Former JPMorgan executive leaves board of directors of company that collected data for Trump 2020 campaign

Blythe Masters, a former senior executive at JPMorgan Chase, is stepping down from the board of directors of Phunware, a company that created a controversial voter data collection app for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020.

Masters, who chairs the board of directors of Phunware, plans to leave the company on May 1. She informed the company of her resignation on March 24, Phunware revealed in a statement. deposit this week.

In a separate file, Phunware revealed it was paid $ 3.2 million in 2020 by its largest client, which the Associated Press identified as American Made Media Consultants, the member-controlled limited liability company. from the Trump family who spearheaded campaign spending.

A phone message left with Masters at Motive Partners, a private equity firm of which she is now a partner, was not returned.

Phunware COO Randall Crowder told CBS MoneyWatch that Masters’ recent appointment to the board of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse forced him to relinquish other board positions.

“She will remain with Phunware as a strategic advisor and is still a supporter of the company and an asset to our efforts,” said Crowder.

PPP loan leads to lawsuit

In April, Phunware received emergency federal assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a government-backed effort to help small businesses affected by the pandemic. CBS MoneyWatch was the first to report that Phunware had received a $ 2.85 million PPP loan that had been arranged by Masters’ former employer, JPMorgan.

Phunware and JPMorgan were subsequently named as defendants in a class action filed on behalf of Sha-Poppin Gourmet Popcorn and other small businesses that had failed to secure a paycheck protection loan through JPMorgan. In the lawsuit, Sha-Poppin claimed that Phunware and other large companies benefit from a “two-tier” system that gives well-connected JPMorgan customers preferential access to the program.

The lawsuit also stated that Phunware is “currently working for the president’s re-election campaign” and noted that Masters was appointed chairman of the company’s board on March 30, 2020, a day after Congress approved the Paycheck program.

Trump campaign app raises privacy concerns


In a press release at the time, Phunware said the timing of Master’s appointment had nothing to do with PPP and that she had played no role in helping the company access government-backed funds from her former employer. A judge has since fired Phunware in the lawsuit, claiming that Sha-Poppin lacked standing to sue Phunware. JPMorgan is fighting the lawsuit and has sought to bring it to arbitration.

JPMorgan declined to comment to CBS MoneyWatch on the litigation at the time, but a section of its website devoted to PPP loans disputes that the bank gave priority to large customers.

The link of the masters with the housing bust

Masters has had a long and rich history on Wall Street. The former trader, considered one of the most powerful women in finance, is widely credited with helping create credit default swaps, a derivative popular on Wall Street that played a major role in the financial crisis from 2008.

Vanity Show appointed Masters is one of the top 100 responsible for the financial crisis. She left JPMorgan in 2014 after a 27-year career in banking. A year later, she became the head of a company that was developing blockchain – the technology that is the basis of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Masters joined Phunware’s board in 2019 after the company had already established ties with Trump campaign officials in the 2016 election. She said at the time that she was drawn to the company because of its possible applications in the healthcare industry.

CBS News reported in July that Phunware’s Trump campaign app was exploiting a “gold mine” data on Americans, including collecting the cell phone locations and contacts of millions of users. A September profile of the company in the New Yorker said the company was collecting “huge amounts” of voter data for the Trump campaign.

A recent deposit shows that Masters owns nearly 280,000 shares of Phunware, although many of those shares are in restricted units and may have to be lost when she leaves the company. Phunware shares, which had reached a price of $ 308 in early 2019, were recently trading for just $ 1.60.

With a report by CBS News investigative reporter Graham Kates.

About Dianne Stinson

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