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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
__________________________________________________
FORM 10-K
__________________________________________________
(Mark One)
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2021
OR
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from                      to
Commission File No. 001-34063
__________________________________________________
https://cdn.kscope.io/16129157e01b5291d42b7b13d1816671-tree-20211231_g1.jpg
LendingTree, Inc.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
Delaware 26-2414818
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
 1415 Vantage Park Dr., Suite 700, Charlotte, North Carolina 28203
(Address of principal executive offices)(Zip Code)
(704541-5351
(Registrant's telephone number, including area code)
__________________________________________________

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class Trading Symbol(s) Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $0.01 par value per share TREE The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒    No ☐
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐    No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒    No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒    No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," "smaller reporting company," and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large accelerated filer Accelerated filer Non-accelerated filer Smaller reporting companyEmerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐    No 
As of June 30, 2021, the aggregate market value of the voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the Registrant was approximately $2,437 million. For the purposes of the foregoing calculation only, all directors and executive officers of the Registrant and a single stockholder who owned in excess of 20% of the voting common stock are assumed to be affiliates of the Registrant.
As of February 18, 2022, there were 12,966,728 shares of the Registrant's common stock, par value $.01 per share, outstanding.
Documents Incorporated By Reference:
Portions of the Registrant's proxy statement for its 2022 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III herein. Such proxy statement will be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of the Registrant's fiscal year ended December 31, 2021.


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CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This annual report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021 (the "Annual Report") contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These forward-looking statements include statements related to our anticipated financial performance, business prospects and strategy; anticipated trends and prospects in the various industries in which our businesses operate; new products, services and related strategies; and other similar matters. These forward-looking statements are based on management's current expectations and assumptions about future events, which are inherently subject to uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict. The use of words such as "anticipates," "estimates," "expects," "projects," "intends," "plans" and "believes," among others, generally identify forward-looking statements.
Actual results could differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. Factors currently known to management that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements include those matters discussed below, including in Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Other unknown or unpredictable factors that could also adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations may arise from time to time. In light of these risks and uncertainties, the forward-looking statements discussed in this report may not prove to be accurate. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which only reflect the views of LendingTree, Inc.'s management as of the date of this report. We undertake no obligation to update or revise forward-looking statements to reflect changed assumptions, the occurrence of unanticipated events or changes to future operating results or expectations, except as required by law.
Summary of Risk Factors
Below is a summary of the principal factors that make an investment in our common stock speculative or risky. This summary does not address all of the risks that we face. Additional discussion of the risks summarized in this risk factor summary, and other risks that we face, can be found below under the heading “Risk Factors” and should be carefully considered, together with other information in this Form 10-K and our other filings with the SEC, before making an investment decision regarding our common stock.
Adverse conditions in the primary and secondary mortgage markets, as well as the general economy, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend on the financial strength of our Network Partners and our relationships with them and any adverse changes in these relationships could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to maintain our reputation and brand recognition and attract and retain consumers in a cost-effective manner could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. As such, adverse publicity from litigation or governmental investigations could impact our business and financial condition and results of operations.
We depend on search engines, online advertising and other online sources to attract visitors to our websites, and if we are unable to attract these visitors and convert them into consumer requests for our Network Partners in a cost-effective manner, our business and financial results may be harmed.
Our credit card product offering is subject to particular risks.
Our insurance business, QuoteWizard, is significant to our revenue, and operational issues in this business could have a material impact on our results of operations.
Our personal loan product is a key product within our Consumer segment. If lenders participating on our marketplace decide to reduce their offerings of personal loans or if such loans become unattractive to consumers because of higher interest rates demanded by lenders or other reasons, then our results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our business, and the ultimate impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including the scope and duration of the pandemic and actions taken by governmental authorities in response to the pandemic.
The intended benefits of acquisitions may not be realized and acquisitions or strategic investments that we pursue may not be successful and could disrupt our business and harm our financial condition.
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If we fail to manage our growth effectively, our business and results of operations could be harmed.
We rely on the performance of highly skilled personnel and if we are unable to attract, retain, develop and motivate well-qualified employees, our business and results of operations could be harmed.
A significant portion of our total revenue has, in the past, derived from one Network Partner, and our results from operations could be adversely affected and stockholder value harmed if we lose significant business from this Network Partner.
We participate in a highly competitive market, and pressure from existing and new competitors may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. If any of our competitors are more successful than we are at attracting and retaining customers or Network Partners, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Our success depends, in part, on the integrity of our systems and infrastructures. System interruption and the lack of integration and redundancy in these systems and infrastructures may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Breaches or failures of our systems or website security, the theft, unauthorized access, acquisition, use, disclosure, modification or misappropriation of personal information, the occurrence of fraudulent activity, or other data security-related incidents may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to comply with past, existing or new laws, rules and regulations, or to obtain and maintain required licenses, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our collection, use, storage, disclosure, transfer and other processing of personal information could give rise to significant costs and liabilities, including as a result of governmental regulation, conflicting legal requirements or differing views of personal privacy rights, which may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may become subject to intellectual property disputes, which are costly and may subject us to significant liability and increased costs of doing business.
Failure to obtain proper business licenses or other documentation or to otherwise comply with local laws and requirements regarding marketing, sales or services, may result in civil or criminal penalties and restrictions on our ability to conduct business in that jurisdiction.
Unanticipated changes in effective tax rates or adverse outcomes resulting from examination of our income or other tax returns could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
We may fail to adequately obtain, maintain, enforce and protect our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights or may be accused of infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating intellectual property or similar proprietary rights of third parties.
In the ordinary course of business, we are party to litigation involving contract, intellectual property and a variety of other claims, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
If our Network Partners fail to produce required documents for examination by, or other affiliated parties fail to make certain filings with, state regulators, we may be subject to fines, forfeitures and the revocation of required licenses.
The possibility of additional future regulations, changing rule interpretations and examinations by regulatory agencies may result in more stringent compliance standards and could adversely affect the results of our operations.
Fluctuations in our operating results, quarter to quarter earnings and other factors may result in significant decreases in the price of our common stock.
One holder of our common stock owns a substantial portion of our outstanding common stock, which concentrates voting control and limits your ability to influence corporate matters.
Our financial results fluctuate as a result of seasonality, which may make it difficult to predict our future performance and may adversely affect our common stock price.
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The conditional conversion feature of our outstanding convertible senior notes, if triggered, may adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.
We may not have the ability to raise the funds necessary to settle conversions of the Notes in cash or to repurchase the Notes upon a fundamental change, and our future debt may contain limitations on our ability to pay cash upon conversion or repurchase of the Notes.
Our hedge and warrant transactions may affect the value of the Notes and our common stock.
