Top 20 firm Crowe Clark Whitehill has been appointed as administrator of Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy at the heart of the Facebook data scandal.
Parent company SCL Elections Ltd filed insolvency proceedings for its subsidiary Cambridge Analytica, and Crowe Clark Whitehill partners Vince Green and Mark Newman were appointed joint administrators in the UK.
Parallel bankruptcy proceedings will be commenced in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
Cambridge Analytica was consumed by a public scandal when it was revealed that data of up to 87m Facebook users had been harvested by a quiz app and used by the company to target political advertisements.
It’s CEO, Alexander Nix, was caught on tape claiming credit for Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election.
The company denounced the “unfounded accusations” and the “siege of media coverage” which it said had “driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers”, forcing the company to cease operations.
The company denies any wrongdoing, claiming that they have been “vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.”
Cambridge Analytica retained the services of Queen’s Counsel Julian Malins who conducted an independent review and reported that the allegations were not “borne out by the facts”.
He added: “My findings entirely reflect the amazement of the staff, on watching the television programmes and reading the sensationalistic reporting, that any of these media outlets could have been talking about the company for which they worked. Nothing of what they heard or read resonated with what they actually did for a living.”
Cambridge Analytica affirmed its commitment to “fully meet its obligations to its employees, including with respect to notice periods, severance terms, and redundancy entitlements” despite its “precarious financial condition.”
Is this really the end for Cambridge Analytica?
Although the company said it has ceased operations with immediate effect, former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on the scandal, tweeted a warning that the firm may simply rebrand under a different name.
Concerns have been raised over two London-registered operations, Firecrest Technologies Ltd and its parent, Emerdata Ltd., to which Cambridge Analytica may migrate their operations.
The BBC said it attempted to contact both operations, which are registered to PKF Littlejohn’s Canary Wharf office. A PKF Littlejohn representative told the BBC they were “not prepared to make any comment” on the matter.
Data regulator the Information Commissioner’s Office said it will “continue its civil and criminal investigations and will seek to pursue individuals and directors, as appropriate and necessary even where companies may no longer be operating.”
“We will also monitor closely any successor companies using our powers to audit and inspect, to ensure the public is safeguarded,” it added.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, which is responsible for looking into the data scandal, tweeted:
The scandal brought Facebook’s privacy policies and data sharing practices under scrutiny, leading to the social media company pledging a range of reforms to restrict third-party data access and restore public trust.
The social media company is currently contending with calls to regulate the platform while it attempts to rehabilitate its image.