Unethical Website Of The Month: The Student Loan Report

Drew Cloud is known as a journalist who specializes in student-loan debt issues.  He has been quoted extensively  in  The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, as well as by blogs and websites that cover student debt developments.  Cloud founded The Student Loan Report, an “independent, authoritative news outlet” covering all things student loans, “after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place.”

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that there is no such person, and that the website was stealth marketing tool by a loan financing company, LendEDU.

“After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.

Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”

Two questions:

>Why would anyone trust a finance company that thinks this kind of dishonesty is acceptable conduct?

>And what does this tell us about the diligence, professionalism and trustworthiness of journalists, who would present as an expert an imaginary person who shills for a loan firm?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

___________________________

Graphic: My informator

27 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, Unethical Websites

27 responses to “Unethical Website Of The Month: The Student Loan Report

  1. Isaac

    So NBC and the Washington Post share quotes and data from an “expert” who doesn’t exist.

    And yet it’s supposed to be an unfair exaggeration to use the term “fake news.”

  2. I wonder about the validity of the ‘advice’ student loan slaves, I mean ‘borrowers’ have received. Can we say ‘conflict of interest?’ There are plenty of things that a borrower can do to make the lender tons of money, like load up on the debt (while payments are deferred) and setting up interest only payment plans to extend the time component and thus the costs.

    I will not allow my son to take student loans. First, Obama turned it into a for-profit business backed by the Federal Government, and a predatory one. His rules allowed colleges to raise tuition such that only the moderately wealthy can afford even an in-state school. This while education has gotten weaker and salaries at the schools have exploded.

    Second, the rules have caused the schools to limit the amount students can take on, at first. They instead expect the parents to take on the debt, almost forcing them to sign (not co-sign) for most of the offer. Remember this cannot be written off… ever.

    Third, they have destroyed financial aid… if you are white. Had my son lied about being hispanic, he would have paid a pittance to go to school. Being white and poor means he will be laying out to make money while getting a degree. They don’t even bother to hide the bias of using MY tax money to fund ILLEGAL immigrant’s educations while denying need based aid to whites.

    This is another reason Trump got elected.

    • Other Bill

      Insightful observations, sw. Thanks.

    • luckyesteeyoreman

      Great comment, sw. The education money rackets MUST be busted. Perhaps an Obamacare-like nationalization of education would eventually have ALL the teachers walking out ALL AT ONCE. And then, maybe, while “educators” are out of the way and distracted with committing blackmail and extortion for more money for themselves, students would have better chances to learn some worthwhile things – from real teachers.

      • Other Bill

        Am I the only person who finds “Red for Ed” a little disconcerting? Why red? No echoes of Stalin or Mao or Fidel?

        • The red-blue convention came out of the 2000 election map. Before that, you’ll see that the networks sometimes has the GOP as blue. But the Democrats as red would have an implied slur behind it. (So would yellow.) The Democrats culdn’t be green, because that would be a political statement. Whatever people think when they hear “Republicans,” Communism isn’t high on the list.

  3. Luke G

    A writer who turns out to be a decentralized internet source made up of multiple users, and his name was “Cloud?”

    What, was “Bob NomDePlume” too on-the-nose?

  4. Still Spartan

    Wow.

    I hate student loan companies — no, that’s not right — I loathe them. I had very high student loans at a high interest rate. And, given timing issues, I was never able to consolidate under federal legislation back in the day. I was signed up under a plan that after a certain number of on-time payments taken directly from your bank account (I want to say it was 36 months), your interest rate was lowered from 8.75% to 7.75% (I might be off a tiny bit — this was years ago).

    Anyway, they never lowered my interest rate — and when you have law school loans over $100,000, that is a very important interest rate drop. It took numerous calls and being misdirected before I finally got someone to do it. They never apologized and were quite shocked when I explained to them the further amount to be taken off retroactively for failing to do this on time.

    I was left with the distinct impression that this was business as usual and they just hoped that most people would not notice this deceptive business practice. I am so happy those loans are gone.

    All that being said, without loans, there is a 0% chance that I would have gone to grad school. They shouldn’t be crooks though.

    • Other Bill

      What was your starting associate annual salary at your mega-firm? Pretty substantial, I’m guessing? $100K plus?

      • Still Spartan

        $125k at my mega firm to start. But, $130k in law school loans, DC rent, plus need for mega firm clothes. I was living on egg salad and Diet Coke for years — not kidding.

        • Other Bill

          That’s only a hundred thousand more a year than I started at in 1981 when our first mortgage was at 12 percent and our second (a “carry back”) was at 14 percent on a hundred and twenty five thousand dollar house. Plus fifteen K in student loans at eight percent. Come on, Sparty. You can’t be both a victim and a member of the elite. Or maybe you can, come to think of it.

          • AC

            Bill, aside from promoting classism I’m not really sure what the point of this post is. Feels like you’re just saying “ive had it worse and you couldn’t possibly understand!”

            I am probably reading the wrong things into this (before coffee time im afraid), but could you explain yourself and your feelings more?

            • Other Bill

              My point is simply we all face various challenges at various points in our lives. It’s part of growing up and being an adult. Anyone in their twenties who starts at a salary, with benefits, of a hundred and twenty five thousand dollars a year, that’s six figures, and thinks they have it rough because they have to pay for the degree that allows them to command such a salary is trying to have their cake and eat it too. It’s gimme gimme I get. That’s my point. Poor me. I had to eat egg salad while I was making 125K as a new associate who didn’t know jack shit about practicing law is just a little hard to take. Sometimes a little gratitude and humility rather than entitlement is nice to see.

              • Other Bill

                There’s also another aggravating behavior/strategy at play here, an old practice popular among farmers. It’s called “crying poor.” A very effective negotiating strategy when used against someone who’s unaware of it.

              • Still Spartan

                You’re nuts. My complaint is against the loan company’s deceptive business practice. I knew what I was signing up for in terms of school debt. Plus, I don’t think you have a sense of how much it costs to live in DC. I lived in crummy apartments for years and didn’t get a mortgage until much later.

                • Still Spartan

                  One more item on this point. My first job wasn’t at a mega firm — it was at a Plaintiff’s law firm. $40k with the same school debt. I lateraled into the mega firm as a 4th year. I was still waitressing on weekends to make ends meet. This wasn’t even a “poor me” post, it was about loan companies.

  5. Dwayne N. Zechman

    So does this mean the David Manning Liar of the Month can be joined by the David Cloud Fake Journalist of the Month?

    –Dwayne

  6. PennAgain

    I have one question: Why would anyone trust a finance company — period.

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