemption, provided that on the date we give notice of redemption and during the entire period thereafter until the time we redeem the Warrants, we have an effective registration statement under the Securities Act covering the common stock issuable upon exercise of the Warrants and a current prospectus relating to them is available or cashless exercise is exempt from the registration requirements under the Securities Act. If and when the Warrants become redeemable by us, we may exercise our redemption right even if we are unable to register or qualify the underlying securities for sale under all applicable state securities laws. Redemption of the outstanding Warrants could force a warrant holder: (i) to exercise Warrants and pay the exercise price therefore at a time when it may be disadvantageous for you to do so, (ii) to sell Warrants at the then-current market price when you might otherwise wish to hold your Warrants or (iii) to accept the nominal redemption price which, at the time the outstanding Warrants are called for redemption, may be substantially less than the market value of your Warrants.
 
The liquidity of the Warrants may be limited.
 
There is a limited trading market for our Warrants, which might adversely affect the liquidity, market price and price volatility of the Warrants. In addition, our publicly-traded Warrants have been removed from quotation on The Nasdaq Global Market. As a result, investors in our Warrants may find it more difficult to dispose of or obtain accurate quotations as to the market value of our Warrants, and the ability of our stockholders to sell our Warrants in the secondary market has been materially limited.
 
Financial Risks

Changes in the method for determining the London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") and the potential replacement of the LIBOR benchmark interest rate could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

The majority of our current indebtedness bears interest at a variable rate based on LIBOR, and we may incur additional indebtedness based on LIBOR. In July 2017, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority ("FCA"), a regulator of
27


financial services firms and financial markets in the United Kingdom, stated that they will plan for a phase out of regulatory oversight of LIBOR interest rates indices. The FCA has indicated they will support the LIBOR indices through 2021, to allow for an orderly transition to an alternative reference rate. The ICE Benchmark Administration Limited recently announced that it will consult on its intention to extend the publication of most tenors LIBOR to June 30, 2023. The Alternative Reference Rates Committee has proposed the Secured Overnight Financing Rate ("SOFR") as its recommended alternative to LIBOR, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York began publishing SOFR rates in April 2018. SOFR is intended to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities. At this time, it is not possible to predict when LIBOR will be replaced as the reference rate in the agreements governing the Company’s indebtedness or the effect any discontinuance, modification or other reforms to LIBOR, or the establishment of alternative reference rates such as SOFR, or any other reference rate, will have on the Company. If LIBOR ceases to exist or the methods of calculating LIBOR change from their current form, however, the Company’s borrowing costs may be adversely affected.
 

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ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

N/A


ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

We maintain several offices across the United States, all of which we lease.

Our key office locations include:

corporate headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia;
administrative office in Hicksville, NY; and
administrative office in New York, NY.

We lease several small facilities for sales and operations. Our current facilities meet the needs of our employee base and can accommodate our currently contemplated growth.



ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

We are involved in certain other legal proceedings and claims, which arise in the ordinary course of business. In the opinion of the Company, based on consultations with inside and outside counsel, the results of any of these ordinary course matters, individually and in the aggregate, are not expected to have a material effect on our results of operations, financial condition, or cash flows. As more information becomes available and we determine that an unfavorable outcome is probable on a claim and that the amount of probable loss that we will incur on that claim is reasonably estimable, we will record an accrued expense for the claim in question. If and when we record such an accrual, it could be material and could adversely impact our results of operations, financial condition, and cash flows.



ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

N/A
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PART II.


ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES


Market Information

Prior to the consummation of the Business Combination on July 25, 2018, MI Acquisitions' common stock, warrants and units were each listed on The Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol "MACQ," "MACQW" and "MACQU," respectively. Upon the consummation of the Business Combination and the change of the Company's name to Priority Technology Holdings, Inc., our common stock commenced trading on The Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol "PRTH" and our warrants and units commenced trading under the symbols "PRTHW" and "PRTHU," respectively. As of March 6, 2019, our warrants and units were delisted from trading on The Nasdaq Global Market. Following their delisting, our warrants and units became available to be quoted in the over-the-counter market under the symbols "PRTHW" and "PRTHU," respectively.


Holders

As of March 24, 2021, we had 32 holders of record of our common stock. This figure does not include the number of persons whose securities are held in nominee or "street" name accounts through brokers. With the exception of one holder, all of our outstanding warrants and units were held in nominee or "street" name accounts through brokers.


Dividends
 
We have never declared or paid, and do not anticipate declaring or paying in the foreseeable future, any cash dividends on our common stock.


Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities

None.


Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers

None.
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ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
 
The following table sets forth selected historical financial information derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. You should read the following selected financial data in conjunction with the sections entitled "Item 7 - Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and the audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. 
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands, except per share amounts)202020192018
Statement of operations data: 
Revenues$404,342 $371,854 $375,822 
Operating expenses383,481 364,670 359,429 
Income from operations20,861 7,184 16,393 
Interest expense(44,839)(40,653)(29,935)
Gain on sale of business, net107,239 — — 
Debt extinguishment and modification expenses(1,899)— (2,043)
Other income (expenses), net596 710 (4,741)
Income (loss) before income taxes81,958 (32,759)(20,326)
Income tax expense (benefit)10,899 830 (2,490)
Net income (loss)71,059 (33,589)(17,836)
Less earnings attributable to redeemable and redeemed non-controlling interests(45,398)— — 
Net income (loss) attributable to stockholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc.$25,661 $(33,589)$(17,836)
Common stockholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc.:
Basic earnings (loss) per common share$0.38 $(0.50)$(0.29)
Diluted earnings (loss) per common share$0.38 $(0.50)$(0.29)
Year Ended December 31,
202020192018
Statement of cash flows data:
Net cash provided by (used in):
Operating activities$47,072 $39,364 $31,348 
Investing activities$166,396 $(97,747)$(108,928)
Financing activities$(175,813)$75,017 $67,252 
  
As of December 31,
 20202019
Balance sheet data:
Cash and restricted cash$88,120 $50,465 
Total assets $417,829 $464,505 
Total liabilities $516,393 $585,194 
Total stockholders' deficit $(98,564)$(120,689)
Shares of common stock outstanding67,39167,061 
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ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
 
You should read the following management's discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations together with "Item 6 - Selected Financial Data" and our audited financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. This discussion contains forward-looking statements about our business, operations and industry that involve risks and uncertainties, such as statements regarding our plans, objectives, expectations and intentions. Our future results and financial condition may differ materially from those currently anticipated by us as a result of the factors described in the sections entitled "Item 1A - Risk Factors" and "Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements."

Certain amounts in this section may not add mathematically due to rounding.

For a description and additional information about our three reportable segments, see Note 18, Segment Information, contained in "Item 8 - Financial Statements and Supplementary Data" of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.


