Investment Banking

LendingClub: Forced to Tap Its Own Balance Sheet?

The DOJ opens an investigation while the marketplace lender hunts for additional capital to fund originations.
Katie Kuehner-HebertMay 17, 2016

LendingClub on Monday said that the U.S. Department of Justice had opened an investigation into the alternative lender’s internal controls, following the ouster of its co-founder and chief executive Renaud Laplanch.

On May 9, the San Francisco-based firm received a grand jury subpoena from the DOJ concerning the agency’s investigation, and LendingClub also contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The DOJ and the SEC may have additional requests, and no assurance can be given as to the timing or outcome of these matters,” the firm wrote in a regulatory filing.

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Laplanch left LendingClub after the firm disclosed to the SEC that it had identified weaknesses in its financial reporting and said its disclosure controls and procedures were not effective. In its regulatory filing on Monday, the marketplace lender listed 10 new measures, including more intensive monitoring of data changes and retraining employees.

“The problems identified this quarter run counter to our values and will never be tolerated,” wrote Scott Sanborn, the company’s president who is now the acting CEO. “We’re working hard to make things right and prove to you that we continue to deserve your trust.”

Lending Club also said that it was trying to obtain additional investment capital for its platform loans, including from equity or debt transactions, alternative fee arrangements, or other inducements to enable the firm or third-parties to purchase loans through the platform.

“If our attempts to secure additional investor capital to meet platform origination volume are not successful, we likely may need to use a greater amount of our own capital to purchase loans on our platform compared with prior periods, particularly in light of regulatory commitments to fund loans solicited by direct mail and other contractual purchase obligations,” the company wrote.

LendingClub might also have to reduce its platform’s origination volume. The potential actions likely would have material adverse impacts on the firm’s business and its financial condition, including its liquidity position, results of operations, and ability to sustain and grow loan volume.

The company said it has the ability to meet its cash needs for the next 12 months, based on its ability to reduce loan volume if needed, its cash on hand, and funds available from its line of credit.

LendingClub’s shares have plunged 50% in the past month, according to the Associated Press.

The idea of peer-to-peer lending, “touted as a super-efficient method of getting capital where it’s needed, was welcomed avidly by investors who sent the company’s market capitalization soaring into the billions shortly after it became public in late 2014,” the AP wrote.

For the alternative lending sector as a whole, investors have demanded more information about the performance of some loans at the same time that other financial opportunities have arisen, according to the AP.