SCL Group

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SCL Group
FormerlyStrategic Communication Laboratories
TypePrivate company
IndustryData mining, data analysis
Founded1990; 33 years ago (1990) as Behavioural Dynamics Institute
FounderNigel John Oakes
Defunct1 May 2018; 5 years ago (2018-05-01)
United Kingdom
Area served
Key people
Nigel John Oakes
Roger Michael Gabb
Alexander Nix
Julian Wheatland
SubsidiariesCambridge Analytica

SCL Group[1] (formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories[1]) was a private British behavioural research and strategic communication company that came to prominence through the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal involving its subsidiaries Cambridge Analytica and Crow Business Solutions MENA.[1] It was founded in 1990 by Nigel Oakes, who served as its CEO.[2] The company described itself as a "global election management agency".[3] The company's leaders and owners had close ties to the Conservative Party, the British royal family, British military, United States Department of Defense and NATO and its investors included some of the largest donors to the Conservative Party.[4]


In 1990, Nigel Oakes, who had a background in TV production and advertising, founded the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDI) as a research facility for strategic communication.[2] The study of mass behaviour and how to change it led him to establish Strategic Communication Laboratories in 1993.[3] Oakes thought that to shift mass opinion, academic insights as gained through psychologists and anthropologists at BDI should be applied, and would be more successful than traditional advertising methods.[5] BDI became a non-profit affiliate of SCL. Among the investors in SCL were banker Paul David Ashburner Nix, whose son Alexander Nix was to become a close associate of Oakes. One of the former directors is Lord Ivar Mountbatten.[6][7][8][9][10] Among the investors in the company were Jonathan Marland, Baron Marland and Roger Gabb, a major Conservative Party donor who was registered as having significant control over the company as of 2018.[11]


After an initial commercial success, SCL expanded into military and political arenas. It became known for alleged involvement "in military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting".[12] SCL began targeting elections in developing countries in the early 1990s, and has engaged in psychological warfare in military contexts as a contractor for the American and British militaries during the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War.[13] It performed data mining and data analysis on its audience. Based on results, communications would then be specifically targeted to key audience groups to modify behaviour in accordance with the goal of SCL's client.[citation needed]

In 2005, "with a glitzy exhibit" at Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), "the United Kingdom's largest showcase for military technology", SCL demonstrated its capacity in "influence operations": "to help orchestrate a sophisticated campaign of mass deception" on the public of a big city like London.[14] According to its website, SCL has participated in over 25 international political and electoral campaigns since 1994.[3]

SCL's involvement in the political world has been primarily in the developing world where it has been used by the military and politicians to study and manipulate public opinion and political will. It uses what have been called "psy ops" to provide insight into the thinking of the target audience.[5] SCL claimed to be able to help foment coups.[14][failed verification] According to its website, SCL has influenced elections in Italy, Latvia, Ukraine, Albania, Romania, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Indonesia, The Philippines,[15] Thailand, Taiwan, Colombia, Antigua, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago.[3] While the company initially got involved in elections in the United Kingdom, after 1997 it only engaged non-election campaigns because staff members did not exhibit the same "aloof sensibility" as with projects abroad.[5]

In 2013 it established the subsidiary Cambridge Analytica that worked on the Ted Cruz and Donald Trump campaigns during the 2016 US presidential election and even now the proclaimed associated office in Cairo that opened during the global pandemic of COVID-19. In 2020 it was linked to the Bahraini company named Crow Trading ltd. that was founded by Dr. Mohamed Y. Abdelrahman, an Egyptian scientist in behavioral psychology.[16]

SCL claims that its methodology has been approved or endorsed by agencies of the Government of the United Kingdom and the United States federal government, among others.[17]

Cambridge Analytica[edit]

SCL formed Cambridge Analytica to participate in the election process in the United States.[18] It entered the U.S. market in 2012, and was involved in 44 U.S. congressional, US Senate and state-level elections in the 2014 midterm elections.[16] In 2015 it was disclosed that the company had entered the Republican Party presidential primaries for the 2016 election, primarily in support of Ted Cruz. Cambridge Analytica is heavily funded by hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, a major supporter of Cruz[12] and then Donald Trump,[18] and is now under investigation by both the UK and the US governments. The company has since been disbanded and was bought by Emerdata Limited.[19]

Emerdata Limited[edit]

Emerdata Limited was established in August 2017, by many of the people involved in Cambridge Analytica.[20][21][22][23] Emerdata was established in 2017 by the chief data officer and chairman of Cambridge Analytica's parent company SCL Group, which closed operations on 1 May 2018.[24][25][26] Its headquarters in London is in the same building as Cambridge Analytica.[27][28][29] The company was noted as appearing to offer similar services as SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica.[30][31]

Emerdata's board of directors included Frontier Services Group officer Johnson Chun Shun Ko [zh], a Hong Kong businessman linked to Erik Prince (founder of Blackwater),[32][29][33] Cambridge Analytica investor Rebekah Mercer,[34][32] and Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.[35][36][37][38] In January 2018, Emerdata reportedly raised $19 million from international investors.[39] Emerdata was widely discussed in the news media. It was portrayed as a potential successor to Cambridge Analytica.[40][41][27] In May 2018, Nigel Oakes, founder of the SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica's British affiliate, acknowledged that Emerdata's intent had been to acquire Cambridge Analytica and SCL, but said that these plans had been abandoned and that Emerdata and its partly-owned subsidiary Firecrest Technologies Ltd., which had been set up by former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, would be wound down.[42] In July 2019, it was revealed that Emerdata "fully acquired" those companies, "has been footing the SCL companies' legal bills amid bankruptcy proceedings, investigations, and lawsuits on both sides of the Atlantic", and "also paid millions to acquire what remained of the companies while they [were] being liquidated".[19]

