Jefferies Resigns as Loan Agent for Spyware Maker NSO Group
(Bloomberg) -- Jefferies Financial Group Inc., one of Wall Street’s closest allies of spyware firm NSO Group, is resigning from a key administrative role for the Israeli company’s debt, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The investment bank privately notified the company’s lenders on Friday of its intention to step down as administrative agent, a role in which Jefferies handles debt payments for the company and other clerical tasks, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
The bank didn’t give a reason for its decision in the notification. A representative for Jefferies declined to comment, while NSO didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jefferies’ decision to leave the role comes at a critical time for NSO, which is in danger of defaulting on its debt after battling accusations that its Pegasus phone-hacking service was used by governments to spy on dissidents, human rights activists and journalists. The U.S. Commerce Department said last month that it placed the company on its export blacklist. Meanwhile, Apple Inc. sued NSO, seeking to bar the spyware firm from using its products and services.
The company has denied the accusations, saying it sells the technology to law enforcement and government agencies to prevent crime and terrorism, and that it has ended contracts with clients that abused it. The company has been exploring options that include shutting down Pegasus and selling the entire company to regain its footing, Bloomberg News reported earlier this week.
According to the notice on Friday, Jefferies’ resignation could become effective in 30 days -- or less if a replacement is found sooner.
The bank’s decision, which could still be revoked, doesn’t prevent the firm from doing business with NSO.
Jefferies was the lead underwriter alongside Credit Suisse Group AG on around $500 million of loans that were issued in 2019 to finance a buyout of the company orchestrated by management and European private equity firm Novalpina Capital.
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