Results of Operations
 
This section includes a summary of our results of operations for the periods presented followed by a discussion of our results of operations for (i) the year ended December 31, 2020 (or "2020") compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 (or "2019") and (ii) the year ended December 31, 2019 (or "2019") compared to the year ended December 31, 2018 (or "2018"). We have derived this data, except key indicators for merchant bankcard processing dollar values and transaction volumes, from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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Year Ended December 31, 2020 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2019

The following table shows our consolidated income statement data for the years indicated:

Year Ended December 31,  
(dollars in thousands)20202019$ Change% Change
  
REVENUES $404,342 $371,854 $32,488 8.7 %
OPERATING EXPENSES: 
Costs of services277,374 252,569 24,805 9.8 %
Salary and employee benefits39,507 42,214 (2,707)(6.4)%
Depreciation and amortization40,775 39,092 1,683 4.3 %
Selling, general and administrative25,825 30,795 (4,970)(16.1)%
Total operating expenses383,481 364,670 18,811 5.2 %
Income from operations20,861 7,184 13,677 190.4 %
Operating margin5.2 %1.9 %
OTHER INCOME (EXPENSES): 
Interest expense(44,839)(40,653)(4,186)10.3 %
Debt extinguishment and modification expenses(1,899)— (1,899)nm
Gain on sale of business, net107,239 — 107,239 nm
Other income, net596 710 (114)(16.1)%
Total other income (expenses), net61,097 (39,943)101,040 253.0 %
Income (loss) before income taxes81,958 (32,759)114,717 350.2 %
Income tax expense10,899 830 10,069 nm
Net income (loss)71,059 (33,589)104,648 311.6 %
Less income attributable to redeemable and redeemed non-controlling interests(45,398)— (45,398)nm
Net income (loss) attributable to stockholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc.$25,661 $(33,589)$59,250 176.4 %
 

nm = not meaningful

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The following table shows our segment income statement data and selected performance measures for the years indicated: 

Year Ended December 31, 
(dollars and volume amounts in thousands)20202019$ Change% Change
 
Consumer Payments:    
Revenue$367,816 $330,599 $37,217 11.3 %
Operating expenses 329,424 298,362 31,062 10.4 %
Income from operations$38,392 $32,237 $6,155 19.1 %
Operating margin10.4 %9.8 %
Depreciation and amortization$35,002 $32,842 $2,160 6.6 %
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$41,703,661 $42,303,880 $(600,219)(1.4)%
Merchant bankcard transaction volume455,240 511,852 (56,612)(11.1)%
Commercial Payments:
Revenue $20,922 $25,980 $(5,058)(19.5)%
Operating expenses19,999 26,871 (6,872)(25.6)%
Income (loss) from operations$923 $(891)$1,814 203.6 %
Operating margin4.4 %(3.4)%
Depreciation and amortization$306 $323 $(17)(5.3)%
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$249,004 $312,342 $(63,338)(20.3)%
Merchant bankcard transaction volume99 109 (10)(9.2)%
Integrated Partners:
Revenue $15,604 $15,275 $329 2.2 %
Operating expenses14,200 14,550 (350)(2.4)%
Income from operations$1,404 $725 $679 93.7 %
Operating margin9.0 %4.7 %
Depreciation and amortization$4,299 $4,398 $(99)(2.3)%
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$364,084 $386,101 $(22,017)(5.7)%
Merchant bankcard transaction volume1,316 1,380 (64)(4.6)%
Income from operations of reportable segments$40,719 $32,071 $8,648 27.0 %
Corporate expenses19,858 24,887 (5,029)(20.2)%
Consolidated income from operations$20,861 $7,184 $13,677 190.4 %
Corporate depreciation and amortization$1,168 $1,529 $(361)(23.6)%
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$42,316,749 $43,002,323 $(685,574)(1.6)%
Merchant bankcard transaction volume456,655 513,341 (56,686)(11.0)%

34


Impact of COVID-19 on Results and Trends

The outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, continues to adversely affect consumer activity and has contributed to a decline in many aspects of macroeconomic activity in 2020 compared to 2019. The largest impact we experienced was within our Consumer Payments reportable segment (“Consumer Payments”), which is described below.

Our results of operations for most of the first quarter of 2020 were not significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic since the economic consequences of the pandemic did not begin to materially impact consumer payment transactions in the United States until the last half of March 2020. Beginning in mid-March, the pandemic began to negatively impact our daily merchant bankcard processing dollar values (“processing dollars”) as the pandemic spread across the United States and restrictive shelter in place requirements were instituted. From mid-March 2020 through the end of April 2020, we experienced a significant decline of approximately 35% in processing dollars as compared with the comparable weeks in 2019. As a result, our processing dollars grew only 1.7% in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the first quarter of 2019. In the second quarter of 2020 we experienced a 16.4% decline in processing dollars compared with the second quarter of 2019. However, within the second quarter of 2020, the decline in processing dollars was greatest in April. In May and June of 2020, as shelter in place restrictions began to be lifted, we experienced a rebound in processing dollars that continued through the third quarter. With increased economic activity in the third quarter of 2020, we experienced growth in processing dollars of 6.3% as compared with the third quarter of 2019.

The level of new COVID-19 cases began to increase significantly throughout the United States during the fourth quarter of 2020, with certain states impacted more than others, and pandemic related economic factors impacted the growth rate of our processing dollars. In the fourth quarter of 2020, we experienced growth in processing dollars of 3.0% as compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. For the year ended December 31, 2020, processing dollars in Consumer Payments of $41.7 billion declined 1.4% from $42.3 billion in the year ended December 31, 2019.

Revenue growth in Consumer Payments was 11.3% for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared with the year ended December 31, 2019. In the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2020, revenue growth was 8.9%, 0.3%, 20.0% and 15.3%, respectively, compared with the comparable quarters in 2019. During 2020, we benefited from our specialized merchant acquiring program. This program, which complies with the recently issued card association rules, helped mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on overall revenue growth by adding $28.8 million to the Consumer Payments revenue in 2020, compared with $7.4 million in 2019.

In the first quarter of 2021, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States began to accelerate. While this may be a positive development, the future impact of the pandemic on the overall economy and our results are beyond our ability to predict or control.


Revenue

Consolidated revenue
 
For the year ended December 31, 2020, our consolidated revenue increased by $32.5 million, or 8.7%, from the year ended December 31, 2019 to $404.3 million. This overall increase was driven by a $37.2 million, or 11.3%, increase in revenue from our Consumer Payments segment and a $0.3 million, or 2.2%, increase in revenue from our Integrated Partners segment, partially offset by a $5.1 million, or 19.5%, decrease in revenue in our Commercial Payments segment.