PART I
ITEM 1.  Business
Our Company
LendingTree, Inc. ("LendingTree", the "Company", "we" or "us") operates what we believe to be the leading online consumer platform that connects consumers with the choices they need to be confident in their financial decisions. Through multiple branded marketplaces, LendingTree empowers consumers to shop for financial services the same way they would shop for airline tickets or hotel stays, comparing multiple offers from a nationwide network of over 500 partners (which we refer to as "Network Partners") in one simple search, and choose the option that best fits their financial needs. Services include mortgage loans, mortgage refinances, home equity loans and lines of credit, reverse mortgage loans, auto loans, credit cards, deposit accounts, personal loans, student loans, small business loans, insurance quotes, sales of insurance policies and other related offerings. In addition, we offer tools and resources, including free credit scores, that facilitate comparison shopping for loans, deposit products, insurance and other offerings. We seek to match consumers with multiple providers, who can offer them competing quotes for the product, or products, they are seeking. We believe our platform, consisting of a deep network of Network Partners across a broad array of financial products, differentiates us from other loan or insurance comparison-shopping marketplaces which may focus on fewer product offerings or partner with fewer service providers.
Our strategically designed and executed advertising and marketing campaigns (which we refer to as performance marketing) span a wide array of digital and traditional media acquisition channels and promote our LendingTree and other brands and product offerings. Our marketing efforts are designed to attract consumers to our websites, mobile applications and toll-free telephone numbers. Interested consumers complete inquiry forms, providing detailed information about themselves and the loans or other offerings they are seeking. We refer to such consumer inquiries as consumer requests. We then match these consumer requests with Network Partners in our marketplace that are seeking to serve these consumers' needs. We generate revenue from our Network Partners, generally at the time of transmitting a consumer request to them, in the form of a match fee. In certain instances outside our mortgage business, we charge other kinds of fees, such as closed loan or closed sale fees. In addition to our primary consumer request data referral business, we also match consumers with Network Partners by offering consumers the ability to click from our website to a Network Partner’s website or by calls for which Network Partners pay either front-end or back-end fees.
We are continually working to improve the consumer experience. We have made investments in technologically-adept personnel and we use in-market real-time testing to improve our digital platforms. Additionally, we work with our Network Partners, including providing training and other resources, to improve the consumer experience throughout the process. Further, we have been building and improving our My LendingTree platform, which provides a relationship-based consumer experience, rather than just a transaction-based experience.
Evolution and Future Growth of Our Business
At its inception, our original business was to serve consumers seeking home mortgage loans by matching them with various lenders. We launched the LendingTree brand nationally in 1998 and, over the last twenty-plus years, we have invested significantly in this brand to gain widespread consumer recognition.
More recently, we have actively sought to expand the suite of financial services offerings we provide to consumers, in order to both leverage the applicability of the LendingTree brand as well as more fully serve the needs of consumers and Network Partners. We believe that consumers with existing LendingTree-branded associations will be more likely to utilize our other service offerings than those of other providers whose brands consumers may not recognize.
Our My LendingTree platform offers a personalized comparison-shopping experience, by providing free credit scores and credit score analysis. This platform enables us to monitor consumers' credit profiles and then identify and alert them to loans and other offerings on our marketplace that may be more favorable than the terms they have at a given point in time. This is designed to provide consumers with measurable savings opportunities over their lifetimes.
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By expanding our portfolio of financial services offerings, we are growing and diversifying our business and sources of revenue. We intend to capitalize on our expertise in performance marketing, product development and technology, and to leverage the widespread recognition of the LendingTree brand to effect this strategy.
We believe the consumer and small business financial services industry is still in the early stages of a fundamental shift to online product offerings, similar to the shift that started in retail and travel many years ago and is now well established. We believe that, like retail and travel, as consumers continue to move towards online shopping and transactions for financial services, suppliers will increasingly shift their product offerings and advertising budgets toward the online channel. We believe the strength of our brands and of our partner network place us in a strong position to continue to benefit from this market shift.
Recent Business Acquisitions
On February 28, 2020, we acquired an equity interest in Stash Financial, Inc. (“Stash”). Stash is a consumer investing and banking platform. Stash brings together banking, investing, and financial services education into one seamless experience offering a full suite of personal investment accounts, traditional and Roth IRAs, custodial investment accounts, and banking services, including checking accounts and debit cards with a Stock-Back® rewards program.
On January 10, 2019, we acquired Value Holding Inc., the parent company of ValuePenguin Inc. ("ValuePenguin"), a personal finance website that offers consumers objective analysis on a variety of financial topics from insurance to credit cards. Combining ValuePenguin’s high-quality content and search engine optimization capability with proprietary technology and insurance carrier network from QuoteWizard.com, LLC ("QuoteWizard") enables us to provide immense value to insurance carriers and agents. This strategic acquisition positions us to achieve further scale in the insurance space as well as the broader financial services industry.
These acquisitions continue our diversification strategy.
Economic Conditions
During March 2020, a global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization related to the rapidly growing outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus ("COVID-19"). The pandemic has significantly impacted the economic conditions in the U.S., as federal, state and local governments react to the public health crisis, creating significant uncertainties in the U.S. economy. The downstream impact of various lockdown orders and related economic pullback are affecting our business and marketplace participants to varying degrees. We are continuously monitoring the impacts of the current economic conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Of our three reportable segments, the Consumer segment was the most impacted as unsecured credit and the flow of capital in certain areas of the market contracted. The impact to our Home and Insurance segments was much less substantial. We believe our three reportable segments have generally recovered from the impacts of the pandemic. Most of our selling and marketing expenses are variable costs that we adjust dynamically in relation to revenue opportunities to profitably meet demand. Thus, as our revenue was negatively impacted during the recession, our marketing expenses generally decreased in line with revenue.
Segment Reporting
We have three reportable segments: Home, Consumer and Insurance.
Products
Our Home segment includes the following products: purchase mortgage, refinance mortgage, home equity loans and lines of credit, reverse mortgage loans, and real estate. Our Consumer segment includes the following products: credit cards, personal loans, small business loans, student loans, auto loans, deposit accounts, and other credit products such as credit repair and debt settlement. Our Insurance segment consists of insurance quote products and insurance policies in our agency businesses. Revenue within the Other category includes revenue from the resale of online advertising space to third parties and revenue from home improvement referrals. We ceased offering home improvement referrals during the first quarter of 2019 and ceased reselling online advertising space during the first quarter of 2020.
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Segment revenue is as follows (in thousands):
 For the Year Ended December 31,
 202120202019
Home$441,738 $320,992 $277,935 
Consumer329,945 253,198 515,037 
Insurance326,153 333,765 284,792 
Other663 2,035 28,839 
Total revenue$1,098,499 $909,990 $1,106,603 
LendingTree does not charge consumers for the use of our services, except for credit repair services. Revenues from our Home products are mostly derived from upfront match fees paid by Network Partners that receive a consumer request, and in some cases upfront fees for clicks or call transfers. Because a given consumer request form can be matched with more than one Network Partner, up to five match fees may be generated from a single consumer request form. Revenues from our Consumer products are generally derived from upfront match fees paid on delivery of a consumer request, click or call and closed loan fees. For our credit card product, we send click traffic to issuers and are generally paid per card approval. Revenues from our Insurance products are primarily derived from upfront match fees, and upfront fees for website clicks or fees for calls, earned through the delivery of consumer requests, as well as commissions earned on policy sales in our agency businesses.
