You're toxic, I'm slippin' under: SCL, Cambridge Analytica file for US bankruptcy

Oops!... We did it again


The US branches of Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm SCL have filed for bankruptcy as execs inch closer to ridding themselves of the toxic brand.

The filings, submitted to the New York Southern Bankruptcy Court late yesterday, are for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy – akin to liquidation in the UK – which allows the debtor to escape without having to file a repayment plan*.

Cambridge Analytica is the firm at the heart of the Facebook data harvesting scandal, which hit headlines following revelations that it bought user data from a Cambridge Uni academic, Aleksandr Kogan.

The Social Network has come under fire for broad developer policies that allowed the mass slurp of users' friends' data, but has insisted that Kogan is at fault because the terms didn't allow him to pass that data on.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm SCL were hit by further scandal when Channel 4 News filmed their director, Alexander Nix, appearing to offer up honey-traps, bribes and more to reporters posing as prospective clients.

The affair has – unsurprisingly – tainted Cambridge Analytica's name and, despite previous insistence that everything was fine, the company this month confirmed it was shutting down, complaining that it had been "vilified" for legal and commonplace online marketing activities.

The proceedings started in the UK, where Cambridge Analytica and its various affiliates filed for insolvency on 2 May.

The latest US filings offer up more detail on the firms, showing that Cambridge Analytica has estimated assets (PDF) of between $100,001 and $500,000 and estimated liabilities of $1m to $10m, with between one and 49 creditors.

Its affiliate, SCL USA Inc (PDF), has between 50 and 99 creditors, estimated assets of up to $50,000 and estimated liabilities of between $1m and $10m.

The web-like nature of the businesses, which were founded by a similar set of people, have been one of the more confusing aspects of the firms' operations, and the filings list the various names and affiliations.

Affiliate companies in the UK are listed as: SCL Group Ltd; SCL Analytics Ltd; SCL Commercial Ltd; SCL Social Ltd; SCL Elections Ltd; and Cambridge Analytica (UK) Ltd – all of which filed for insolvency on 2 May.

Other names used by Cambridge Analytica US LLC are listed as: Cambridge Analytica Commercial LLC; Cambridge Analytica Political LLC; and Anaxi Solutions Inc.

However, as previously reported, a number of the execs behind the embattled firms have already set up their next outfit, Emerdata.

That company, incorporated in August 2017, gives its activities as "data processing, hosting and related activities" on the Companies House website, a repository of UK companies.

It was set up by Julian Wheatland – the chairman of SCL Group, who signed the bankruptcy filing for Cambridge Analytica US – as the director.

He and Alexander Tayler – who had a short-lived stint as CEO of Cambridge Analytica UK when Nix was nixed – are both listed as initial shareholders in the incorporation statement, but their statuses as "persons with significant control" were ceased at the end of February. (Presumably that was about the time The Observer started asking the business for comment on the story that kicked the drama off, which it published on 17 March.)

Shortly after, just as the furore hit, three others with no previous positions at Cambridge Analytica or its affiliates were named directors – Ahmad Ashraf Hosny al Khatib, Cheng Peng and Johnson Chun Shun Ko. Rebekah Mercer and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of billionaire Cambridge Analytica backer Robert Mercer, were later added to the list.

Meanwhile, Nix and Tayler's positions as directors at the firm were both terminated – although Wheatland remains listed as an active director – and Cambridge Analytica has no active listings of people with significant control.

However, Tayler remains an active director of another firm, Firecrest, which was incorporated on 7 March and briefly also had Nix listed as a director. Its work is described as "business and domestic software development", and lists Emerdata Ltd as a "person with significant control" over it.

*Bootnote

In the US, Chapter 13 requires the filing of a plan for repayment – the debtor must pay all or part of his debts from future income over three to five years.

Chapter 11 is used by large businesses for reorganisation, while Chapter 12 is for farmers or fishermen with regular annual income to reorganise debts and continue operations. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021