Revenue in Consumer Payments segment

Consumer Payments revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020 increased by $37.2 million, or 11.3%, compared to revenue for the year ended December 31, 2019 of $330.6 million. This increase was driven by $21.4 million, or 290.0%, revenue growth from our specialized merchant acquiring program.

35


Merchant bankcard processing dollar value for the year ended December 31, 2020 of $41.7 billion decreased by $0.6 billion, or 1.4%, compared to $42.3 billion for the year ended December 31, 2019. However, our merchant volume mix drove a 10.8% higher average ticket of $91.61 in 2020 compared to $82.65 in 2019. Current economic factors have impacted the merchant volume mix, including shifts in payment transaction activity among certain vertical industries, spending trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic that appear to have resulted in consumers conducting fewer payment transactions at higher average transaction values, and an increase in card-not-present transactions. Card-not-present volume generally offers more favorable pricing to us than other types of transactions. The trend of new merchant boarding remains within our historical range of 4,500 to 5,000 new merchants per month. During 2020, our monthly average of new merchants boarded was 4,669 compared with 4,612 in 2019.

Revenue in Commercial Payments segment

Commercial Payments revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020 of $20.9 million decreased by $5.1 million, or 19.5%, compared to revenue for the year ended December 31, 2019 of $26.0 million. The increase in revenue from our accounts payable automated solutions services was offset by a decrease in revenues from our curated managed services programs.

Revenue from our accounts payable automated solutions business in 2020 of $6.0 million increased $0.5 million, or 8.8%, compared to revenue in 2019 of $5.5 million. This increase was driven by increased business from existing customers. Revenue from our curated managed services business in 2020 of $14.9 million decreased by $5.5 million, or 27.1%, compared to revenue in 2019 of $20.5 million. This decrease was driven by a decline and curtailment in 2020 of a customer’s merchant financing program in response to the COVID related economic conditions and the changes in the customer's business model.


Revenue in Integrated Partners segment

Integrated Partners revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020 of $15.6 million increased by $0.3 million, or 2.2%, compared to revenue for the year ended December 31, 2019 of $15.3 million. Priority Real Estate Technology, LLC ("PRET") comprised $13.4 million and $13.2 million of this segment's revenue in 2020 and 2019, respectively. PRET's RentPayment business, which was formed with a March 2019 asset acquisition, generated revenue of $12.0 million in 2020 and $11.7 million in 2019, respectively. Revenue from PRET’s RadPad and Landlord Station businesses, Priority PayRight Health Solutions ("PayRight") and Priority Hospitality Technology ("PHOT") comprised the remainder of this segment's revenue.

The sale of the RentPayment business in September 2020 as disclosed in Note 2, Disposal of Business, to the consolidated financial statements impacted our results after the third quarter of 2020 and will also impact the trend of future results of the Integrated Partners segment.

 
Consolidated Operating Expenses

Our consolidated operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2020 of $383.5 million increased by $18.8, or 5.2%, compared to consolidated operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019 of $364.7 million. This overall increase was driven by higher costs of services and depreciation and amortization expense in 2020 compared to 2019. Costs of services of $277.4 million grew $24.8 million, or 9.8%, in 2020 resulting from higher revenues in the Consumer Payments segment. Consolidated depreciation and amortization expense of $40.8 million increased by $1.7 million, or 4.3%, in 2020, which was driven by additions to property, equipment and software, as well as intangible assets.

While costs of services and depreciation and amortization expense increased in 2020, we experienced decreases in salary and employee benefits and selling, general and administrative expenses compared to 2019. Consolidated salary and employee benefits expenses of $39.5 million decreased $2.7 million, or 6.4%, in 2020, which was driven by lower headcount and a $1.2 million decline in non-cash stock-based compensation. Consolidated selling, general and administrative expenses of $25.8 million decreased $5.0 million, or 16.1%, in 2020 driven by decreases in certain expenses management considers to be non-recurring in nature, lower office and travel-related costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, decreased use of outside professionals due to in-sourcing of certain services, and an overall focus on cost containment.


36


Income (Loss) from Operations

Consolidated income from operations

For the year ended December 31, 2020, our consolidated income from operations increased by $13.7 million, or 190.4%, from the year ended December 31, 2019 to $20.9 million. This overall increase was driven by a $6.2 million, or 19.1%, increase income from operations in our Consumer Payments segment, a $1.8 million, or 203.6%, increase in income from operations in our Commercial Payments segment, and a $0.7 million, or 93.7%, increase in income from operations in our Integrated Partners segment. Corporate expense of $19.9 million in 2020 decreased by $5.0 million, or 20.2%, as compared to the year ended December 31, 2019.

Income from operations in Consumer Payments segment

Our Consumer Payments segment contributed $38.4 million of income from operations for the year ended December 31, 2020, an increase of $6.2 million, or 19.1%, from the $32.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. This increase was the result of higher revenue, net of costs of services, of $9.0 million, and lower salary and employee benefit expenses of $1.8 million driven by lower headcount and a $1.1 million decline in non-cash stock-based compensation. While these factors drove growth in income from operations, they were partially offset by a $2.2 million increase in depreciation and amortization expense and a $2.5 million increase in selling, general and administrative expenses. The increase in depreciation and amortization expense was attributable to additions to intangible assets and property, equipment and software, while the growth in selling, general and administrative expenses was due to a $2.5 million increase in certain expenses management considers to be non-recurring in nature. Such expenses in 2020 totaled $1.9 million and are comprised of: $1.8 million for an impairment charge for an intangible asset and a $0.5 million allowance provision for a note receivable, partially offset by a non-cash reduction in expense of $0.4 million for a change in the fair value of accrued contingent consideration related to two 2018 business acquisitions. Selling, general and administrative expenses in 2019 included a non-cash reduction in expense of $0.6 million for a change in the fair value of accrued contingent consideration related to the same two 2018 business combinations.

Income (loss) from operations in Commercial Payments segment

Our Commercial Payments segment contributed $0.9 million of income from operations for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to a loss from operations of $0.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. This improvement was driven by a $1.9 million decrease in selling, general and administrative expenses and a $0.8 million decrease in salaries and employee benefits expenses due to lower headcount and a $0.5 million decline in non-cash stock-based compensation. The decrease in selling, general and administrative expenses was driven by reduced travel and trade show expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, selling, general and administrative expenses for 2019 included a $0.5 million allowance for uncollectible receivables which were substantially recovered in 2020. While these factors drove growth in income from operations, they were partially offset by the decline in revenue attributable to our curated managed services programs.