For the year ended December 31, 2021, no Network Partners accounted for more than 10% of total consolidated revenue. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, one Network Partner, Progressive Casualty Insurance, accounted for 15% and 12%, respectively, of total consolidated revenue, all of which was recorded within our Insurance segment.
Home Segment
We partner with lenders throughout the United States to provide full geographic lending coverage and to offer a complete suite of loan offerings on our marketplace. To participate on our marketplace, lenders are required to enter into contracts with us that state the terms and conditions for such participation, although these contracts generally may be terminated for convenience by either party. We perform certain due diligence procedures on prospective new lenders, including screening against a national anti-fraud database maintained by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute, which helps manage our risk exposure. The data is utilized to determine whether a lender and its principals are eligible to participate on our marketplace and have not been convicted of and/or penalized for fraudulent activity.
Consumers seeking purchase or refinance mortgages through our loan marketplace can receive multiple conditional loan offers from participating lenders in response to a single consumer request form. We refer to the process by which we match consumers and Network Partners as the matching process. This matching process consists of the following steps:
(1)Consumer Request.  Consumers complete a single request form with information regarding the type of mortgage loan product they are seeking, loan preferences and other data. Consumers also consent to a soft inquiry regarding their credit.
(2)Consumer Request Form Matching and Transmission.  Our proprietary systems and technology match a given consumer's request form data, credit profile and geographic location against certain pre-established criteria of Network Partners, which may be modified from time to time. Once a given request passes through the matching process, the request is automatically transmitted to up to five participating Network Partners.
(3)Lender Evaluation and Response.  Network Partners that receive a consumer request form evaluate the information contained in it to determine whether to make a conditional loan offer.
(4)Communication of a Conditional Offer.  All matched Network Partners and any conditional offers are presented to the consumer upon completion of the consumer request form. Consumers can return to the site and view their offer(s) at any time by logging in to their My LendingTree profile. Additionally, matched lenders and offers are also sent to the email address associated with the consumer request.
We also offer consumers other mortgage products such as:
An alternative matching process, which provides them with lender contact information rather than conditional offers from Network Partners.
A "rate table" loan marketplace, where consumers can enter their loan and credit profile and dynamically view real-time rates or other relevant information from lenders without entering their contact information.
Other Home lending products on our online marketplace include the following:
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Home equity loans and lines of credit, which enable home owners to borrow against the equity in their home, as measured by the difference between the market value of the home and any existing loans secured by the home. Home equity loans are one-time lump sum loans, whereas a home equity line of credit reflects a line of revolving credit where the borrower has flexibility to draw down and repay the line over time.
Reverse mortgage loans, which are a loan product available to qualifying homeowners age 62 or older.
In addition, we offer real estate brokerage services, through which consumers are matched with local realtors who can assist them in their home purchase or sale efforts. We generate revenue from real estate brokerage services through match fees paid to us by real estate brokers participating in our online marketplace.
Consumer Segment
Consumer lending products on our online marketplace include information, tools and access to multiple conditional loan offers for the following:
Auto, which includes our auto refinance and purchase loan products. Auto loans enable consumers to purchase new or used vehicles or refinance an existing loan secured by an automobile.
Credit cards, which include offerings from most major card issuers.
Personal loans, which are unsecured obligations generally carrying shorter terms and smaller loan amounts than home mortgages.
Small business loans, which include a broad array of financing types, including but not limited to loans secured by working capital, equipment, real estate and other forms of financing, provided to small and medium-sized businesses.
Student loans, which includes both new loans to finance an education and related expenses, as well as refinancing of existing loans.
Non-lending Consumer products also includes information, tools and access to the following:
Deposit accounts, through which consumers can access depository deals and analysis covering all major deposit product categories.
Credit repair, through which consumers can obtain assistance improving their credit profiles, in order to expand and improve loan and other financial product opportunities available to them. Our Ovation business is a leading provider of credit services with a strong customer service reputation.
Debt relief services, through which consumers can obtain assistance negotiating existing loans.
We refer to the various purchasers of leads from our other marketplaces as lead purchasers. We generate revenue from the deposit account product from a consumer clicking from our website through to a financial institution's website. We generate revenue from credit repair and debt relief services through subscription fees from consumers that enroll in our credit repair product, or a fee for a customer referral to a service provider partner or through a fee at the time a consumer enrolls in a program with one of our Network Partners.
Insurance Segment
Our Insurance segment includes information, tools and access to insurance quote products, including automobile, home, health and Medicare, through which consumers are matched with insurance lead aggregators to obtain insurance offers, as well as insurance policies in our agency businesses. Our QuoteWizard business is one of the largest insurance comparison marketplaces in the growing online insurance advertising market. We also purchased ValuePenguin, a personal finance website that offers consumers objective analysis on a variety of financial topics from insurance to credit cards, in the first quarter of 2019.
Other Products
Other products not included in the Home, Consumer and Insurance segments includes:
Home improvement services, through which consumers had the opportunity to research and find home improvement professional services. Effective in the first quarter of 2019, we no longer offer home improvement services.
Revenue earned through resale of online advertising space to third parties is also classified in other products. Effective in the first quarter of 2020, we no longer resell online advertising space.
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We intend to continue adding new offerings for consumers, small businesses and Network Partners on our online marketplace, in order to grow and diversify our sources of revenue. We may develop such new offerings through internal product development efforts, strategic business relationships with third parties and/or acquisitions.
Seasonality
Revenue in our Home segment is subject to cyclical and seasonal trends. Home sales (and purchase mortgages) typically rise during the spring and summer months and decline during the fall and winter months, while refinancing and home equity activity is principally driven by mortgage interest rates as well as real estate values. However, in certain historical periods additional factors affecting the mortgage and real estate markets, such as the 2008-2009 financial crisis and related recession as well as the economic conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, have impacted customary seasonal trends.
We anticipate revenue in our newer products, primarily within the Consumer segment, to be cyclical as well; however, we have limited historical data to predict the nature and magnitude of this cyclicality. Based on industry data, we anticipate that as our personal loan product matures we will experience less consumer demand during the fourth and first quarters of each year. We also anticipate less consumer demand for credit cards in the fourth quarter of each year, and we anticipate higher consumer demand for deposit accounts in the first quarter of each year. The majority of consumer demand for in-school student loan products occurs in the third quarter coinciding with collegiate enrollment in late summer. Other factors affecting our businesses include macro factors such as credit availability in the market, interest rates, the strength of the economy and employment.
Competition
Our businesses compete with other online marketing companies, including online intermediaries that operate network-type arrangements. We also face competition from lenders and insurance agents that source consumers directly. These companies typically operate consumer-branded websites and attract consumers via online banner ads, keyword placement on search engines, direct mail, television ads, retail branches, realtors, brokers, radio and other sources, partnerships with affiliates and business development arrangements with others, including major online portals.
Corporate History
LendingTree, Inc. is the parent of LT Intermediate Company, LLC, which holds all of the outstanding ownership interests of LendingTree, LLC, and LendingTree, LLC owns several companies. We were originally incorporated in the state of Delaware in June 1996 and commenced nationwide operations in July 1998.
