Charlie Javice, the founder and CEO of Frank, is being charged with attempting to defraud JPMorgan.
Javice founded Frank, a website dedicated to providing financial aid to students, and ultimately sold the company to JPMorgan. The bank accused Javice of lying about how many customers Frank had, inflating the numbers from a mere 300,000 to 4.25 million. As a result of that lie, JPMorgan purchased Frank for $175 million before realizing it had been duped and suing Javice.
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Patricia Tarasca, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Office of the Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), announced the criminal charges Tuesday.
“As alleged, Javice engaged in a brazen scheme to defraud JPMC in the course of a $175 million acquisition deal,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. “She lied directly to JPMC and fabricated data to support those lies — all in order to make over $45 million from the sale of her company. This arrest should warn entrepreneurs who lie to advance their businesses that their lies will catch up to them, and this Office will hold them accountable for putting their greed above the law.”
“The allegations described in today’s criminal Complaint exemplify the many ways banks can be defrauded,” said FDIC-OIG Special Agent in Charge Patricia Tarasca. “The FDIC-OIG remains committed to holding individuals accountable who threaten the integrity of financial institutions, and we thank our law enforcement partners for their diligence and dedication to investigating such crimes.”
The complaint outlines Javice and a co-conspirator’s (CC-1) previously known attempt to have a Frank data engineer create fake data for 4.25 million records before turning to an outside data scientist when the data engineer refused to help.
JAVICE then approached an outside data scientist and hired him to create the synthetic data set. After the data set was created, JAVICE provided that synthetic data set to an agreed-upon third-party vendor in an effort to confirm to JPMC that the data set had over 4.25 million rows. JAVICE then caused the third-party vendor to convey to JPMC that the data set had over 4.25 million rows, consistent with JAVICE’s misrepresentations that Frank had 4.25 million users.
In reliance on JAVICE’s fraudulent representations about Frank’s users, JPMC agreed to purchase Frank for $175 million. As part of the deal, JPMC hired JAVICE and other Frank employees. JAVICE received over $21 million for selling her equity stake in Frank and, per the terms of the deal, was to be paid another $20 million as a retention bonus.
Unbeknownst to JPMC, at or about the same time that JAVICE was creating the fabricated data set, JAVICE and CC-1 sought to purchase, on the open market, real data for over 4.25 million college students to cover up their misrepresentations. JAVICE and CC-1 succeeded in purchasing a data set of 4.5 million students for $105,000, but it did not contain all the data fields that JAVICE had represented to JPMC were maintained by Frank. JAVICE then purchased an additional set of data on the open market in order to augment the data set of 4.5 million users. After JPMC acquired Frank, JPMC employees asked JAVICE and CC-1 to provide data relating to Frank’s users so that JPMC could begin a marketing campaign to those users. In response, JAVICE provided what was supposedly Frank’s user data. In fact, JAVICE fraudulently provided the data she and CC-1 had purchased on the open market at a small fraction of the price that JPMC paid to acquire Frank and its purported users.
Things are certainly looking bad for Javice, especially in the wake of Elizabeth Holmes’ conviction for defrauding investors.