The young founder is accused of conning JPMorgan in a $175 million deal
By promising to help users submit financial assistance forms faster and easier — and deliver billions in savings to teenagers who needed help — her business plan had the halo of being good while doing good. It eventually added a dot-org web address.
“I thought it was an advocacy organization,” said Carly Gillis, who was Frank’s director of content and community for several months in 2018. “A real David and Goliath story.”
Javice’s story is an archetypal tale of late-stage startup hustle culture — a teenage prodigy-turned-connoisseur of Ivy League social enterprises and a shape-shifting savior of higher education.
At least she would have the world believe.
100 most creative people
Javice’s career of helping others began on the Thai-Myanmar border, she says. She spent some time there as a volunteer between semesters at her private high school in Westchester County, New York.
The work inspired her to start PoverUp, an organization that promoted microfinance and helped other students learn about poverty reduction through business. About 50 schools joined her network every month, or month and a half, she said on a podcast in 2011.
Javice has said she needed help herself while she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where she quickly gained attention by appearing on Fast Company’s 2011 list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
There she was dependent on financial support and found the forms confusing. According to an interview she gave to Diversity Woman magazine, so did her parents — including her father, Didier, who has worked on Wall Street for more than 35 years, including 11 years at Goldman Sachs and three at Merrill Lynch, according to his LinkedIn profile. Javice, her father, and her mother, Natalie Rosin, did not respond to questions about how Javice qualified for financial assistance and how difficult it was to obtain it.
According to state legal documents, Javice founded their first company, TAPD, in 2013. It’s not mentioned on her LinkedIn page, but she’s spoken to Frank about this startup in the past.
In a now-deleted interview on Middle from 2020, she spoke about TAPD’s attempt to better assess the creditworthiness of people just starting out in life.
Credit scoring involves complex state and federal regulations, and after 18 months, Javice realized that building a new system and being compliant would be prohibitively expensive. “I fired all my employees,” she said in the Middle Interview. “It was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Many of my co-workers were close friends and to this day do not speak to me.”
From all this struggle another startup was born. In 2016, a message appeared on frankfafsa.com promising “Maximum Financial Aid Guaranteed,” adding, “If we don’t save you at least $1,000 in tuition, we’ll refund you. Switch to Premium for $10/month. Cancel anytime.” Below was an invitation to join a waiting list.
The US Department of Education quickly caught the eye behind the scenes. It wasn’t pleased. FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a registered trademark and the Department did not take Frank’s use well.
In a 2018 settlement agreement that a financial aid expert, Mark Kantrowitz, brought to light over a Freedom of Information Act request, Frank agreed to turn over his frankfasa.com web address to the department.
Throughout, Javice has made frequent media appearances. In December 2017, she wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times headlined “The 8 Most Confusing Things About FAFSA”. The piece contained so many mistakes that it required eight movements to be corrected.
Despite this, she continued to receive praise from publications over the next two years. A Business Insider An October 2018 article that appeared on Yahoo Finance had a headline that proclaimed, “A 26-year-old founder has a solution to what Bill Gates calls an ‘unnecessary hurdle’ to college — and her startup is helping students, thousands of to save on their tuition. ”
“30 under 30”
List awards appeared in heaps. Javice appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 financial list in 2019. Then she made it onto Crain’s New York Business 40 Under 40 list. “Javice did her homework,” reads Crain’s article.
Not everyone agreed. The next year, Wesley Whistle, who was working at the New America think tank at the time, wrote a blog post calling out Frank and Javice for promising help with pandemic relief for students, even though Frank didn’t work directly with schools and the company The tool may not have been of use to many students.
Not long after, the Federal Trade Commission sent Frank a warning letter, stating that their “alleged assistance to students consists primarily of providing a form letter that may lack the information a student would need to apply for one of the scholarships from.” apply to him or her school.”
The company has gone to great lengths to include online courses in its offering. This was a key element of a November 2019 investor presentation stamped Draft & Confidential, a copy of which has been reviewed Just. “Students spend $400 billion on tuition, and serving this market ethically gives us access to extraordinary opportunities,” the presentation reads.