In May 2003, IAC/InterActiveCorp ("IAC") acquired LendingTree, LLC, which at the time of the acquisition was known as LendingTree, Inc. Following the acquisition, in December 2004, IAC converted LendingTree, Inc. to a Delaware limited liability company, LendingTree, LLC.
In April 2008, IAC formed Tree.com, Inc. (now known as LendingTree, Inc.), a Delaware corporation, which held all of the ownership interests of LendingTree, LLC. In August 2008, Tree.com Inc., including its wholly-owned subsidiary, LendingTree, LLC, was spun off from IAC and became the separately publicly-traded company that we are today.
Effective January 1, 2015, we changed our name from Tree.com, Inc. to LendingTree, Inc.
Regulation and Legal Compliance
We market and provide services in heavily regulated industries through a number of different online and offline channels across the United States. As a result, we are subject to a variety of federal and state laws and regulations, including:
The Truth-in-Lending Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 ("FACTA"), the Fair Housing Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), and similar state laws, all of which place certain restrictions on the manner in which consumer loans are marketed and originated, and some of which impose restrictions on the amount and nature of fees that may be charged to lenders and real estate professionals for providing or obtaining consumer loan requests;
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which imposes, among other things, limitations on fees charged by mortgage lenders, and requirements related to mortgage disclosures;
Federal and State licensing laws;
Federal and state laws, which impose restrictions on activities conducted through telephone, mail, email, mobile device or the Internet, including the Telemarketing Sales Rule ("TSR"), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 ("CAN-SPAM") and the Federal Trade Commission Act;
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Federal and state laws relating to offering of credit repair services to consumers, including such laws that impose restrictions on the usage and storage of consumer credit information such as the Credit Repair Organizations Act ("CROA") and the Fair Credit Reporting Act; and
Federal and state laws and regulations relating to data privacy and security, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLBA”), which may impact how we collect, use, store, share and otherwise process personal information of consumers and other individuals.
Intellectual Property
We believe that our intellectual property and proprietary rights are vital to our success. To protect our intellectual property and proprietary rights in our brand, technology, products, services, data, improvements and inventions, we rely on a combination of patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, and other laws, as well as contractual restrictions on disclosure, such as confidentiality agreements with strategic partners, employees, consultants and other third parties. However, we cannot guarantee that such laws or contractual restrictions will provide us with sufficient protection or that we have entered into confidentiality agreements with each party that has or may have had access to our confidential or proprietary information, know-how or trade secrets.
As we develop or identify new or improved proprietary technologies, we seek patent protection in the United States and abroad, as appropriate. As of December 31, 2021, we owned one issued U.S. patent related to the system and method for collecting financial information over a global communications network, which expires in 2032. We also own one provisional U.S. patent related to systems and methods for optimizing software development and testing which expires in October 2022, at which time a non-provisional patent application will be filed.
Many of our services are offered under proprietary trademarks and service marks. We believe that our LendingTree trademark, which is applied to all of our services, including our acquired businesses, creates positive responses in network partners and consumers. We generally apply to register or secure by contract our principal trademarks and service marks as they are developed and used. As of December 31, 2021, we owned 41 trademarks and service marks, 35 of which are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"), and six of which have applications pending with the USPTO but have not yet been registered. These registrations can typically be renewed at 10-year intervals.
In addition, we reserve and register domain names when and where we deem appropriate. As of December 31, 2021, we owned approximately 1,600 registered domain names. We also have agreements with third parties that provide for the licensing of patented, copyrighted and other proprietary technology used in our business.
Our success will significantly depend on our ability to obtain, maintain, enforce and protect our intellectual property and proprietary rights and operate our business without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating any intellectual property or proprietary rights of third parties. However, there can be no assurance that our efforts will be successful. Even if our efforts are successful, we may incur significant costs in defending our intellectual property and proprietary rights or combatting allegations by third parties. From time to time, we may be subject to legal proceedings or claims, or threatened legal proceedings or claims, including allegations of infringement, misappropriation or other violations of third-party patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets or other intellectual property or proprietary rights of third parties. In addition, the use of litigation and other dispute resolution processes, such as Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution, may be necessary for us to enforce our intellectual property rights, including our trade secrets, or to determine the validity and scope of intellectual property or proprietary rights claimed by others. See "Risk Factors" for a more comprehensive description of risks related to our intellectual property.
Human Capital Resources
We are committed to investing in our employees, and nurturing an entrepreneurial and dynamic work environment. We achieve this through dedication to our core principles which include: building truly outstanding products, being open and candid, acting with urgency and creativity, taking charge, setting goals and being accountable, and committing to excellence. Employees are stockholders of the Company, allowing them to take charge and have a direct impact on company choices. We provide individual, career and leadership development opportunities to strengthen skills. We have implemented strong policies and practices to foster a safe and inclusive workplace allowing employees to develop and reach their full potential, and although our employees hold many values in common, our leadership team actively works to attract, develop, and retain talent from a range of backgrounds and experiences in order to benefit from diverse perspectives. The Company and our employees are committed to helping our communities thrive through a variety of Company-sponsored annual and ongoing community outreach efforts.
As of December 31, 2021, we had 1,425 employees, of which approximately 1,407 are full-time and 18 are temporary or part-time. None of our employees are represented under collective bargaining agreements, and we consider our relations with employees and independent contractors to be good.
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Additional Information
Website and Public Filings
We maintain a corporate website at www.lendingtree.com and an investor relations website at investors.lendingtree.com. None of the information on or accessible through our websites is incorporated by reference in this report, or in any other filings with, or in any information furnished or submitted to, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC").
We make available, free of charge through our website, our reports on Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K, our proxy statement for the annual shareholders' meeting and beneficial ownership reports on Forms 3, 4 and 5 as soon as reasonably practicable after we file such material with, or furnish such material to, the SEC. Our filings with the SEC are available to the public at the SEC's website at www.sec.gov.
Code of Business Conduct and Ethics
Our code of business conduct and ethics, which applies to all employees, including all executive officers and senior financial officers and directors, is posted on the investor relations section of our website. This is our code of ethics pursuant to Item 406 of SEC Regulation S-K and the rules of the Nasdaq Stock Market. Any amendments to or waivers of the code of business conduct and ethics that are of the type described in Item 406(b) and (d) of Regulation S-K will be disclosed on our website or in public filings to the extent required by the applicable rules.
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ITEM 1A.  Risk Factors
Risk Factors
Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. Before making an investment decision, you should carefully consider the risks described below, together with all of the other information included in this annual report and the information incorporated by reference herein. If any of the risks described below, or incorporated by reference into this annual report actually occur, our business, financial condition or results of operations could suffer. In that case, the trading price of our common stock may decline and you may lose all or part of your investment. The risks and uncertainties we have described are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Certain statements below are forward-looking statements. See the information included under the heading "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information" included elsewhere in this annual report.
