Lending Club (LC) shareholders still appear baffled at the San Francisco online marketplace's speedy shake-up this week, along with its subsequent explanations for its millions of dollars in dubious loan buybacks.
Roughly a quarter of Lending Club's market cap disappeared Monday on news that Renaud Laplanche (pictured) is stepping down from the top spot after the company acknowledged it bought back about $22 million in "near-prime" loans in April from investment firm Jefferies, which said the credit did not conform to the criteria of its request.
The buybacks began to draw attention when an audit committee found that the dates on the loans had been changed by "a senior manager" at the company, according to the company's first-quarter earnings call with analysts.
The alterations prompted once-reliable loan buyers Goldman Sachs (GS) and Jefferies to suspend purchases, exacerbating shareholder concerns. Lending Club underscored on its call with analysts that there were no other changes to information found by the audit committee other than the first-quarter dates.
"The board hired a forensic auditor to review all the loans facilitated in the first quarter of 2016, and we did not find any changes to any data in any of the other first-quarter loans," John Morris, Lending Club's executive chairman, said on the Monday call.
But shareholders do not seem satisfied by Morris' explanation of the incident or Lending Club's subsequent management reshuffle, as shares have fallen an additional 24% since their initial 24% drop on Monday.
Concerns over the soundness of Lending Club's business appear to overshadow substantial lending growth over the year, as loan originations for the quarter clocked in at $2.75 billion, up 68% year over year.
And it appears the initial popularity of the direct online lending platform -- designed to erase fees by cutting out financial intermediaries -- is losing its allure, with Lending Club shares tanking 83% in a steady decline since its December 2014 initial public offering.
The company has also begun to rack up long-term debt, most recently booking $4.6 billion, up from $2.8 billion at the end of 2014. And after a slew of ratings downgrades this week, only 32% of Lending Club's listed analysts maintain Buy ratings, based on Bloomberg consensus data.