Income from operations in Integrated Partners segment

Our Integrated Partners segment contributed $1.4 million of income from operations for the year ended December 31, 2020, an increase of $0.7 million compared to $0.7 million of income from operations for the year ended December 31, 2019. This increase was driven by lower operating expenses attributable to a $0.8 million decrease in salary and employee benefit expenses, a $0.3 million decrease in selling, general and administrative expenses, and a $0.1 million decrease in depreciation and amortization expense. Included in selling, general and administrative expenses for 2020 and 2019 are expenses related to transition services provided by YapStone, Inc. in connection with the assets acquired in March 2019 and sold in September 2020. These transition services were approximately $2.6 million in 2020 and $2.9 million in 2019. These operating expense decreases more than offset the increase in costs of services experienced in 2020, due in part to our new payment infrastructure as a service arrangement with the buyer of the RentPayment business.

Corporate Expense

Corporate expenses were $19.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, a decrease of $5.0 million, or 20.2%, from expenses of $24.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. This decrease in 2020 was driven by a $5.3 million decrease in selling, general and administrative expenses and a $0.4 million decrease in depreciation and amortization expense, partially
37


offset by a $0.6 million increase in salary and employee benefits expense largely attributable to a $0.4 million increase in non-cash stock-based compensation. Included in selling, general and administrative expenses in 2020 are certain legal and professional expenses management considers to be non-recurring in nature of $1.9 million, offset by litigation settlement income of $0.7 million. Such expenses in 2019 totaled of $6.4 million, offset by litigation settlement income of $0.4 million.


Interest Expense

The amortization of deferred financing costs and debt discounts, as well as certain administrative fees, increased our reported consolidated interest expense and the effective interest rates under our Senior and Subordinated Credit Agreements.

For the year ended December 31, 2020, consolidated interest expense increased by $4.2 million, or 10.3%, to $44.8 million from $40.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. The additional expense in 2020 was due to increases in the applicable margins on the Senior and Subordinated Credit Agreements that resulted from the Sixth Amendment in March 2020 and increased borrowings under the revolving credit portion of our Senior Credit Agreement, partially offset by a $106.5 million principal prepayment in late September 2020 of the term portion of our Senior Credit Agreement. For 2020, the effective interest rates on the term facility of our Senior and Subordinated Credit Agreements averaged 8.5% and 13.0%, respectively, compared to 7.2% and 10.8%, respectively, for 2019. Based on applicable margins and the LIBOR rate in effect on December 31, 2020, we expect the effective interest rates on the term facility of our Senior and Subordinated Credit Agreements to be approximately 8.2% and 12.8%, respectively, in 2021.


Debt Extinguishment and Modification Expenses

During September 2020, we wrote off unamortized deferred debt costs and discounts of $1.5 million associated with the $106.5 million principal prepayment for the term facility under our Senior Credit Agreements. In the first quarter of 2020, we expensed $0.4 million of third-party costs incurred in connection with the Sixth Amendment to the Senior and Subordinated Credit Agreements.


Gain on Sale of Business

As disclosed in Note 2, Disposal of Business, to the consolidated financial statements, during late September 2020 our consolidated PRET subsidiary sold the RentPayment business, which is substantially all of the assets acquired from YapStone, Inc. in March 2019. Based on efforts and changes made by us since the March 2019 acquisition of these assets, the assets constituted a business, as defined by GAAP, when sold in September 2020 for $179.4 million, net of a working capital adjustment. After removing the carrying values of the disposed business and incurring costs related to the transaction, PRET recognized a pre-tax gain of $107.2 million. PRET had non-controlling interests ("NCIs"), and based on the cash waterfall provisions in PRET's governing agreement, the NCIs were entitled to $45.1 million of the $107.2 million pre-tax gain, which is included in Net Income Attributable to Non-Controlling Interests on our consolidated statement of operations for the year ended December 31, 2020. The $45.1 million was distributed in cash to the NCIs, and the $45.1 million of payments along with the $5.7 million redemption payment made to one of the NCIs, resulted in the redemption of all NCIs of PRET. The working capital adjustment and the allocation of net proceeds described above remain subject to final adjustment with the buyer and PRET members, respectively. Any remaining payments made or received by the Company will be recorded in the period in which such amounts are finalized.


Other, net
 
For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, Other, net was composed primarily of interest income earned on notes receivable from certain independent sales organizations and another entity.


Income Tax Expense
 
38


We became part of a C-Corporation reporting tax group on July 25, 2018 in connection with the Business Combination. On July 25, 2018, we recognized a net deferred income tax asset of $47.5 million, which also resulted in a credit to our additional paid-in capital within our consolidated stockholders' deficit. The net deferred tax asset is the result of the difference between the initial tax bases in the assets and liabilities and their respective carrying amounts for financial statement purposes.

We assess all available positive and negative evidence to estimate whether sufficient taxable income will be generated in the future to permit use of the existing deferred tax assets. ASC 740, Income Taxes ("ASC 740"), requires that all sources of future taxable income be considered in making this determination. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 amended section 163(j) of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 163(j), as amended, limits the business interest deduction to 30% of adjusted taxable income ("ATI"). For taxable years through 2021, the calculation of ATI closely aligns with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ("EBITDA"). Commencing in 2022, the ATI limitation more closely aligns with earnings before interest and taxes ("EBIT"), without adjusting for depreciation and amortization. Any business interest in excess of the annual limitation is carried forward indefinitely. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act") was enacted, which among other provisions, provides for the increase of the 163(j) ATI limitation from 30% to 50% for tax years 2019 and 2020.

With respect to recording a deferred tax benefit for the carryforward of business interest expense, GAAP applies a "more likely than not" threshold for assessing recoverability. Adjustments to the valuation allowance are a component of income tax expense (benefit) in our statements of operations. An increase in the valuation allowance for deferred income taxes will increase income tax expense (or reduce an otherwise income tax benefit), and a decrease in the valuation allowance will decrease income tax expense (or increase an otherwise income tax benefit).

On the basis of our assessment, for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, we decreased and increased the valuation allowance for deferred income taxes by $2.9 million and $9.3 million, respectively, associated with excess business interest for the then-current reporting periods. Changes to the valuation allowance for 2018 were not material. We will continue to evaluate the realizability of the net deferred tax asset on a quarterly basis and, as a result, the valuation allowance may change in future periods.

For the year ended December 31, 2020, our consolidated income tax expense was $10.9 million, resulting in a consolidated effective income tax rate of 13.3%. Approximately $12.3 million of consolidated income tax expense for the year ended December 31, 2020 was attributable to the gain on the business sale (see Note 2, Disposal of Business). For the year ended December 31, 2019, our consolidated income tax expense was $0.8 million, resulting in an effective consolidated income tax benefit rate of 2.5%. See Note 11, Income Taxes, to our consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of the Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Our consolidated effective income tax rates differ from the statutory rate due to timing and permanent differences between amounts calculated under GAAP and the tax code. The consolidated effective income tax rate for 2020 may not be indicative of our effective tax rate for future periods.


