Republican Bob Stefanowski ran a payday loan company. The venture capital firm that employed Democrat Ned Lamont’s wife as chief executive invested in a company. Both are facts presented in misleading television ads in the Connecticut governor’s campaign.
In his latest ad, Stefanowski reacts to a spot by Lamont in which the Democrat claims, “Bob Stefanowski profited from predatory loans to the military.”
That’s not the case, says Stefanowski. His ad claims, “What a hypocrite! It was Lamont who personally benefited from the payday loans.
Both statements are problematic.
It’s true that Stefanowski’s last job in the private sector was as managing director of DFC Global, whose checkered track record includes allegations of fraudulent auto loans to US military personnel. Stefanowski led the company from June 2014 to January 2017.
DFC resolved the claims stemming from the auto loans in mid-2013, a year before Stefanowski’s arrival. It made refunds of $3.3 million as part of a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She ceased her automotive activity under the watch of Stefanowski in 2015.
The ethics of Stefanowski’s tenure at the DFC raises more nuanced questions. He recruited outsiders to improve the company’s business practices and lending products. The company also continued to provide short-term, high-interest payday loans that are widely seen as predatory.
Its products are illegal in Connecticut and a dozen other states, but legal elsewhere.
CT Mirror examined DFC’s loan practices during Stefanowski’s tenure in an article published last week.
The payday loan angle was one of many in a Lamont ad that quickly pivoted to claiming that Stefanowski’s plan to phase out state income tax over eight years would require disastrous cuts in state aid to municipalities.
Stefanowski’s new commercial has its own problems. He doesn’t say how Lamont allegedly profited from the payday loans, let alone say anything about his wife, his business or his investments.
But the basis of the claim is investments in Wonga, a British payday lender startup, by Oak Investment Partners, a company that employed Annie Lamont as chief executive until 2014, when she co-founded a company affiliate that focuses on healthcare and fintech. , Oak HC/FT. Oak Partners does not list the Wonga investment as part of the portfolio it managed.
“Bob Stefanowski put out a disgusting and blatantly false ad attacking Ned’s wife for something she had nothing to do with. Bob is trying to distract from the fact that he was actually the CEO of a company payday loan company that ripped off soldiers and veterans, but this ad and his business record show how brazen and unprincipled he is,” said Marc Bradley, the Lamont campaign manager.
Kendall Marr, spokesperson for the Stefanowski campaign, said the announcement raises a valid point. about Ned Lamont, even though it’s the candidate’s wife, not the candidate.
“Lamont is fine with payday loans, as long as they line his pockets,” Marr said.
Does the Stefanowksi campaign mean that? Does the candidate think that Annie Lamont, a Stanford graduate who has earned a reputation as a savvy investor on behalf of Oak, checks with her husband before investing?
Annie Lamont, whose specialties include financial technology, could not be reached for comment Monday. That of his company website does not list Wonga as part of its current or past portfolio, and a fortune story in 2015 identified another member of the company as an investment manager.
Wonga lured investors with an app she said could quickly assess short-term loan applications. Corn an industry trade publication says a crackdown on UK payday lenders by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority in 2014 caused problems for Wonga, as it did for DFC Global.
The investment in Wonga seems unlikely to line anyone’s pockets.
Wonga went bankrupt a month ago.