Investigators Vow to Pursue Individual Criminal Probes as Cambridge Analytica Is Liquidated
If Cambridge Analytica executives hoped they could just fade away into the darkness, they’ve got another thing coming.
LONDON—British law enforcement officials vowed to continue their pursuit of Cambridge Analytica via criminal probes into individual members of staff after the company sent its remaining employees home and reportedly told them the company would be liquidated on Tuesday.
Shuttering the company makes it impossible for the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) to impose financial sanctions on Cambridge Analytica—or individuals who worked for the political consultancy—but investigators will still be able to pursue criminal proceedings. An official at the ICO said their investigation would press ahead undeterred.
“Even after today’s announcement, the investigation is very much continuing,” an ICO official told The Daily Beast. “If there were any criminal offences… they would follow any individuals wherever they went.”
Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump presidential campaign in 2016, was forced into legal and financial jeopardy after the emergence of a whistle-blower. Christopher Wylie claimed the consultancy had misused Facebook data from 87 million people for its political campaigns, which could be bolstered—according to secretly recorded boasts from its former CEO—by nefarious tactics including bribery, espionage, and honeytraps.
After filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings in the Southern District of New York last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that 40 members of staff were told that no credible buyer was willing to rescue the beleaguered company. As a result, administrators sent the staffers home, saying the company would be liquidated to pay off creditors.
Cambridge Analytica was established as a political offshoot of the long-standing British company SCL, which specialized in military influence operations. Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser, and Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, former co-CEO of America’s most lucrative hedge fund, were on the board of the company, which succeeded in making its American political breakthrough with the Trump campaign.
An associate of Mercer initially said she was standing by Cambridge Analytica when the secretly recorded footage emerged. The buffoonish former Eton schoolboy, Alexander Nix, who had been caught on tape, was fired, but company executives subsequently admitted that the reputational damage was too great for the company to continue.
There was speculation that the Cambridge Analytica operation would be revived under the new name Emerdata, a company that was established in London last summer. According to the bankruptcy filing in New York, Emerdata had an 89.5 percent direct ownership interest in Cambridge Analytica. Emerdata also paid the legal fees for the bankruptcy filing. But Nigel Oakes, the founder of SCL, announced this month that Emerdata would also be shut down.
“The whole lot is gone. There’s no secret,” he told Bloomberg. “It’s the end of the show.”
British and American authorities, however, are determined that the show will go on. Wylie has said he is cooperating with investigations by the National Crime Agency in Britain as well as the Department of Justice and the FBI in the U.S.
The American investigation is reportedly focused on financial dealings and how the company acquired and used data from Facebook. Simultaneous investigations in London are being carried out by the National Crime Agency and the Information Commissioners’ Office, which is in possession of the computers and servers from the company’s London HQ. “We will carry on examining them,” an ICO official said, explaining that any evidence of criminal behavior or wrongdoing would be shared with relevant law enforcement bodies.