Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct company believed to be instrumental in the Brexit Leave campaign and the election of Donald J. Trump to the White House, is now before a British court.
The company, once owned by ultra-right billionaire, Robert Mercer, and directed by noneother than Trump aide, Steve Bannon, and Mercer's somewhat odd daughter, Rebekah, was tossed into court-ordered administration (receivership) when undercover videos revealed its scurrilous dealings. It seems there was more to its liquidation than a piffling scandal. It was thrown into administration to bury its darkest secrets and prevent people from looking into its conduct.
The High Court in London heard on Monday that Cambridge Analytica was up to its old tricks from beyond the grave—by surreptitiously trying to halt investigations that could expose allegedly nefarious tactics before the company was shut down for good.
The company filed for the British equivalent of chapter 11 bankruptcy last year after secret recordings of its boss, Alexander Nix, emerged in which he claimed that Trump’s data gurus had carried out illicit election campaigns all over the world. The company was also accused of using up to 87 million clandestinely harvested Facebook profiles to create a state of the art voter database that helped Trump win election in 2016.
A lawyer representing a New York professor, who believes his private data was misused by the notorious campaign operatives, claims Cambridge Analytica’s data secrets are being shielded from justice and exposure by administrators in the pay of a shadow company set up by a band of executives linked to the Trump campaign veterans.
The High Court heard that administrators had deliberately misled a judge during a previous hearing by obfuscating their financial links to Emerdata, a company which was set up by Nix, Rebekah Mercer, and other senior figures who were previously involved with Cambridge Analytica.
In Britain, court-appointed administrators are supposed to work independently on behalf of all creditors to take over running of the company, similar to chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. But the legal team of David Carroll, an associate professor at Parsons School in New York who is fighting for access to the data compiled on him, claimed that the administrators of Cambridge Analytica has succumbed to undue influence. Emerdata appointed the administrator and subsequently committed to pay them up to $1 million in fees.
The administrators, Vincent Green and Mark Newman of Crowe U.K. LLP, were accused of trying to liquidate the company before a full investigation into the company could be held.
“It is extremely unusual, in my submission, to have the fees of an administrator underwritten effectively by the people who may themselves be the principal focus of any subsequent investigation,” said Andreas Gledhill Q.C., the lawyer representing Carroll in court.
...“This needs to go to the official receiver and there needs to be a whole set of investigations—someone needs to crack the vault,” Ravi Naik, a lawyer for Carroll told The Daily Beast outside court. “Without this case being successful, there cannot be an investigation because the company will liquidate. This is the dying embers.”
In documents submitted to the court, Gledhill claimed that Emerdata was due to pay the administrator up to £800,000 ($1 million) but had only handed over around £220,000 ($290,000) so far.
“With their legal fees funded by Emerdata, the administrators have treated this as hostile litigation between themselves and Mr. Carroll, making their lack of independence abundantly clear,” Gledhill said.
...Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer, are listed as directors of Emerdata. As is former Cambridge Analytica chairman Julian Wheatland, who is named on the list of people close to President Trump being probed by the House Judiciary Committee, alongside Nix, who resigned as a director of Emerdata on the same day that he was called back for further questioning by a committee in Britain’s House of Commons. Nix remains a shareholder.The court is expected to rule on the removal of Emerdata's token receiver in a few days.
Having practiced extensively in the field of insolvency and receivership, it is hard to believe this conflict by a court-appointed administrator. He functions as an officer of the court by virtue of that appointment and ought to be held to the strictest standards of transparency and accountability. This, to me, is astonishing.