According to the investor presentation, the pipeline of schools wanting to do business with Frank “exploded.” There were no school names in the slide deck; A small footnote in a hard-to-read color said the company was restricted from posting “partner” names. However, references were available upon request.
Competitors and funding experts watched all this with increasingly raised eyebrows. But they were shocked when JPMorgan announced it would acquire Frank in September 2021.
“Today is my first day at someone else’s,” Javice said CNBC after the announcement. “I mean it still feels like I’m being pinched, did that really happen?”
Observers didn’t believe it really happened. Mark Salisbury, co-founder of TuitionFit, a service that helps families determine college’s true price by using real financial aid rewards from other students, did the math of his late competitor.
Salisbury, a former director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College, estimates that 2 million students enter college each year. After graduating from FAFSA in his first year, he figured most families would not seek help from a company like Frank for years to come. So if Frank had ministered to 5 million people in just half a decade, it would have attracted a significant proportion of new college students who needed financial assistance.
However, it is not easy to reach all of these people within a year that they may be seeking help. “Breaking through all the noise on the internet is incredibly difficult, and it costs insane amounts of money to pull it off,” Salisbury said.
The promise not fulfilled
So what could JPMorgan have seen in the company?
Obviously Javice liked it. In fact, the bank planned to pay her a $20 million retention fee if she stuck around for a while after the merger was complete.
If JPMorgan wanted a pipeline of soon-to-be young adults, it paid $35 per name — $175 million divided by those 5 million customers. To pay that much, it had to be very confident that its marketing team would be able to persuade Frank customers to do business with the bank and stick with it for decades.
Shortly after the merger was complete, the bank took the plunge and sprayed a portion of Frank’s customer list with requests. Out of 400,000 outbound emails, only 28 percent successfully arrived in an inbox, compared to the usual 99 percent delivery rate. Also, only 103 recipients clicked a link to Frank’s website. It was, as the bank put it in its complaint, “catastrophic.”
An investigation ensued and the bank dug into Javice’s Frank email account. There it found a litigation mother vein. According to the bank, the messages contained ample evidence that it had hired a data science professor to create fake information to prove to the bank that the millions of customers Frank claimed were real.
Also among the highlights of the emails was questioning a Frank engineer about Javice’s data manipulation request. She responded that she didn’t think anyone would end up in an “orange jumpsuit” about it, according to JPMorgan’s complaint against Javice and Amar.
JPMorgan doesn’t buy Javice’s privacy argument. The bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, called the Frank acquisition a “huge mistake” on a Jan. 13 earnings call. It also shut down Frank’s website that week and deleted the press release announcing the deal from its own website.
“There are always classes; we will always make mistakes,” Dimon continued CNBC on Thursday. “I tell our people we make mistakes, it’s okay, and when we know what all the lessons are, I’ll tell you what they were.”
None of Frank’s investors or the people Javice has named as mentors have messaged back or spoken on her behalf, and she has not provided the names of anyone to call. But one of them offered commentary through a speaker.
In a 2018 interview at PopSugar, Javice described Bobby Turner, the founder of an investment firm, as “one of the most influential people in my life”. When she was having a hard time, she told the publication Turner, who was an investor in Frank, would make her promise to do three things every day.
“And he literally says, ‘Well, you have to meditate, go to the gym and have sex,'” she said in the interview.
Randy James, a spokesman for Turner, said he has been a huge benefactor of Wharton’s social impact programs and has served as a mentor to many students and alumni, including Javice. “Bobby shared his views on a range of issues related to business and work-life balance, although he didn’t make the comments she attributed to him in a 2018 interview,” James said.
“The allegations against Ms. Javice in relation to Frank are disturbing,” he added, “and if they were true, they would constitute a serious breach of trust and a breach of the law.”
https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/the-young-founder-accused-of-conning-jpmorgan-in-us175m-deal-20230123-p5cen3.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_business The young founder is accused of conning JPMorgan in a $175 million deal