Earnings Attributable to Non-Controlling Interests (NCIs)

In addition to the $45.1 million discussed above for the NCIs of PRET, we attributed and paid $250 thousand to the NCIs of PHOT for the year ended December 31, 2020. No amounts were attributable or paid to any NCIs in prior years. See Note 4, Asset Acquisitions, Asset Contributions, and Business Combinations, to the consolidated financial statements.

 
Net Income (Loss)
 
Consolidated net income attributable to the stockholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc. for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $25.7 million compared to a net loss of $33.6 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 for the aforementioned reasons.


39


Year Ended December 31, 2019 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2018

The following table shows our consolidated income statement data for the years indicated:
 
Year Ended December 31, 
(dollars in thousands)20192018$ Change% Change
 
REVENUES $371,854 $375,822 $(3,968)(1.1)%
OPERATING EXPENSES:    
Costs of services252,569 269,284 (16,715)(6.2)%
Salary and employee benefits42,214 38,324 3,890 10.2 %
Depreciation and amortization39,092 19,740 19,352 98.0 %
Selling, general and administrative30,795 32,081 (1,286)(4.0)%
Total operating expenses364,670 359,429 5,241 1.5 %
Income from operations7,184 16,393 (9,209)(56.2)%
Operating margin1.9 %4.4 %
OTHER (EXPENSES) INCOME:    
Interest expense(40,653)(29,935)(10,718)35.8 %
Other, net710 (6,784)7,494 110.5 %
Total other expenses, net(39,943)(36,719)(3,224)8.8 %
Loss before income taxes(32,759)(20,326)(12,433)61.2 %
Income tax expense (benefit) 830 (2,490)3,320 nm
Net loss$(33,589)$(17,836)$(15,753)88.3 %


nm = not meaningful
40


The following table shows our segment income statement data and selected performance measures for the years indicated:
 
Years Ended December 31,  
(dollars and volume amounts in thousands)20192018$ Change% Change
 
Consumer Payments:    
Revenue$330,599 $347,013 $(16,414)(4.7)%
Operating expenses298,362 300,011 (1,649)(0.5)%
Income from operations$32,237 $47,002 $(14,765)(31.4)%
Operating margin9.8 %13.5 % 
Depreciation and amortization$32,842 $17,945 $14,897 83.0 %
Key Indicators:    
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$42,303,880 $37,892,474 $4,411,406 11.6 %
Merchant bankcard transaction volume511,852 465,584 46,268 9.9 %
Commercial Payments:    
Revenue $25,980 $27,056 $(1,076)(4.0)%
Operating expenses26,871 28,008 (1,137)(4.1)%
Loss from operations$(891)$(952)$61 (6.4)%
Operating margin(3.4)%(3.5)%
Depreciation and amortization$323 $557 $(234)(42.0)%
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$312,342 $257,308 $55,034 21.4 %
Merchant bankcard transaction volume109 118 (9)(7.6)%
Integrated Partners:
Revenue$15,275 $1,753 $13,522 nm
Operating expenses14,550 3,722 10,828 nm
Income (loss) from operations$725 $(1,969)$2,694 nm
Operating margin4.7 %(112.3)%
Depreciation and amortization$4,398 $145 $4,253 nm
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$386,101 $5,516 $380,585 nm
Merchant bankcard transaction volume1,380 55 1,325 nm
Income from operations of reportable segments$32,071 $44,081 $(12,010)(27.2)%
Corporate expenses24,887 27,688 (2,801)(10.1)%
Consolidated income from operations$7,184 $16,393 $(9,209)(56.2)%
Corporate depreciation and amortization$1,529 $1,093 $436 39.9 %
Key Indicators:
Merchant bankcard processing dollar value$43,002,323 $38,155,298 $4,847,025 12.7 %
Merchant bankcard transaction volume513,341 465,757 47,584 10.2 %

nm = not meaningful

41





Revenue

Consolidated revenue
 
For the year ended December 31, 2019, our consolidated revenue decreased by $4.0 million, or 1.1%, from the year ended December 31, 2018 to $371.9 million. This decrease was driven by a $16.4 million, or 4.7%, decrease in revenue from our Consumer Payments segment and a $1.1 million, or 4.0%, decrease in revenue from our Commercial Payments segment, partially offset by a $13.5 million increase in revenue from our Integrated Partners segment. Consolidated merchant bankcard processing dollar value and merchant bankcard transactions increased 12.7% and 10.2%, respectively.

Revenue in Consumer Payments segment

For the year ended December 31, 2019, the $16.4 million decrease in Consumer Payments revenue was primarily attributable to a decrease in revenue of $51.9 million from certain subscription-billing e-commerce merchants, largely offset by revenue resulting from the overall increases in merchant bankcard processing dollar value and merchant bankcard transactions of 11.6% and 9.9%, respectively, compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. The higher merchant bankcard processing dollar value and transaction volume in 2019 were mainly due to the continuation of higher consumer spending trends in 2019 and positive net onboarding of new merchants. Additionally, the average dollar amount per bankcard transaction increased to $82.65, or 1.5%, in 2019 from $81.39 in 2018.

Our revenue in the Consumer Payments segment for the year ended December 31, 2019 was negatively affected by the closure of high-margin accounts with certain subscription-billing e-commerce merchants. The closure of merchants in this channel was due to industry-wide changes for enhanced card association compliance. This revenue was $7.4 million and $59.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Revenue in Commercial Payments segment
 
For the year ended December 31, 2019, the $1.1 million decrease in Commercial Payments revenue was attributable to a $2.3 million decrease in revenue from our curated managed services program, partially offset by a $1.2 million increase in revenue from our accounts payable automated solutions. The managed services decline was largely driven by lower incentive revenue and the accounts payable automated solutions increase was driven by customer additions and higher merchant bankcard processing dollar value.

Revenue in Integrated Partners segment
For the year ended December 31, 2019, the $13.5 million increase in our Integrated Partners revenue was due primarily to a $12.3 million increase in revenue from PRET. PRET's revenue growth included $11.7 million from a March 2019 asset acquisition. Revenue from PayRight and PHOT, which commenced operations in April 2018 and February 2019, respectively, comprised the remainder of this reportable segment’s $1.2 million revenue growth.


