The Hustle

FooledAllOfU: LendEDU outed for misleading reporters with a fake journalist

On Tuesday, The Chronicle of Higher Education exposed student loan refinancing company LendEDU’s hidden ties to “independent, authoritative news outlet,” The Student Loan Report -- and fabricating its founder, expert student loan “journalist” Drew Cloud. Yesterday, SLR replaced its homepage...


April 26, 2018

On Tuesday, The Chronicle of Higher Education exposed student loan refinancing company LendEDU’s hidden ties to “independent, authoritative news outlet,” The Student Loan Report — and fabricating its founder, expert student loan “journalist” Drew Cloud.

Yesterday, SLR replaced its homepage with an apology from LendEDU founder Nate Matherson, acknowledging LendEDU owns SLR — and that Drew Cloud never existed.

Yet, for nearly 2 years, Drew Cloud was widely quoted in news publications from The Washington Post to The Boston Globe.

Drew Cloud: A man of the people

Literally, many people — Matherson now admits Cloud was a shared pseudonym.

But just days ago a company bio described him as having had “a knack for reporting throughout high school and college” — and listed him as founder.

There were some inconsistencies in their story… 

Cloud’s handlers represented him as an actual person to reporters — responding to The Chronicle’s attempts to verify Cloud’s identity by saying he was “traveling and had limited access to his account.” 

SLR completely removed Cloud from its site days later, although LendEDU still never disclosed its ownership of SLR — a glaring contradiction to LendEDUs mission “to offer transparency in the student loan market.” 

But there were some consistencies… 

For instance — LendEDU and SLR shared the same insane misspelling of the word “meant” as “mean’t.” 

They also shared questionable statistics, such as the instant classic: 83.8% of student loan borrowers “would stop watching Game of Thrones” forever to get rid of their student debt.

As much a lesson in crisis management as ethics

It’s one thing to use a pseudonym, another thing to use it to falsely plug your company as “news” — and another to blatantly lie about it.

PR 101: Admit the mistake, accept responsibility, and apologize. 

Not in PR 101? Evade reporters, cover your tracks, and dig yourself a hole.

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