Board of directors[edit]

As of March 2018, the company had four directors: Roger Michael Gabb, Alexander Nix, Nigel John Oakes and Julian David Wheatland.[43] The company was first incorporated at Companies House on 20 July 2005 as Strategic Communication Laboratories Limited, using the shell company registrar SDG Registrars Limited which has acted on behalf of nearly 4,500 companies.[44] The latest director is Jacquelyn James-Varga who has previously worked at the Mercer Family Foundation.[45]

Closure announcement[edit]

On 1 May 2018, SCL Group stated that it would be closing operations because of the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.[24] However, its website and staff continued to operate but have subsequently shut down.[46] SCL group is owned by its parent company SCL Elections.[47]

FTC investigation[edit]

In 2019 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an administrative complaint against Cambridge Analytica for misuse of data, while filing settlements with its former CEO Alexander Nix and app developer Aleksandr Kogan in which they agreed to delete illegally obtained data; the case against the company itself is still ongoing.[48]

Disqualification of Alexander Nix[edit]

In 2020 Alexander Nix signed a disqualification undertaking, accepted by Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 14 September 2020.[49] The Insolvency Service commented that "Within the undertaking, Alexander Nix did not dispute that he caused or permitted SCL Elections Ltd or associated companies to market themselves as offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients; demonstrating a lack of commercial probity." Effective from 5 October 2020, Alexander Nix is disqualified for seven years from acting as a director or directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a UK company.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "SCL GROUP LIMITED - filing history and public records (free information)". Companies House. Archived from the original on 30 December 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Trump Data Gurus Leave Long Trail of Subterfuge, Dubious Dealing". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "SCL Group – Home". SCL Group.
  4. ^ Brown, David. "SCL Group's founders were connected to royalty, the rich and powerful" – via
  5. ^ a b c Sasha Issenberg (12 November 2015). "Cruz-Connected Data Miner Aims to Get Inside U.S. Voters' Heads". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  6. ^ O’Hare, Liam (20 March 2018). "SCL – a Very British Coup". Bella Caledonia. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  7. ^ Baker, Stephanie; Kahn, Jeremy (23 March 2018). "Cambridge Analytica's Suspended CEO Won't Just Disappear". Retrieved 4 April 2021. The firm also has deep ties to the British defense establishment and Conservative Party. Its first chairman was Geoffrey Pattie, a defense minister under Margaret Thatcher. In addition to Tunnicliffe, the advisory board has included retired Rear Admiral John Tolhurst and Ivar Mountbatten, the great-nephew of Louis Mountbatten, the military hero and Queen Elizabeth's cousin. Jonathan Marland, a former Conservative Party treasurer who served as a minister for business under former Prime Minister David Cameron, is a shareholder.
  8. ^ Knight, Sam. "Life Inside S.C.L., Cambridge Analytica's Parent Company". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  9. ^ Pasternack, Jesse Witt and Alex (25 September 2019). "Before Trump, Cambridge Analytica quietly built "psyops" for militaries". Fast Company. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  10. ^ "SCL+Group+Limited".
  11. ^ Watt, Holly; Osborne, Hilary (21 March 2018). "Tory donors among investors in Cambridge Analytica parent firm" – via
  12. ^ a b Vogel, Kenneth P (7 July 2015). "Cruz partners with donor's 'psychographic' firm". Politico. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  13. ^ Barry, Ellen (20 April 2018). "Long Before Cambridge Analytica, a Belief in the 'Power of the Subliminal'". The New York Times.
  14. ^ a b Weinberger, Sharon (19 September 2005). "You Can't Handle the Truth". Slate. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  15. ^ Robles, Raissa (4 April 2018). "How Cambridge Analytica's parent company helped 'man of action' Rodrigo Duterte win the 2016 Philippines election". South China Morning Post.
  16. ^ a b Sellers, Frances Stead (19 October 2015). "Cruz campaign paid $750,000 to 'psychographic profiling' company". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  17. ^ "SCL Elections – Home". Archived from the original on 16 February 2016.
  18. ^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole (26 February 2017). "Robert Mercer: The big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media". The Observer.
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  24. ^ a b "Cambridge Analytica is shutting down following Facebook scandal". Engadget. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  25. ^ Waterson, Jim (2 May 2018). "Cambridge Analytica closure – questions and answers". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Cambridge Analytica tried to sell itself to 18,000 buyers – but received just 4 paltry offers". Business Insider. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  27. ^ a b "Cambridge Analytica dismantled for good? Nope: it's just changing its name to Emerdata". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  28. ^ "Is Cambridge Analytica really shutting down?". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  29. ^ a b "Cambridge Analytica is out of business, but its heavy hitters have reopened under a new name / Boing Boing". 2 May 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  30. ^ "Cambridge Analytica founders behind new London-based data processing company". thisisoxfordshire.
  31. ^ Pasternack, Jesse Witt and Alex (26 July 2019). "The strange afterlife of Cambridge Analytica and the mysterious fate of its data". Fast Company.
  32. ^ a b "The power players behind Cambridge Analytica have set up a mysterious new data company". Business Insider.
  33. ^ Ghosh, Shona (21 March 2018). "The power players behind Cambridge Analytica have set up a mysterious new data company". Business Insider Nederland.
  34. ^ "As Cambridge Analytica shuts, directors surface in new firm, Emerdata". Newsweek. 3 May 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
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  38. ^ "EMERDATA LIMITED – Officers (free information from Companies House)". Companies House, Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
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  42. ^ "Terms of Service Violation". Bloomberg L.P. 8 May 2018.
  43. ^ "List of officers – SGL". Companies house. Archived from the original on 25 March 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
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  48. ^ "Cambridge Analytica, LLC, In the Matter of". Federal Trade Commission. 23 July 2019.
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