Cambridge Analytica, the embattled data firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has told employees it is shutting down, along with its UK counterpart SCL Elections. The move, which impacts all offices of both companies worldwide, comes amid recent revelations that the company harvested the data of up to 87 million Facebook users without their consent, according to multiple sources close to the company.
The decision to close the company’s doors internationally was announced to employees during a global town hall meeting, held in the firm’s New York City offices Wednesday. The company’s reportedly recently appointed CEO Julian Wheatland told staffers the company had evaluated all options and no longer saw a way forward. One source says that New York employees were told to pack up and leave immediately, with few details about how they’ll be compensated going forward. The feeling in the room was “just shock,” says the source. “There was indication the company was in trouble and change would be coming, but we didn’t see this as the resolution.”
SCL Elections and “certain of its affiliates,” including Cambridge Analytica, are beginning insolvency proceedings in the UK and filing for bankruptcy in the United States, according to a statement from the data firm’s US-based branch. “The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers,” the statement read. “As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the Company into administration.”
Gizmodo first reported that Cambridge Analytica’s US offices would shut down. According to a source, the decision also impacts SCL Defense, which has done work for the US government. The Wall Street Journal reports that SCL Group founder Nigel Oakes confirmed both SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica are closing.
In March, The New York Times, alongside The Guardian and The Observer, published simultaneous accounts from a former whistleblower named Christopher Wylie, who reported that Cambridge Analytica had hired a researcher to conduct a psychological profile of the American electorate. The researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, built a personality quiz app that collected data on anyone who took it, as well as on their friends. Kogan sold that data to Cambridge Analytica to develop so-called “psychographic profiles” of American voters. Hours before the news broke, Facebook cut Cambridge Analytica and SCL off from its platform, deeply wounding a company that had already lost market share in both its political and commercial business. Shortly after, Channel 4 news in the UK aired undercover videos in which the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, was recorded bragging about using underhanded tactics like bribery and entrapment on behalf of his clients.
In the statement put out by Cambridge Analytica, the company noted the results of an internal investigation which concluded that the allegations against it were not “borne out by the facts.”
Nix was removed as CEO in March, but the company vowed to press on. Just yesterday, Cambridge Analytica’s official Twitter account tweeted out a link to a website refuting the waves of bad press the company has received with the caption, “Get the Facts Behind the Facebook Story.”
In March, Business Insider reported that several of Cambridge Analytica’s key players had set up a separate company called Emerdata in the UK last year. Cambridge Analytica’s main funder Rebekah Mercer sits on that company’s board.
Cambridge Analytica and SCL continue to be the subject of an investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office into the role both companies played in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Updated: 4:02 pm ET 5/2/2018 This story was updated throughout to include comments from Cambridge Analytica and its employees, additional details about Emerdata, and confirmation by SCL Group’s founder that the companies are shutting down.