Risks Related to our Business
Adverse conditions in the primary and secondary mortgage markets, as well as the general economy, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Constraints in the primary and secondary mortgage markets in the past have had, and may in the future have, an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Generally, increases in interest rates adversely affect the ability of our mortgage Network Partners to close loans, and adverse economic trends limit the ability of our mortgage Network Partners to offer home loans other than low-margin conforming loans. Our businesses may experience a decline in demand for their offerings due to decreased consumer demand as a result of the conditions described above, now or in the future. The decreased consumer demand for mortgage refinancing typically leads to decreased traffic to our website and higher associated selling and marketing efforts associated with that traffic. While higher lender demand during these periods often leads to an increase in the amount lenders will pay per matched lead and higher revenue earned per consumer, increases in the amount lenders will pay per matched lead in this situation is limited by the overall cost models of our lenders, and our revenue earned per consumer can be adversely affected by the overall reduced demand for refinancing in a rising interest rate environment. Conversely, during periods with decreased interest rates, mortgage Network Partners have less incentive to use our marketplaces, or in the case of sudden increases in consumer demand, our mortgage Network Partners may lack the ability to support sudden increases in volume. Situations like this could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend on the financial strength of our Network Partners and our relationships with them, and any adverse changes in these relationships could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our success depends in significant part on the financial strength of lenders, insurers and lead purchasers participating on our marketplaces and continuing relationships with such lenders, insurers and lead purchases. Network Partners could, for any reason, experience financial difficulties and cease participating on our marketplaces, fail to pay match and/or closing fees when due and/or drop the quality of their services to consumers. We could also have commercial or other disputes with such Network Partners from time to time. The occurrence of one or more of these events with a significant number of Network Partners could, alone or in combination, have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we fail to meet certain metrics required by Network Partners, then our business and financial results may be harmed.
We compete against other online marketing companies in significant part based on the quality and convertibility of the leads we generate. Network Partners have expectations as to the quality and conversion rate of the leads that we generate, and such expectations could change over time. The leads that we supply to Network Partners may not meet the expectations that they have for such leads. Conversion rates for leads may be impacted by factors other than the lead quality, many of which are outside our control. Such factors include competition in lending and insurance markets and sales and marketing practices of Network Partners. Failure to meet the expectations of Network Partners in terms of quality and convertibility of leads may result in reduced fees paid to us by such Network Partners, or in extreme cases, the loss of one or more Network Partners, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to maintain our reputation and brand recognition and attract and retain consumers in a cost-effective manner could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. As such, adverse publicity from litigation or governmental investigations could impact our business and financial condition and results of operations.
In order to attract visitors to our websites, convert these visitors into loan or other financial product requests for our Network Partners and lead purchasers and generate repeat visits from consumers, our businesses must promote and maintain
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their reputations and various brands. Brand promotion and maintenance requires the expenditure of considerable money and resources for online and offline advertising, marketing and related efforts, as well as the continued provision and introduction of high-quality products and services that meet the needs of consumers at competitive prices, the ability to maintain consumers' trust, and the ability to successfully differentiate our brand, products and services from those of our competitors.
Brand recognition is a key differentiating factor among providers of online services. We believe that continuing to build and maintain the recognition of our various brands is critical to achieving increased demand for the services provided by our businesses. Accordingly, we have spent, and expect to continue to spend, significant amounts on, and devote significant resources to, branding, advertising and other marketing initiatives, which may not be successful or cost-effective. Our brand promotion activities may not generate consumer awareness or yield increased revenue, and even if they do, any increased revenue may not offset the expenses we incur in building our brand.
Adverse publicity and the potential corresponding impact on our reputation may be accelerated and amplified by the widespread use of social media platforms. Furthermore, adverse publicity, from legal proceedings against us or our businesses, including governmental proceedings and consumer class action or other litigation, or the disclosure of information from security breaches or other incidents, could negatively impact our reputation and our various brands, which could materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition and results of operations. In addition, the actions of our third-party marketing partners who engage in advertising on our behalf could negatively impact our reputation and our various brands.
The failure of our businesses to maintain or enhance the reputation and recognition of their respective brands and attract and retain consumers in a cost-effective manner could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend on search engines, online advertising and other online sources to attract visitors to our websites, and if we are unable to attract these visitors and convert them into consumer requests for our Network Partners in a cost-effective manner, our business and financial results may be harmed.
Our success depends on our ability to attract online consumers to our websites and convert them into customers in a cost-effective manner. We depend, in part, on search engines, online advertising and other online sources for our website traffic. We are included in search results as a result of both paid search listings, where we purchase specific search terms that result in the inclusion of our advertisement, and, separately, organic searches, that depend upon the searchable content on our sites. Search engines and other online sources revise their algorithms, and introduce new advertising products, from time to time in an attempt to optimize their search results.
If one or more of the search engines or other online sources on which we rely for website traffic were to modify its general methodology for how it displays our websites, resulting in fewer consumers clicking through to our websites, our business could suffer. In addition, if our online advertisements are not able to reach certain consumers due to consumers' use of ad-blocking software or other ad-blocking capabilities, our business could suffer. Furthermore, if any free search engine traffic on which we rely begins charging fees for listing or placement, or if one or more of the search engines or other online sources on which we rely for purchased listings, modifies or terminates its relationship with us, our expenses could rise, we could lose customers, and traffic to our websites could decrease, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our credit card product offering is subject to particular risks.
adverse conditions in the economy may affect credit card issuers and their willingness to issue new credit;
credit losses among credit card issuers may increase beyond normal and budgeted levels which could cause a reduction in demand;
interest rate increases may make balance transfer cards less profitable for issuers;
credit card issuers and other advertisers in the business verticals in which we operate may be unwilling to advertise on our websites or mobile applications;
changes in application approval rates by credit card issuer customers;
increased competition and its effect on our website traffic, click-through rates, advertising rates, revenue, margins, and market share;
ability to provide competitive service to credit card issuers and to consumers using our online offerings and other platforms;
credit card issuers may determine that the online digital marketing channel is no longer a viable marketing platform for generating new credit card customers;
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our ability to maintain brand recognition for both LendingTree and CompareCards and to effectively leverage the LendingTree brand with the CompareCards brand; and
our ability to develop new products and services and enhance existing ones.
If our credit card product is impacted by the risks described above, then our results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Our insurance business, QuoteWizard, is significant to our revenue, and operational issues in this business could have a material impact on our results of operations.
The QuoteWizard business poses risks for our ongoing operations, including, among others:
adverse conditions in the economy may affect insurance carriers and their willingness to issue policies;
covered losses among insurance carriers may increase beyond normal and budgeted levels which could cause a reduction in demand for leads;
insurance carriers and other advertisers in the business verticals in which we or QuoteWizard operate may be unwilling to advertise on our or QuoteWizard’s websites or mobile applications;
major publishers may determine they no longer want QuoteWizard as an advertising partner;
changes in underwriting approval rates by insurance carrier customers;
increased competition and its effect on our or QuoteWizard’s website traffic, click-through rates, advertising rates, revenue, margins, and market share;
the cost of media may rise at a faster pace than QuoteWizard's monetization of traffic;
ability to provide competitive service to insurance carriers and to consumers using QuoteWizard’s and our online offerings and other platforms;
insurance carriers may determine that the online digital marketing channel is no longer a viable marketing platform for generating new insurance customers;
government regulatory agencies may hinder or disallow the operation of QuoteWizard's marketplace;
new government regulations and/or laws that affect the ability of private insurance carriers to market products directly to the consumer;
new government regulations and/or laws that would replace private insurance programs with government run programs;
our ability to maintain brand recognition for both LendingTree and QuoteWizard and to effectively leverage the LendingTree brand with the QuoteWizard brand;
our ability to develop new products and services and enhance existing ones;
our ability to retain key employees of QuoteWizard;
costs and expenses associated with any undisclosed or potential liabilities;
that the business acquired in the acquisition may not continue to perform as well as anticipated; and    
assumed liabilities associated with QuoteWizard’s historical operations, including liabilities arising from data privacy and security laws and regulations or security breaches.
