Who are QuinStreet's clients? Their most lucrative clients are predatory for-profit colleges. From the latest quarterly report:
To date, we have generated a large portion of our revenue from our education client vertical, and nearly all of that revenue was generated from post-secondary education institutions. Post-secondary education institutions are subject to extensive federal and state regulations and accrediting standards (including the Higher Education Act, Department of Education regulations and individual state higher education regulations) and oversight by various regulatory enforcement authorities (including the Department of Education, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and state attorneys general). Such regulations govern many aspects of these clients’ operations, including marketing and recruiting activities, as well as private student lending and the school’s eligibility to participate in Title IV federal student financial aid programs, which is the principal source of funding for many of our education clients. In addition, there have been significant changes to these regulations in recent years and a high level of regulatory scrutiny and enforcement activity (e.g., investigations of our clients and other post-secondary education institutions). Heightened regulatory activity and legislative and regulatory scrutiny are expected to continue in the post-secondary education sector. Such activity and scrutiny may have an adverse effect on our operating results as our management may be required to devote substantial time and resources to such matters, and such matters may result in lower client marketing spend.
For example, in January 2014, the Department of Education initiated an investigation of a U.S. publicly traded for-profit education client with respect to its enrollment activities and job placement, among other things, and in July 2014, the Department of Education signed an agreement with the client requiring it to wind down or sell its campuses. In September 2016, the Department of Education took action which resulted in the closure of a large for-profit education provider.
Similarly, in July 2015, the Federal Trade Commission initiated an investigation of another publicly traded U.S. for-profit education client with respect to its recruiting and enrollment practices, and in January 2016, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against a different publicly-traded U.S. for-profit education client with respect to its advertising practices. Moreover, the Department of Education, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and several state attorneys general currently have open investigations with several other post-secondary educational institutions including some of our clients. Regulatory decisions may also adversely impact our education clients indirectly. For example, in October 2016, the Department of Education published its final defense to repayment rule, which streamlines and liberalizes a procedure whereby students may have their federal loans forgiven. This may result in students increasingly seeking to have their loans forgiven, which may in turn involve claims by the government against education providers. In connection with these or other investigations of our clients’ marketing practices, regulatory authorities may also make requests to us for information, which requests may consume substantial time and resources and result in a negative effect on our operating results. These and other similar regulatory and enforcement activities have affected, and are expected to continue to affect, our clients’ businesses and marketing practices, which have resulted in, and may continue to result in, a decrease in these clients’ spending with us and fluctuations in the volume and mix of our business with these clients. This may be the case notwithstanding the fact that we are not a target of these regulatory investigations or inquiries and the fact that our marketing practices consist largely of utilizing client-provided or client-approved online marketing materials subject to client advertising guidelines.