Blythe Masters, a former top executive at JPMorgan Chase, is stepping down from the board of directors of Phunware, a company thatfor Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
Phunware’s chief executive officer, Masters, plans to leave the company on May 1st. She informed the company of her resignation on March 24th, Phunware said in a motion this week.
In a separate release, Phunware announced that it had received $ 3.2 million in 2020 from its largest client, which the Associated Press identified as American Made Media Consultants, the limited liability company controlled by members of the Trump family that directed the spending of the campaign.
A phone message for Masters at Motive Partners, a private equity firm she is now a partner with, was not returned.
Randall Crowder, Phunware’s chief operating officer, told CBS MoneyWatch that Masters will be leaving other board positions following her recent nomination to the board of directors of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse.
“She will remain with Phunware as a strategic advisor and continues to be a supporter of the company and an asset to our endeavors,” said Crowder.
PPP loan leads to lawsuit
In April, Phunware received federal support as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a government-backed measure to help small businesses affected by the pandemic. CBS MoneyWatchhad received a $ 2.85 million PPP loan arranged by Masters former employer JPMorgan.
Phunware and JPMorgan were later named as defendants in a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Sha-Poppin Gourmet Popcorn and other small businesses that failed to obtain a paycheck protection loan through JPMorgan. In the lawsuit, Sha-Poppin alleged that Phunware and other large companies benefited from a “two-tier” system that gave JPMorgan’s well-connected customers preferential access to the program.
The lawsuit also states that Phunware “is currently working for the president’s re-election campaign” and that Masters was named chairman of the company’s board of directors on March 30, 2020, the day after Congress approved the Paycheck program.
In a press release at the timeThe timing of the Masters’ appointment had nothing to do with the PPP and it played no role in helping the company gain access to their previous employer’s government sponsored funds. A judge has since dismissed Phunware from the suit that Sha-Poppin was unable to sue Phunware. JPMorgan is fighting the lawsuit and has tried to bring it to arbitration.
JPMorgan declined to comment on the lawsuit at the time with CBS MoneyWatch, but a section of its website dealt with PPP loan disputes where the bank gave priority to larger customers.
Masters’ link to the apartment bust
Masters has a long and storied history on Wall Street. The former trader, considered one of the most powerful women in finance, is widely credited with helping create credit default swaps, a popular Wall Street derivative that played a major role in the 2008 financial crisis.
Vanity Fair named Masters one of the Top 100 Guilty Agents for the Financial Crisis. She left JPMorgan in 2014 after a 27 year career with the bank. A year later, she became the head of a company that developed blockchain – the technology that forms the basis for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Masters joined Phunware’s board of directors in 2019 after establishing ties with Trump campaign officials in the 2016 election. She said at the time that she was attracted to the company because of possible healthcare applications.
CBS News reported in July that Phunware’s Trump campaign app tapped aof data on Americans, including tracking the locations and cell phone contacts of millions of users. A September profile for the company in New Yorker said the company was collecting “huge amounts” of voter data for the Trump campaign.
A recent announcement shows that Masters owns nearly 280,000 shares of Phunware, although many of those shares are in restricted units and may have to expire if she leaves the company. Phunware stocks, which rose to $ 308 in early 2019, recently traded for just $ 1.60.
With reporting from CBS News investigative reporter Graham Kates.