Consolidated Operating Expenses
 
Our consolidated operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019 of $364.7 million increased by $5.2 million, or 1.5%, from consolidated operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2018 of $359.4 million. This overall increase was driven primarily by a $19.4 million, or 98.0%, increase in amortization and depreciation expense related to asset acquisitions that occurred in late 2018 and 2019. Consolidated salary and employee benefits increased $3.9 million, or 10.2%, related to increases in corporate and operations headcount and higher headcount from business and asset acquisitions in 2019 and 2018, as well as a $2.0 million increase in non-cash stock-based compensation in 2019 compared to 2018. These increases were partially offset by a $16.7 million, or 6.2%, decrease in consolidated costs of services in correlation with lower revenues in 2019 and due to lower residual expenses in 2019 resulting from buyouts of residual commission rights in 2019 and 2018. Consolidated selling, general, and administrative expenses decreased by $1.3 million, or 4.0%, driven by a decrease in certain
42


expenses management considers to be non-recurring in nature related to transaction costs associated with the Business Combination and conversion to a public company, such as legal, accounting and other advisory and consulting expenses. These expenses were $8.3 million and $12.4 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

 
Income (Loss) from Operations
 
Consolidated income from operations

Consolidated income from operations decreased $9.2 million, or 56.2%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. Our consolidated operating margin for year ended December 31, 2019 was 1.9% compared to 4.4% for the year ended December 31, 2018. The consolidated margin decrease was the result of higher depreciation and amortization expense of $19.4 million and a $3.9 million increase in salaries and employee benefits, partially offset by lower costs of services of $16.7 million and a $1.3 million decrease in selling, general and administrative expenses.

Income from operations in Consumer Payments segment

Our Consumer Payments reportable segment earned $32.2 million in income from operations for the year ended December 31, 2019, a decrease of $14.8 million, or 31.4%, from $47.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. This decrease largely reflected the increase in depreciation and amortization expense of $14.9 million in 2019 related to asset acquisitions that occurred in late 2018 and 2019. The loss of certain subscription-billing e-commerce merchants in 2019 due to industry-wide changes for enhanced card association compliance, which contributed $3.5 million and $21.3 million of income from operations in the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively, was largely offset by income resulting from the growth in merchant bankcard processing dollar value and transaction volume.

Loss from operations in Commercial Payments segment

Our Commercial Payments reportable segment incurred a $0.9 million loss from operations for the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to a $1.0 million loss from operations for the year ended December 31, 2018. This improvement was driven by a $0.6 million increase in revenue, net of costs of services, partially offset by increases in salaries and employee benefits and selling, general and administrative expenses, which included a $0.5 million allowance for uncollectible receivables in 2019 which were substantially recovered in 2020.

Income (loss) from operations in Integrated Partners segment

Our Integrated Partners segment earned income from operations of $0.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to a loss from operations of $2.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. This increase in income from operations in 2019 was due primarily to a 2019 asset acquisition, which included $4.0 million of increased depreciation expense and $2.9 million of transitional acquisition integration costs.

Corporate Expense

Corporate expenses were $24.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, a decrease of $2.8 million, or 10.1%, over expenses of $27.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. This decrease was driven primarily by a $6.4 million decrease in certain expenses management considers to be non-recurring in nature that were associated with our Business Combination, conversion to a public company, and certain legal matters. These expenses were $6.0 million and $12.4 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

 
Interest Expense

Consolidated interest expense, including amortization of deferred debt issuance costs and discounts, increased by $10.7 million, or 35.8%, to $40.7 million in 2019 from $29.9 million in 2018. This increase was primarily due to higher debt obligations in 2019 driven by acquisition-related borrowings.

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Other, net
 
Other, net increased $7.5 million from a net expense of $6.8 million in the year ended December 31, 2018 to net income of $0.7 million in the year ended December 31, 2019. The 2018 amount included $3.5 million expense from the change in fair value of a prior warrant liability and $3.3 million of debt modification and other net costs.


Income Tax Expense (Benefit)
 
We became part of a C-Corporation reporting tax group on July 25, 2018 in connection with the Business Combination. On July 25, 2018, we recognized a net deferred income tax asset of $47.5 million, which also resulted in a credit to our additional paid-in capital within our consolidated stockholders' deficit. The net deferred tax asset is the result of the difference between the initial tax bases in the assets and liabilities and their respective carrying amounts for financial statement purposes.

For the year ended December 31, 2019, our consolidated income tax expense was $0.8 million, resulting in an effective consolidated income tax benefit rate of 2.5%. See Note 11, Income Taxes, to our consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of the Annual Report on Form 10-K.

For the year ended December 31, 2018, our consolidated income tax benefit was $2.5 million, resulting in an effective consolidated income tax rate of 12.5%. This income tax benefit was based on the pre-tax loss incurred after July 25, 2018. On a pro-forma basis assuming C-Corporation status for the full year 2018, our income tax benefit would have been $3.2 million, resulting in a pro-forma effective income tax rate of 15.6%. Our annualized pro-forma effective income tax rate for 2018 was less than the statutory rate due to timing and permanent differences between amounts calculated under GAAP and the tax code.


Net loss
 
Our consolidated net loss for the year ended December 31, 2019 was $33.6 million compared to a net loss of $17.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2018 for the aforementioned reasons.


Liquidity and Capital Resources
 
Liquidity and capital resource management is a process focused on providing the funding we need to meet our short-term and long-term cash and working capital needs. We have used our funding sources to build our merchant portfolio, technology solutions, and to make acquisitions with the expectation that such investments will generate cash flows sufficient to cover our working capital needs and other anticipated needs, including for our acquisition strategy. We anticipate that cash on hand, funds generated from operations and available borrowings under our revolving credit agreement are sufficient to meet our working capital requirements for at least the next twelve months.

Our principal uses of cash are to fund business operations, administrative costs, and debt service.
 
Our working capital, defined as current assets less current liabilities, was a negative $13.0 million at December 31, 2020 and a positive $1.2 million at December 31, 2019. As of December 31, 2020, we had cash totaling $9.2 million compared to $3.2 million at December 31, 2019. These cash balances do not include restricted cash of $78.9 million and $47.2 million at December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively, which reflects cash accounts holding customer settlement funds and cash reserves for potential losses at December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019. The current portion of long-term debt included in current liabilities was $19.4 million at December 31, 2020 compared with $4.0 million at December 31, 2019.

At December 31, 2020, we had availability of approximately $25.0 million under our revolving credit arrangement.
 
The following tables and narrative reflect our changes in cash flows for the comparative annual periods.

Year Ended December 31, 2020 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2019
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Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands)20202019
 
Net cash provided by (used in): 
Operating activities$47,072 $39,364 
Investing activities166,396 (97,747)
Financing activities(175,813)75,017 
Net increase in cash and restricted cash$37,655 $16,634 


Cash Provided by Operating Activities

Net cash provided by operating activities, which includes restricted cash, was $47.1 million and $39.4 million for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. The $7.7 million, or 19.6%, increase in 2020 was principally the result of an increase in restricted cash balances, as well as an increase in cash generated from operations, partially offset by changes in assets and liabilities and the payment of $5.4 million of transaction costs related to the sale of the RentPayment business in 2020.


