In the six weeks since dual reports revealed Cambridge Analytica scraped data from more than 80 million Facebook users to serve them ads for Donald Trump’spresidential campaign, the data-analytics company has been on the warpath. “We engaged in good faith to legally supply data for research,” it tweeted in its own defense last month, and as recently as this week, it was urging its followers to “get the facts” about the scandal. “It’s open season for anyone to say what they like about Cambridge Analytica,” the company lamented at one point. “We’re accused of everything from stealing data to distorting democracies.”
But now, a month and a half after the Facebook scandal, it appears Rebekah and Bob Mercer’s data arm is ready to surrender. On Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that Cambridge Analytica, along with its parent company, SCL Group, will shut down and declare bankruptcy, closing its doors effective immediately. According to Gizmodo, the news was announced on a conference call by Julian Wheatland, SCL’s chairman, who said the company’s board had determined any efforts to rebrand Cambridge Analytica’s offerings would be “futile” in the present climate. (In a bit of gallows humor in the lead-up to the call, an employee reportedly shared Spotify playlists in Slack featuring songs like “High and Dry” by Radiohead, “The End” by the Doors, and “Help!” by the Beatles.)
The company confirmed the shutdown in a press release, writing that, “Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations,” and that “the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers. As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”
Not only was it losing clients left and right, but Cambridge Analytica was reportedly facing mounting legal fees pertaining to the Facebook investigation. Fallout from the incident—including being banned from Facebook’s platform, a devastating blow for a targeting firm—had crippled its prospects for future election work in the United States—a major hit to the Mercer political dynasty, which had already been tarnished by Steve Bannon’s break with Trump. The firm is also under investigation in the U.K. for its potential role in the Brexit vote; reports have tied its work to the populist “Leave” campaign, and British M.P.s are beginning to question whether the firm’s work played a role in the vote’s turnout: “There is a real worry among my constituents who are writing to me that maybe the misuse of data did affect the result,” Tory M.P. Antoinette Sandbach said on Wednesday. (The firm has denied this.)
Wheatland was widely expected to succeed Alexander Nix, the company’s former C.E.O., who was suspended in March after an undercover video showed him allegedly offering to bribe and entrap politicians with sex workers to secure new clients. “These sorts of tactics are very effective, instantly having video evidence of corruption,” Nix, who later claimed he was simply playing along with the undercover reporter, said in the video.