Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix reportedly drew internal criticism for puffing up the data firm’s capabilities long before his suspension Tuesday amid allegations that it illicitly used the personal data of more than 50 million Facebook users.
Nix has a reputation for “exaggerating the company’s capabilities and work,” The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people close to Cambridge Analytica. The sources added that Nix has “repeatedly mischaracterized” the work the firm did for President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle.
The suspended executive drew international scrutiny this week after British news network Channel 4 published a series of undercover videos in which Nix touted illicit tactics the firm has used to sway elections, including the alleged use of sex workers to entrap politicians. Nix, who purportedly believed he was talking to a potential client, said Cambridge Analytica played a key role in shaping the Trump campaign’s digital strategy.
Cambridge Analytica’s board of directors said they have suspended Nix effective immediately, pending the results of an independent investigation into the firm’s practices. The action comes days after The New York Times and other outlets reported on how Cambridge Analytica made use of personal data of more than 50 million Facebook users without permission. Facebook suspended the firm from its platform after the report surfaced.
“In the view of the board, Mr. Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm, and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” Cambridge Analytica’s board said in a statement. “We have asked Dr. Alexander Tayler to serve as acting CEO while an independent investigation is launched to review those comments and allegations.”
Facebook shares plunged in reaction to the reports. Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal net worth fell by several billion dollars as the stock sank.
Nix, who is based in London, apologized to firm staffers on Monday and said that he was just “playing along” with the client when he discussed illicit tactics on the Channel 4 video, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cambridge Analytica said the videos were edited to “misrepresent” the firm’s activities.
Aside from his work as Cambridge’s CEO, Nix is the director of SCL Group, the company that established the firm. He worked as a financial analyst before transitioning to data services.