Capital One

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Capital One, established in 1995 and headquartered in McLean, Virginia, describes itself as "a diversified financial services company offering a broad array of credit, savings and loan products to customers in the United States, UK, and Canada." It is a Fortune 500 company. [1]

In 2005, Capital One had $1.8 billion (U.S.) in earnings. As of December 31, 2005, its "subsidiaries collectively had $47.9 billion in deposits and $105.5 billion in managed loans outstanding." [2]


According to the Center for Public Integrity, Capital One spent $4,396,000 on lobbying from 1998 to 2004, with the firms The Loeffler Group, O'Connor & Hannan and Steptoe & Johnson. [3] The online database lists Capital One Financial Corporation's outside counsel as Cypress Group LLC and O'Connor & Hannan, L.L.P., with a number of in-house lobbyists led by Scott Silverthorne.

Capital One's political action committee, Capital One Financial Corporation Associates Political Fund, donated $431,500 to federal candidates in the 2004 election cycle, 40% to Democrats and 60% to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [4]

Public Relations

Capital One has hired the public relations firms APCO Worldwide, Manning Selvage & Lee, GolinHarris, MWW Group and Carter Ryley Thomas PR and Marketing (also called CRT/Tanaka). [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

According to the Holmes Report, the Carter Ryley Thomas firm's work for Capital One was under its "Reputation Culture Change" practice, which "protects corporate images": [12]

Known as RC2, the group counsels corporations on how to prepare for and manage change; incorporate ethical behavior into the corporate workplace; improve operational performance; and build shareholder value through strategic communication. The team helps prepare companies for issues ranging from crisis and downsizing to cultural changes and employee communication.

MoneyWi$e PR, with Nonprofit Partners

In 2001, Capital One partnered with the California-based group Consumer Action, to carry out outreach to other nonprofits and communities under the banner of "MoneyWi$e" education. The move came after years of negative media coverage of Capital One, centered on their credit card practices.

"Sylvia Lovelady of Cleveland mails her Capital One credit card payment two weeks before it's due. Yet 10 times in the last two years, she's been slapped with $29 late fees," reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Then there are people like Bob Ulrich of North Ridgeville. The 59-year-old recently got hit with a $29 late fee and some $50 in finance charges, also by Capital One. But Ulrich foiled the company's tactics because he had a return receipt proving delivery before the due date. The charges were quickly removed. ... Capital One reported a 31 percent rise in fourth-quarter profits" (Teresa Dixon Murray, "Getting fed up with fees: Consumers fighting back as penalty charges feed credit card profits", Plain Dealer, February 4, 2001).

Other unflattering articles criticize Capital One's early morning cutoffs of the pay-by date to incur late fees (Patricia Sabatini, "Going for the Jugular: Credit Card Companies Tack on Stiffer Fees and Hidden Penalties To Squeeze More Profits from Customers," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 9, 2000); promoting credit cards for minors (Henry Gilgoff, "Borrower (and Dad) Beware: Credit-Card Companies Seek Young Teens - Like Mine," Newsday, October 31, 1999); and wildly fluctuating interest rates (Margaret Mannix, "When credit turns painful," U.S. News & World Report, November 27, 1995).

The Program

A Capital One press release said that MoneyWi$e programs help to "provide consumers with the building blocks for developing and honing personal finance skills, from saving and budgeting to balancing a checkbook, understanding the basics of credit and credit repair and how parents can talk to teenagers about money." [13] The MoneyWi$e program includes "train-the-trainer seminars, which have been conducted in more than 450 community organizations across 30 states" and an "eight-part series of MoneyWi$e educational materials in five languages." [14]

Giving $$ Away

In August 2005, Capital One announced MoneyWi$e "award stipends totaling $75,000" that were being awarded "to community groups in 10 states. The move expands the reach of their partnership and will enable community non-profit educators to offer the MoneyWi$e financial education curriculum to more than 80,000 individuals" (Capital One press release, "Capital One and Consumer Action to Provide Stipends to Local Community Groups in 10 States for Financial Education," distributed on Business Wire August 2, 2005). In 2004, $125,000 in MoneyWi$e "award stipends" were given to 36 nonprofit organizations (Capital One press release, "Capital One and Consumer Action Provide Grants to Promote MoneyWi$e Communities," distributed on PR Newswire March 30, 2004). In 2003, $74,950 was given to 19 groups (Capital One press release, "Capital One and Consumer Action Grant Stipends to Money Wi$e Communities," distributed on PR Newswire March 13, 2003).

Another part of the MoneyWi$e series is "Just Say No to Senior Scams." Capital One press releases on the senior scam subject list Alison Athay of the PR firm APCO Worldwide as a media contact. [15] [16]

Fake News

Capital One has also used fake news to promote its partnership with Consumer Action. From a Digest offering "Free Multimedia Content for Journalists," distributed via Business Wire on October 21, 2002:

In today's uncertain economy, the ability to manage one's finances can mean the difference between fiscal stability and just getting by. Many consumers find themselves in financial holes and have no idea how to dig themselves out, which is why national consumer advocacy group Consumer Action has joined forces with credit card provider Capital One to urge adults to invest in their financial future through MoneyWi$e, a joint financial literacy partnership. Radio News Feature.

From the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD's) April 2006 report on video news releases, "Fake TV News": [17]

On November 2, 2005, WBBH-2 in Ft. Myers, Flordia, aired a two-minute, seven-second segment on the rising threat of "elderfraud," which is when sophisticated criminals bilk vulnerable retirees out of their hard-earned savings. However, WBBH-2 committed journalistic fraud when the station failed to inform its viewers that the story was taken directly from a video news release (VNR) produced by the broadcast PR firm MultiVu and funded by Capital One.
The VNR was just one part of an extended campaign to make Capital One look like a bank that's truly concerned about an individual's financial security. Although the segment doesn't directly promote any specific product or service, it repeatedly manages to drop in the Capital One brand name, and refers viewers to an informational website that's co-sponsored by the bank.

Later CMD research identified another Capital One VNR, described in the October 2007 mini-report "Know Fake News": [18]

[A] survey by Capital One found that "an increasing number of teens ... want to learn about money management," and "teens prefer to learn about money from their parents." Armed with these convenient factoids, the financial company commissioned a video news release (VNR) from the broadcast public relations firm MultiVu. ...
While the segment didn't promote a particular product, it did mention Capital One by name and referred viewers to a publication sponsored by the company.
On August 24, 2007, WGTU-29 (Traverse City / Cadillac, Mich.) aired the entire, pre-packaged VNR, complete with MultiVu publicist Larry Cardarelli's narration. In introducing the segment, WGTU's Lori Puckett referred to Cardarelli as though he were a reporter. ...


Executives and 2006 pay:

Contact Information

Capital One
PO Box 30285
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0285
Phone: 1-800-955-7070, 1-804-747-7200


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Rich D. Fairbank, Capital One, accessed February 2008.
  2. Richard D Fairbank, Forbes, accessed February 2008.
  3. J Herbert Boydstun, Forbes, accessed February 2008.
  4. John G Finneran Jr, Forbes, accessed February 2008.
  5. David R Lawson, Forbes, accessed February 2008.

External links