Facebook Users Demanding Cambridge Analytica Facts Must Wait, Judge Rules

By Kary, Tiffany | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Facebook Users Demanding Cambridge Analytica Facts Must Wait, Judge Rules


Kary, Tiffany, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Facebook users who say their personal data was misused, potentially to distort the last U.S. election, must wait to see if they can wring more information from Cambridge Analytica, the disappearing company that played a key role in the drama.

The political consulting firm is winding down in both Britain, its home country, and in a New York Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. Some of the dozens of Facebook users who sued both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in U.S. district court appeared in the bankruptcy as "data breach plaintiffs to ask if they can gather more information about the defunct company's finances.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane said Tuesday in Manhattan court that they'll have to wait until September to hear his answer, when it is hoped that more information will become clear. Meanwhile, he entered an order in their favor to preserve any records.

His back and forth with lawyers revealed how difficult it will be to get any financial compensation - or even information - from the firm.

"I don't know some of the basic facts, which is a bit daunting, Lane said, in a hearing that ran through a laundry list of unknowns: whether Cambridge Analytica has indeed handed over all the information it collected; whether it has or ever had Facebook user data in its possession; what the role of board member Rebekah Mercer was in pre-bankruptcy transactions; and how Cambridge Analytica's lawyers can insist there is no one at the company to subpoena or answer such questions under oath, since someone must have hired them.

"You're here today, so you clearly have an attorney-client relationship with someone, Lane told Kristine Manoukian, a lawyer for Schulte Roth & Zabel who represents Cambridge Analytica. She told the court the law firm wouldn't accept subpoenas and had no company representatives to offer for testimony, and that it might withdraw as the firm's counsel.

Salvatore LaMonica, a trustee for the estate, said there are "minimal assets which will be depleted quickly if more litigation ensues, and said the Facebook users are "way down the line in terms of requests for information, after those from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several U.S. Attorneys General.

At stake in the data breach plaintiff's pending request is whether there's any value to claim if they succeed in their lawsuits, which are still in early stages. One topic of interest, the data breach group says, is Emerdata Ltd., a company that bought 89.5 percent in Cambridge Analytica from Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix and Cambridge Analytica affiliates just before the bankruptcy.

"In any case where a debtor engages in these kinds of transactions in advance of a Chapter 7 filing, it sparks interest, Michael Etkin, a lawyer for the data breach group, said in a phone interview. …

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