Cambridge Analytica, the data company employed by the Trump campaign during the 2016 US presidential election and the focus of the current Facebook privacy scandal, is reportedly shutting down, along with its parent company, SCL Group.
Nigel Oakes, the founder of the company once known as Strategic Communication Laboratories, confirmed the news to the Wall Street Journal. Earlier today, May 2, Gizmodo reported that the company had held a call to inform its US offices that it would be shutting down.
Cambridge Analytica later put out a statement that it is commencing insolvency proceedings in the UK and bankruptcy proceedings in the US.
In March, reports from The New York Times and The Guardian revealed that Cambridge Analytica had bought Facebook data harvested from millions of users without their consent. Soon after, executives from the company, including then-CEO Alexander Nix, were caught on tape by the UK’s Channel 4 boasting about its tactics to win elections for clients. Cambridge Analytica’s board relieved Nix, and executives have defended the company’s actions before the UK parliament. As a result of the scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the US Congress, facing questions on how tech companies acquire and use user data.
Cambridge Analytica has three US offices (two in the Washington DC area, and one in New York) and a headquarters in London. The firm had been partly funded by the billionaire Robert Mercer, a close associate of Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s election confidants. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica reportedly worked side-by-side at a Trump campaign office in San Antonio, Texas.
SCL chairman Julian Wheatland told US staff that rebranding Cambridge Analytica would be “futile,” given legal fees for ongoing investigations into its data harvesting, according to Gizmodo. The company’s London office was raided by UK authorities in late March, and Gizmodo reports that SCL has lost many clients as a result of the inquiries. Cambridge Analytica’s statement said “the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers.”
Staff were told to hand in their computers immediately.
Some US employees waited to learn their fate today with dark humor, Gizmodo reported.
One employee shared bleakly titled Spotify playlists in Slack featuring songs like ‘High and Dry’ by Radiohead, ‘The End’ by The Doors, and ‘Help!’ by The Beatles. Another employee posted a still from Titanic showing the ship’s band playing their instruments as the vessel sinks.
Quartz reached out to Cambridge Analytica to confirm the reports. SCL Group’s website was down at the time of publishing.