On Wednesday, Cambridge Analytica employees learned that its parent company, the SCL Group, was shuttering the business, with American-based workers directed to return their keycards immediately, according to documentation reviewed by Gizmodo.
The news was announced during a conference call led by Julian Wheatland, the current chairman of the SCL Group who was reportedly tapped to take over as Cambridge Analytica’s next CEO. Both Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections (the SCL Group subsidiary connected to Cambridge Analytica) will now close their doors.
During the call, Wheatland said that the board determined that rebranding the company’s offerings in the current environment is “futile.”
Cambridge Analytica and the SCL Group have offices in London, New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The conference call was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, but was repeatedly pushed back until early Wednesday afternoon, ultimately getting rescheduled more than half a dozen times.
Screenshots from the company’s internal chat service obtained by Gizmodo show a darkly comic mood in anticipation of the call. 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.
In explaining the decision to close the offices, Wheatland cited the ongoing investigations into Cambridge Analytica’s massive data harvesting scandal, damage to the company’s reputation, and loss of clients. In March, Britain’s information commissioner announced that she was seeking a warrant to investigate any misconduct by the data analytics firm, looking to search both its offices and its servers. UK authorities raided the London office later that month, but have yet to release their findings. Meanwhile, embattled former CEO Alexander Nix refused to testify before the British Parliamentary media committee regarding the firm’s misuse of Facebook user data.
We have reached out to Cambridge Analytica for more information and will update this story if we hear back.
Update 2:10pm: Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, SCL Group founder Nigel Oakes confirmed that both Cambridge Analytica and the SCL Group are shutting down.
Update 3:10pm: In a press release, Cambridge Analytica announced that it, SCL Elections, and other affiliate companies have filed for insolvency in the UK, with bankruptcy proceedings in the US to follow.
“Despite Cambridge Analytica’s unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, which view is now fully supported by [a third-party audit], the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers,” states the release. “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.”
Update 4:56pm: Asked for clarification, The Wall Street Journal confirmed that Oakes said the entire SCL Group—not just subsidiary SCL Elections—was shutting down. We have updated our story to reflect this information
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