JPMorgan is in the middle of an embarrassing situation, claiming it was duped into purchasing a startup.
JPMorgan bought Frank, a financial aid website for college students, for some $175 million. Unfortunately, when JPMorgan sent out marketing emails to Frank’s customers, 70% of them bounced back, according to CNBC. The bank is accusing Frank founder Charlie Javice of creating almost 4 million fake accounts to artificially inflate the value of her company.
“To cash in, Javice decided to lie, including lying about Frank’s success, Frank’s size, and the depth of Frank’s market penetration in order to induce JPMC to purchase Frank for $175 million,” the bank said. “Javice represented in documents placed in the acquisition data room, in pitch materials, and through verbal presentations [that] more than 4.25 million students had created Frank accounts.”
The bank claims that, in reality, Frank had “fewer than 300,000 customers.” JPMorgan also makes the case that Javice knowingly faked the email accounts, since she approached her engineering chief to use an algorithm to create “fake customer details.” When the engineering chief refused, Javice turned to a college professor in New York.
Javice’s emails with the professor leave little to the imagination, in terms of what she was allegedly trying to do.
“Will the fake emails look real with an eye check or better to use unique ID,” she allegedly asked.
For her part, Javice is claiming JPMorgan bought her company and then failed to pay her what she was owed when the bank ran into unforeseen issues.
“After JPM rushed to acquire Charlie’s rocketship business, JPM realized they couldn’t work around existing student privacy laws, committed misconduct and then tried to retrade the deal,” Alex Spiro, Javice’s attorney, told The Wall Street Journal. “Charlie blew the whistle and then sued.”
JPMorgan has since shuttered the Frank website, but the case raises more questions than it answers, not the least of which is how JPMorgan could be duped in the first place. Either JPMorgan’s case is accurate, and it failed to properly investigate the scope of the business it was buying, or Javice is correct and JPMorgan bought a business it couldn’t properly monetize due to privacy laws — which is still a failure to properly investigate a potential acquisition.
Either way, JPMorgan clearly needs to revamp acquisition process.