If the QuoteWizard business is impacted by the risks described above, then our results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Our insurance agency businesses pose unique risks.
Our Medicare and Property and Casualty insurance agency businesses employ a different business model than the rest of our businesses and are subject to unique risks because of our role in selling insurance policies direct to consumers. In that role, we act as agents of insurance carriers or of other insurance agents, known as uplines, that we contract with. We must secure and maintain contracts with those carriers and agents, and our individual agents must be state-licensed. Our revenues are generated from sales commissions which are based upon the insurance premiums of policies sold and our models to determine the appropriate policies for consumers. Our models could be incorrect, and we could generate less revenue than expected. We could also lose appointments with carriers or uplines that affect our ability to sell policies and generate revenue. Carrier losses, which could result from increased repair time and costs due to inflation and supply chain issues in the automotive and housing
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industries, among other issues, could cause carriers to reduce commissions or increase premiums, both of which would have a negative effect on us. Insurance carriers could increase premiums to the point where we cannot profitably sell policies or consumers make the decision to forego the purchase of insurance. Our licensed insurance agents are critical to our agency business, and our inability to attract and retain effective agents or for them to obtain or retain their licenses to sell policies could have a negative impact on our results of operation.
Our personal loan product is a key product within our Consumer segment. If lenders participating on our marketplace decide to reduce their offerings of personal loans or if such loans become unattractive to consumers because of higher interest rates demanded by lenders or other reasons, then our results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Personal loans are unsecured obligations and generally carry shorter terms and smaller loan amounts than mortgages. Because they are unsecured, they are generally riskier assets for lenders than mortgages or other secured loans. Consumer demand for unsecured loans offered on our marketplace is often for refinancing of higher interest credit card debt or for a lower interest alternative to credit card debt for a contemplated large purchase that would otherwise be purchased with a credit card. Lenders participating on our marketplace may reduce their willingness to make personal loans at more attractive interest rates than credit card debt and may for that reason, or for any other reason, reduce their demand for requests generated from our personal loan marketplace. Reasons that lenders might reduce their willingness to make personal loans at attractive interest rates may include regulatory changes, stricter institutional lending criteria, a lack of adequate funding sources or capital for loan originations, or increased borrower default levels, which may occur upon adverse changes in regional, national or global economic conditions. Additionally, lenders may tighten their underwriting standards, making it more difficult for consumers to qualify for personal loans. Personal loan lenders are increasingly focused on profitability and are attempting to reduce their acquisition costs of new customers. If lenders participating on our marketplace decide to reduce their offerings of personal loans, tighten their underwriting standards, or if personal loans become unattractive to consumers because of higher interest rates demanded by lenders or other reasons, then our results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Any adverse changes in relationships with our Network Partners, or failure to meet certain metrics required by Network Partners, could adversely affect our business. Network Partners affiliated with our marketplaces are not precluded from offering products and services outside of our marketplaces, or obtaining products and services from our competitors.
Because our businesses do not have exclusive relationships with Network Partners, consumers may obtain loans, insurance and other financial products from these third-party service providers without having to use our marketplaces. Network Partners can offer loans, insurance and other financial products directly to consumers through their own marketing campaigns or other traditional methods of distribution, such as referral arrangements, physical store-front operations or broker agreements. Network Partners may also offer loans, insurance and other financial products and services to prospective customers online directly, through one or more online competitors of our businesses, or both. If a significant number of consumers seek loans, insurance and other financial products and services directly from Network Partners or through our competitors as opposed to through our marketplaces, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our business, and the ultimate impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including the scope and duration of the pandemic and actions taken by governmental authorities in response to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the global economy, disrupted global supply chains, created significant volatility and disruption in financial markets, and, at times, increased unemployment levels. In addition, the pandemic resulted in temporary closures of many businesses and the institution of various lockdown orders and sheltering in place requirements in many states and communities. As a result, the demand for our products, in particular in our Consumer segment, was significantly impacted. Our business operations may be disrupted if closures or lockdowns are reinstated or if significant portions of our workforce are unable to work effectively, including because of illness, quarantines, government actions, or other restrictions in connection with the pandemic. The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as our regulatory capital and liquidity ratios, will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including the scope and duration of the pandemic and actions taken by governmental authorities and other third parties in response to the pandemic.
Some of our products are new to the market and may fail to achieve or maintain customer acceptance and profitability.
We have launched a number of new products over the last several years. We do not have as much experience with these new products as with the other more mature products. Accordingly, new products may be subject to greater risks than our more mature products.
The success of our new products will depend on a number of factors, including:
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Implementing, at an acceptable cost, product features offered by our competitors and/or expected by consumers, lenders and lead purchasers;
Market acceptance by consumers, lenders and lead purchasers;
Offerings by current and future competitors;
Our ability to attract and retain management and other skilled personnel for these businesses;
Our ability to collect amounts owed to us from third parties;
Our ability to develop successful and cost-effective marketing campaigns; and
Our ability to timely adjust marketing expenditures in relation to changes in demand for the underlying products and services offered by our Network Partners.
Our results of operations may suffer if we fail to successfully anticipate and manage these issues associated with new products.
If we are unable to continually enhance our products and services and adapt them to technological changes and consumer and lender, insurer and/or lead purchaser needs, including the emergence of new computing devices and more sophisticated online services, we may lose market share and revenue and our business could suffer.
We need to anticipate, develop and introduce new products, services and applications on a timely and cost-effective basis that keep pace with technological developments and changing consumer and customer needs. For example, the number of individuals who access the internet through devices other than a personal computer, such as tablets, mobile telephones, voice assistants, televisions and set-top box devices has increased significantly and this trend is likely to continue. Because each manufacturer or distributor may establish unique technical standards for its devices, our websites may not be functional or viewable on these devices. Additionally, new devices and new platforms are continually being released. Consumers access many traditional web services on mobile devices through applications, or apps.
It is difficult to predict the problems we may encounter in improving our websites' functionality with these alternative devices or developing apps for mobile platforms. If we fail to develop our websites or apps to respond to these or other technological developments and changing consumer and customer needs cost effectively, or if consumers and customers respond negatively to changes, we may lose market share, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We improve our products and services in ways that forego short-term gains.
We are constantly striving to improve the user experience for our consumers who use our websites and applications and for our Network Partners. Some of our changes may have the effect of reducing our short-term revenue or profitability if we believe that the benefits will ultimately improve our financial performance over the long-term. Any short-term reductions in revenue or profitability could be more severe than we anticipate or these decisions may not produce the long-term benefits that we expect, in which case our business and results of operations could be adversely affected.