Cash Provided by (Used in) Investing Activities
 
Net cash provided by investing activities was $166.4 million compared to cash used of $97.7 million for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. Cash used in investing activities includes cash for the acquisitions of merchant portfolios, residual buyouts, and purchases of property, equipment and software. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, we invested $5.6 million and $82.9 million, respectively, in merchant portfolios and residual buyouts. Cash used for purchases of property, equipment, and software for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $7.5 million compared to $11.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. For 2020, cash used for investing activities was offset by cash received of $179.4 million from the sale of the RentPayment business. See Note 2, Disposal of Business, in Item 8 of the Annual report on Form 10-K.


Cash (Used in) Provided by Financing Activities
 
Net cash used in financing activities was $175.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to cash provided of $75.0 million in the year ended December 31, 2019. The amount for 2020 included $110.5 million in principal repayments on the term facility for our Senior Credit Agreement, $51.1 million of cash payments to the non-controlling interests of PRET and PHOT, and repayment of the revolving facility under our Senior Credit Agreement. The amount for 2019 included net borrowings under our Senior Credit Agreement consisting of $11.5 million under the revolving facility and a $69.7 million delayed draw under the term facility that was used to acquire certain assets from YapStone, Inc. in March 2019.
 
Year Ended December 31, 2019 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2018
 
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands)20192018
 
Net cash provided by (used in):  
Operating activities$39,364 $31,348 
Investing activities(97,747)(108,928)
Financing activities75,017 67,252 
Net increase (decrease) in cash and restricted cash$16,634 $(10,328)


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Cash Provided by Operating Activities

Net cash provided by operating activities was $39.4 million and $31.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. The $8.0 million, or 25.6%, increase in 2019 was principally the result of increases in restricted cash balances and cash generated from operations, partially offset by changes in assets and liabilities in 2019.


Cash Used in Investing Activities
 
Net cash used in investing activities was $97.7 million and $108.9 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Cash flow used in investing activities includes the acquisitions of merchant portfolios, residual buyouts, purchases of property, equipment and software, and acquisitions of businesses. For the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, we invested $82.9 million and $90.9 million, respectively, in merchant portfolios and residual buyouts. We used $0.2 million for business acquisitions for the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to $7.5 million in 2018. Cash used for purchases of property, equipment, and software for the year ended December 31, 2019 was $11.1 million, an increase of $0.6 million from the year ended December 31, 2018. The increase in purchases was driven primarily by capitalization of internally developed software.


Cash Provided by Financing Activities
 
Net cash provided by financing activities was $75.0 million in the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to $67.3 million in 2018. Cash flows from financing activities for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 resulted primarily from proceeds received from additional borrowings under our term debt in and revolving credit facility. Proceeds received in 2018 also included cash received from the Business Combination and equity recapitalization.

Long-Term Debt
 
As of December 31, 2020, we had outstanding long-term debt, excluding amounts outstanding under the revolving credit facility, of $382.0 million compared to $484.0 million at December 31, 2019, a decrease of $101.9 million. The debt balance consisted of outstanding term debt of $279.4 million under the Senior Credit Facility and $102.6 million in term debt under the Subordinated Credit and Guaranty Agreement with Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending Group, L.P. (the "GS Credit Facility") including accrued payment-in-kind ("PIK") interest through December 31, 2020. Additionally, under the Senior Credit Facility, we have a $25.0 million revolving credit facility, which had $11.5 million drawn and outstanding as of December 31, 2019. There were no such amounts outstanding as of December 31, 2020. The outstanding principal amounts under the Senior Credit Facility and the Subordinated GS Credit Facility mature in January 2023 and July 2023, respectively. The $25 million revolving credit facility expires in January 2022.

The Senior Credit Facility and the subordinated GS Credit Facility are secured by substantially all of our assets, however, the parent entity, Priority Technology Holdings, Inc., is neither a borrower nor guarantor to the Senior Credit Facility or the GS Credit Facility.

On March 18, 2020, we modified the Senior Credit Agreement and the GS Credit Amendment (collectively, the "Sixth Amendment"). As of December 31, 2020, financial covenants, as amended, under the Senior Credit Facility required the Total Net Leverage Ratio, as defined in the agreement, not to exceed 7.75:1.00 at December 31, 2020. The Total Net Leverage Ratio steps down thereafter.

As of December 31, 2020, we were in compliance with our financial covenants. Noncompliance in the future could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition, including giving the lenders the right to accelerate the debt repayment schedule and restricting access to the revolving credit facility. Based upon current projections, the Company expects to be in compliance with its debt covenants for at least the foreseeable future. For additional information about the risks associated with our debt agreements and related covenants, refer to the "Risk Factors Related to Our Indebtedness" in Item 1A, Risk Factors, in Part I of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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Total Net Leverage Ratio, Consolidated Total Debt, and Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA are defined in Section 1.01 of Exhibit A to the Sixth Amendment (incorporated Exhibits 10.3.4 and 10.4.4 to this Annual Report on Form 10-K) and summarized below:

The Total Net Leverage Ratio means, at any date of determination, the ratio of Consolidated Total Debt for such date, to Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA.

Consolidated Total Debt is the aggregate principal amount of indebtedness minus the aggregate amount of unrestricted cash at the balance sheet date.

Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA is consolidated net income plus any applicable items determined in accordance with clauses (i)(b) through (i)(v) of the Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA definition, minus any applicable items determined in accordance with clauses (ii)(a) through (ii)(g) of the Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA definition in Section 1.01 of the Sixth Amendment ("Applicable Adjustments").

Under the provisions of the Sixth Amendment, calculation of Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA at each interim quarterly measurement period in 2020 is determined as the current year-to-date Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA annualized. For interim quarterly and full year measurement periods commencing in January 2021, calculation of Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA is determined on a last twelve months basis.

Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP liquidity measure. For determining the Total Net Leverage Ratio at December 31, 2020, Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA was calculated as follows in accordance with the referenced clause definitions from Section 1.01 of the Sixth Amendment:


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(in thousands)
Year Ended December 31, 2020
Consolidated Net Income Attributable to Stockholders of Priority Technology Holdings, Inc. (GAAP)$25,661 
Applicable Adjustments:
Gain on sale of business, less amounts attributable and paid to NCIs (clause (ii)(c))(62,091)
Interest expense (clause (i)(b))44,839 
Depreciation and amortization (clause (i)(d) and (i)(e))40,775 
Income tax expense (clause (i)(c))10,899 
Non-cash share-based compensation (clause (i)(j))2,430 
Acquisition transition services (clause (i)(k))2,628 
Debt extinguishment and modification expenses (clause (i)(f) and (i)(h))1,899 
Impairment of intangible asset (clause (i)(f))1,753 
Provision for allowance for note receivable (clause (i)(f))
467 
Change in fair value of contingent consideration for business combinations (clause (ii)(a))
(360)
Write-off of equity-method investment (clause (i)(f))211 
Certain legal fees and expenses (clause (i)(m))1,796 
Litigation recoveries (clause (i)(k))(719)
Professional, accounting and consulting fees (clause (i)(k))145 
Other professional and consulting fees (clause (i)(h))1,500 
Other adjustments (clause (i)(k))161 
Pro forma impact of disposal(8,221)
Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA (non-GAAP)$63,773 


At December 31, 2020, the Total Net Leverage Ratio was 5.85:1.00, calculated as follows:

(in thousands, except ratio)
December 31, 2020
Consolidated Total Debt:
Current portion of long-term debt$19,442 
Long-term debt, net of discounts and deferred financing costs357,873 
Unamortized debt discounts and deferred financing costs4,725 
382,040 
Less unrestricted cash(9,241)
Consolidated Net Debt$372,799 
Total Net Leverage Ratio
5.85 x




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Contractual Obligations

The following table sets forth our contractual obligations and commitments for the periods indicated as of December 31, 2020.
 
(in thousands)Payments Due by Period
Contractual ObligationsTotal Less than
1 year
1 to 3 years3 to 5 YearsMore than
5 years
 
Operating leases$9,168  $1,356 $2,663 $2,761 $2,388 
Debt principal (a)382,040  19,442 362,598 — — 
Interest on debt (b)74,026 25,683 48,343 — — 
Contingent consideration (c)2,133 2,133 — — — 
Processing minimums (d)7,000  7,000 — — — 
 $474,367  $55,614 $413,604 $2,761 $2,388 
 
(a) Reflects contractual principal payments on term debt outstanding at December 31, 2020 and excludes any amount for the revolving credit facility which had no outstanding balance at December 31, 2020. Does not include future "payment-in-kind" ("PIK") interest that will be added to the principal outstanding for the GS Credit Facility as this interest is included in Interest on debt in (b). See Note 10, Long-Term Debt and Warrant Liability.

(b) Reflects interest payable and future PIK interest on term debt under the Senior Credit Facility and the subordinated GS Credit Facility. Amounts based on outstanding balances and interest rates as of December 31, 2020. Does not include any interest that may be payable in the future for the revolving credit facility which had no outstanding borrowings at December 31, 2020. See Note 10, Long-Term Debt and Warrant Liability.

(c) Reflects amount accrued for earned contingent consideration for asset acquisition. See Note 4, Asset Acquisitions, Asset Contributions, and Business Combinations.

(d) Reflects minimum annual spend commitments with third-party processor partners. In the event we fail to meet the minimum annual spend commitment, we are required to pay the difference between the minimum and the actual dollar amount spent in the year. See Note 12, Commitments and Contingencies.

Based on outstanding principal balances, including PIK interest, at December 31, 2020 approximately 73% of the Borrowers' $382 million of term debt matures in January 2023 and approximately 27% matures in July 2023. Based on current market conditions and the financial conditions and forecasts of the entities and guarantors that compose the Borrowers, we currently believe the term debt can be refinanced on or before the maturity dates at amounts and terms that are similar or favorable to those existing at December 31, 2020.

On March 5, 2021, we entered into a debt commitment letter with Truist Bank and Truist Securities, Inc., pursuant to which Truist has committed to provide Priority with a new Term Loan Facility and Revolving Credit Facility, which will replace existing Senior Loan facilities. Also, on March 5, 2021, the Company entered into a preferred stock commitment letter with Ares Capital Management LLC and Ares Alternative Credit Management LLC to issue preferred stock, the proceeds of which will be partially used to repay our Subordinated Debt Facility. See Note 21, Subsequent Events, to the consolidated financial statements, for additional information.


Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
 
We have not entered into any transactions with third parties or unconsolidated entities whereby we have financial guarantees, subordinated retained interest, derivative instruments, or other contingent arrangements that expose us to material continuing risks, contingent liabilities or other obligations.
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Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
 
Our accounting policies are more fully described in Note 1, Nature of Business and Accounting Policies. The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to make estimates and assumptions about future events that affect the amounts reported in the financial statements and accompanying notes. Actual results could differ significantly from those estimates. We believe that the following discussion addresses our most critical accounting policies, which are those that are most important to the portrayal of our financial condition and results of operations and require management's most difficult, subjective, and complex judgments.

Revenue Recognition

We adopted the provisions of ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, effective for the annual reporting period ended December 31, 2019. We used the full retrospective adoption and transition method, and accordingly, all periods presented in this Form 10-K reflect the provisions of ASC 606.

Under the provisions of ASC 606, we recognize revenue when we satisfy a performance obligation by transferring a service or good to the customer in an amount to which we expect to be entitled (i.e., transaction price) allocated to the distinct or services or goods.

At contract inception, we assess the services and goods promised in our contracts with customers and identify the performance obligation for each promise to transfer to the customer a service or good that is distinct. For substantially all of our services, the nature of our promise to the customer is to stand ready to accept and process the transactions that customers request on a daily basis over the contract term. Since the timing and quantity of transactions to be processed is not determinable, the services comprise an obligation to stand ready to process as many transactions as the customer requires. Under a stand-ready obligation, the evaluation of the nature of our performance obligation is focused on each time increment rather than the underlying activities. Therefore, we have determined that our services comprise a series of distinct days of service that are substantially the same and have the same pattern of transfer to the customer. Accordingly, the promise to stand ready is accounted for as a single-series performance obligation.

When third parties are involved in the transfer of services or goods to the customer, we consider the nature of each specific promised service or good and applies judgment to determine whether we control the service or good before it is transferred to the customer or whether we are acting as an agent of the third party. We follow the requirements of ASC 606-10, Principal Agent Considerations, which states that the determination of whether an entity should recognize revenue based on the gross amount billed to a customer or the net amount retained is a matter of judgment that depends on the facts and circumstances of the arrangement. To determine whether or not we control the service or good, we assess indicators including: 1) whether we or the third party is primarily responsible for fulfillment; 2) if we or the third party provides a significant service of integrating two or more services or goods into a combined item that is a service or good that the customer contracted to receive; 3) which party has discretion in determining pricing for the service or good; and 4) other considerations deemed to be applicable to the specific situation.

Income Taxes

We account for income taxes under the asset and liability method. Under this method, deferred tax assets and liabilities are determined based on differences between financial reporting and tax