HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 2 p.m.) Bob Stefanowski’s role as CEO of a payday lending company was an easy target for Ned Lamont’s campaign, but in his latest television commercial Stefanowski counters that somehow it was Lamont’s family who benefited from investments in payday loans.
Lamont’s campaign called the ad “patently false” and Lamont himself asked Stefanowski to remove the ad on Tuesday at an unrelated press conference.
“Annie certainly had nothing to do with it. Leave my wife out of it,” Lamont said Tuesday.
He went onto say firmly, “it’s a false attack on my wife and they should take that ad down.”
Stefanowski’s campaign has not intention of removing the ad, according to his campaign.
The ad says Lamont is a hypocrite for attacking Stefanowski for his involvement in a payday lending company when “Lamont’s the one who personally profited off payday loans.”
Stefanowski’s campaign says Ann Lamont, Ned’s wife and a managing partner at Oak Investment Partners, invested in a company called Wonga.
Oak Investment Partners, according to news reports from 2011, led an initial round of investment in the short-term loan company accessible through a cellphone app. The company is now defunct after coming under similar scrutiny by the Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority in 2014. The same scrutiny faced by Stefanowski’s payday loan company in the United Kingdom.
The initial Wonga investment was made by an entirely different division of Oak Investment Partners and was never a part of Mrs. Lamont’s portfolio. Mrs. Lamont never had anything to do with that investment and did not make a profit, according to the campaign.
“Bob is trying to distract from the fact that he was actually the CEO of a payday lending company that ripped-off soldiers and veterans, but this ad and his business record show just how shameless and unprincipled he is,” Marc Bradley, Lamont’s campaign manager, said. “Bob has a Trumpian scheme to cut education and healthcare and to raise property taxes, which will devastate Connecticut.”
Lamont asked Stefanowski to stop talking about him and his family and focus on the state of Connecticut.
“Stop talking about me. Stop talking about hit ads,” Lamont said. “Talk about where we take the state of Connecticut.”
Stefanowski’s campaign claims the things Lamont says in his ad about Stefanowski’s business practices are also false.
Lamont’s television ad says Stefanowski “profited from predatory loans to service members.”
Stefanowski’s last job was as CEO of DFC Global, a payday loan company accused of making fraudulent auto loans to U.S. military personnel. Stefanowski contends he was hired to help turn the company around.
Stefanowski took over the company in June 2014 and by 2015 it has discontinued the auto loan business and paid a $3.3 million settlement to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which had alleged that DFC had deceptively marketed loan products to service members.
Stefanowski left in January 2017 and by September 2017 he was running for governor.