The intended benefits of acquisitions may not be realized.
Our acquisitions pose risks for our ongoing operations, including, among others:
that senior management’s attention may be diverted from the management of daily operations to the integration of the businesses acquired in the acquisition;
we may be unable to retain key employees of businesses acquired;
our ability to fully integrate the businesses acquired;
costs and expenses associated with any undisclosed or potential liabilities;
that the businesses acquired in the acquisition may not perform as well as anticipated;
adverse conditions in the economy may affect the lenders or insurance carriers or other customers of the acquired businesses and their willingness to issue new credit, write new policies or otherwise expand their businesses;
advertisers in the business verticals in which we or the acquired businesses operate may be unwilling to advertise on our websites or mobile applications;
increased competition and its effect on our or the acquired businesses' website traffic, click-through rates, submitted consumer requests, advertising rates, revenue, margins, and market share;
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our ability to maintain brand recognition for both us and the acquired businesses and to effectively leverage the LendingTree brand with the newly acquired brands;
our ability to develop new products and services and enhance existing ones;
assumed liabilities associated with the historical operations of the acquired businesses, including as a result of data privacy and security laws and regulations or security breaches.
As a result of the foregoing, our acquisitions may not be accretive to us in the near term or at all. Furthermore, if we fail to realize the intended benefits of the business acquired in the acquisition, the market price of our common stock could decline to the extent that the market price reflects an expectation of those benefits.
Other acquisitions or strategic investments that we pursue may not be successful and could disrupt our business and harm our financial condition.
We may consider or undertake strategic acquisitions of, or material investments in, businesses, products or technologies, such as our February 2020 acquisition of an equity interest in Stash. We may not be able to identify suitable acquisition or investment candidates, or even if we do identify suitable candidates, they may be difficult to finance, expensive to fund and there is no guarantee that we can obtain any necessary regulatory approvals or complete such transactions on terms that are favorable to us. To the extent we pay the purchase price of any acquisition or investment in cash or through borrowings under our Credit Facility (as defined herein), it would reduce our cash balances and/or result in indebtedness we must service, which may have a material and adverse effect on our business and financial condition. If the purchase price is paid with our stock, it would be dilutive to our stockholders. In addition, we may assume liabilities associated with a business acquisition or investment, including unrecorded liabilities that are not discovered at the time of the transaction, and the repayment of those liabilities may have a material and adverse effect on our financial condition. There may also be litigation or other claims arising in connection with an acquisition itself.
We may not be able to successfully integrate the personnel, operations, businesses, products or technologies of an acquisition or investment. Integration may be particularly challenging if we enter into a line of business in which we have limited experience and the business operates in a difficult legal, regulatory or competitive environment. We may find that we do not have adequate operations or expertise to manage the new business. The integration of any acquisition or investment may divert management's time and resources from our core business, which could impair our relationships with our current employees, customers and strategic partners and disrupt our operations. Acquisitions and investments also may not perform to our expectations for various reasons, including the loss of key personnel and/or customers. If we fail to integrate acquisitions or investments or realize the expected benefits, we may lose the return on these acquisitions or investments or incur additional transaction costs and our business and financial condition may be harmed as a result.
If we fail to manage our growth effectively, our business and results of operations could be harmed.
We have experienced rapid and significant growth in our headcount and operations, including as a result of acquisitions, which places substantial demand on management and our operational infrastructure. As we continue to grow, we must effectively integrate, develop and motivate a large number of new employees, while maintaining the beneficial aspects of our company culture. If we do not manage the growth of our business and operations effectively, the quality of our services and efficiency of our operations could suffer, which could harm our business and results of operations.
We rely on the performance of highly skilled personnel and if we are unable to attract, retain, develop and motivate well-qualified employees, our business and results of operations could be harmed.
We believe our success has depended, continues to and in the future will depend, on the efforts and talents of our management team and our highly skilled employees and workers, including our software engineers, analysts, marketing professionals and sales staff. Our future success depends on our continuing ability to attract, develop, motivate and retain highly qualified and skilled employees. The loss of any of our senior management or key employees could materially and adversely affect our ability to build on the efforts that they have undertaken and to execute our business plan, and we may not be able to find adequate replacements. Despite our current efforts, we cannot ensure that we will be able to retain the services of any members of our senior management or other key employees. If we do not succeed in attracting well-qualified employees or developing, retaining and motivating existing employees, our business and results of operations could be harmed.
Network Partners on our marketplaces may not provide competitive levels of service to consumers, which could materially and adversely affect our brands and businesses and their ability to attract consumers.
The ability of our businesses to provide consumers with a high-quality experience depends, in part, on consumers receiving competitive levels of convenience, customer service, price and responsiveness from Network Partners participating on our marketplaces with whom they are matched. If these providers do not provide consumers with competitive levels of
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convenience, customer service, price and responsiveness, the value of our various brands may be harmed, the ability of our businesses to attract consumers to our websites may be limited and the number of consumers matched through our marketplaces may decline, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
A significant portion of our total revenue has, in the past, derived from one Network Partner, and our results of operations could be adversely affected and stockholder value harmed if we lose significant business from this Network Partner.
For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, one Network Partner accounted for 15% and 12%, respectively, of total consolidated revenue, and this Network Partner remains a significant contributor to our total revenue. If this significant Network Partner were to cease purchasing consumer requests and we were unable to replace the associated demand, the loss could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations in the short term and potentially also the longer term. Also, if this Network Partner reduces its volume of consumer requests for any reason, our business could be adversely affected.
We have incurred significant operating losses in the past and we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to be profitable over the long term.
We have incurred operating losses from continuing operations at times in our history, and although we were profitable in 2021, we have an accumulated deficit of $571.8 million at December 31, 2021. If we fail to maintain or grow our revenue and manage our expenses, we may incur significant losses in the future and not be able to maintain profitability.
Our Credit Facility contains financial covenants and other restrictions on our actions, and it could therefore limit our operational flexibility or otherwise adversely affect our financial condition. Failure to comply with the terms of any such facility could impair our rights to the assets that have been pledged as collateral under the facility.
On September 15, 2021, we entered into a $200.0 million five-year senior secured revolving credit facility (the “Revolving Facility”) and a $250.0 million seven-year senior secured delayed draw term loan facility (the “Term Loan Facility” and together with the Revolving Facility, the “Credit Facility”). The Revolving Facility matures on September 15, 2026, and the Term Loan Facility matures on September 15, 2028. The delayed draw commitments under the Term Loan Facility will be available until June 1, 2022. Borrowings under the Credit Facility can be used to finance working capital needs, capital expenditures, and general corporate purposes, including to finance permitted acquisitions. As of February 28, 2022, we have outstanding a $0.2 million letter of credit under the Revolving Facility. No term loans have been drawn under the Term Loan Facility as of February 28, 2022.
The Credit Facility contains a restrictive financial covenant, which limits the amount of first lien consolidated debt to an EBITDA ratio subject to a step up following a material acquisition. In addition, the Credit Facility contains customary affirmative and negative covenants, including, subject to certain exceptions, restrictions on our ability to, among other things:
incur additional indebtedness;
grant liens;
make loans and investments;
enter into mergers or make certain fundamental changes;
make certain restricted payments, including dividends, distributions, stock repurchases or redemptions;
sell assets;
enter into transactions with affiliates; and
enter into restrictive transactions.
The Credit Facility requires us to pledge as collateral, subject to certain customary exclusions, substantially all of our assets. The obligations under this facility are unconditionally guaranteed, subject to certain customary exclusions, on a senior basis by our material domestic subsidiaries, which guaranties are secured, subject to certain customary exclusions, by substantially all of each such guarantor's assets.
If an event of default occurs or if we otherwise fail to comply with any of the negative or affirmative covenants of the Credit Facility, the lenders may declare all of the obligations and indebtedness under such facility due and payable. In such a scenario, the lenders could exercise their lien on the pledged collateral, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, operations, financial condition and liquidity. For additional information on the Credit Facility, see Note 15—Debt, in the notes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report.
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Risks Related to our Industry
We participate in a highly competitive market, and pressure from existing and new competitors may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. If any of our competitors are more successful than we are at attracting and retaining customers or Network Partners, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
We currently compete with a number of other online marketing companies and we expect that competition will intensify. We also face the possibility of new competitors. Some of these existing competitors may have more capital or complementary products or services than we do, and they may leverage their greater capital or diversification in a manner that adversely affects our competitive position, including by making strategic acquisitions. In addition, new competitors may enter the market and may be able to innovate and bring products and services to market faster, or anticipate and meet consumer or Network Partner demand before we do. Other newcomers, including major search engines and content aggregators, may be able to leverage their existing products and services or access to data to our disadvantage. We may be forced to expend significant resources to remain competitive with current and potential competitors. If any of our competitors are more successful than we are at attracting and retaining customers or Network Partners, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Risks Related to our Operations
Our success depends, in part, on the integrity of our systems and infrastructures. System interruption and the lack of integration and redundancy in these systems and infrastructures may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our success depends, in part, on our ability to maintain the integrity of our systems and infrastructures, including websites, information and related systems, call centers and distribution and fulfillment facilities. System interruption and the lack of integration and redundancy in our information systems and infrastructures may materially and adversely affect our ability to operate websites, process and fulfill transactions, respond to customer inquiries and generally maintain cost-efficient operations. We may experience occasional system interruptions that make some or all systems or data unavailable or prevent our businesses from efficiently providing services or fulfilling orders. We also rely on affiliate and third-party computer systems, broadband and other communications systems and service providers in connection with the provision of services generally, as well as to facilitate, process and fulfill transactions. Any interruptions, outages or delays in our systems and infrastructures, our businesses, our affiliates and/or third parties, or deterioration in the performance of these systems and infrastructures, could impair the ability of our businesses to provide services, fulfill orders and/or process transactions. Fire, flood, power loss, telecommunications failure, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, acts of war or terrorism, acts of God, unauthorized intrusions or computer viruses, and similar events or disruptions may damage or interrupt computer, broadband or other communications systems and infrastructures at any time. Any of these events could cause system interruption, delays and loss of critical data, and could prevent our businesses from providing services, fulfilling orders and/or processing transactions. While our businesses have backup systems and other resiliency measures in place for certain aspects of their operations, these systems are not fully redundant and disaster recovery planning is not sufficient for all eventualities. In addition, we may not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate for losses from a major interruption. If any of these events were to occur, it could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are continuously developing, updating, and rewriting critical platforms that support our business. The risks associated with this work include, but are not limited to, operational implementation, downtimes, and diversion of management and technical resources. If the work is more challenging or time consuming than expected, then our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Breaches or failures of our systems or website security, the theft, unauthorized access, acquisition, use, disclosure, modification or misappropriation of personal information, the occurrence of fraudulent activity, or other data security-related incidents may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the processing of consumer transactions, our businesses collect, use, store, disclose, transfer, and otherwise process a large volume of personal information and other confidential, proprietary and sensitive data. Breaches or failures of security involving our systems or website or those of any of our affiliates, Network Partners or external service providers have occurred in the past and may occur in the future, and have in the past resulted in, and could in the future result in, the theft, unauthorized access, acquisition, use, disclosure, modification or misappropriation of personal information of our consumers, employees or third parties with whom we conduct business, or other confidential, proprietary and sensitive data, fraudulent activity, or system disruptions or shutdowns. The occurrence of any actual or attempted breach, failure of security or fraudulent activity, the reporting of such an incident, whether accurate or not, or our failure to make adequate or timely disclosures to the public or law enforcement agencies following any such event, whether due to delayed discovery or a failure to follow existing protocols,
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could result in claims made against us or our affiliates, Network Partners or external service providers, which could result in state and/or federal litigation and related financial liabilities, as well as criminal penalties or civil liabilities, regulatory actions from state and/or federal governmental authorities, and significant fines, orders, sanctions, litigation and claims against us by consumers or third parties and related indemnification obligations. Actual or perceived security breaches or failures also have in the past caused, and may in the future cause, financial losses, increased costs, interruptions in the operations of our business, misappropriation of assets, significant damage to our brand and reputation with consumers and third parties with whom we do business, and result in adverse publicity, loss of consumer confidence, distraction to our management, and reduced sales and profits, any or all of which could have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Such breaches, failures and fraudulent activity may take many forms, including check fraud, fraudulent inducement, electronic fraud, wire fraud, computer viruses, phishing, social engineering, denial or degradation of service attacks, malware, ransomware or other cyber-attacks, and other dishonest acts, any of which could be the result of a circumvention or failure of our data security processes, procedures, tools, and controls. Our systems are also subject to compromise from internal threats, such as theft, misuse, unauthorized access or other improper actions by employees, external service providers and other third parties with otherwise legitimate access to our systems and website. Data security-related incidents and fraudulent activity are increasing in frequency and evolving in nature. We rely on a framework of security, processes, procedures, tools, and controls designed to protect our information and assets but, given the unpredictability of the timing, nature and scope of data security-related incidents and fraudulent activity, there can be no assurance that any security procedures and controls that we or our external service providers have implemented will be sufficient to prevent data security-related incidents or other fraudulent activity from occurring. Furthermore, because the methods of attack and deception change frequently, are increasingly complex and sophisticated, and can originate from a wide variety of sources, including third parties such as external service providers and even nation-state actors, despite our reasonable efforts to ensure the integrity of our systems and website, it is possible that we may not be able to anticipate, detect, appropriately react and respond to, or implement effective preventative measures against, all security breaches and failures and fraudulent activity. As a result, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
We also face risks associated with security breaches affecting third parties and their suppliers or partners (fourth parties) with whom we are affiliated or otherwise conduct business. Due to applicable laws and regulations or contractual obligations, we may be held responsible for any breach, failure or fraudulent activity attributed to our affiliates, Network Partners or external service providers as they relate to the information we share with them. In addition, because we do not control our Network Partners or external service providers and our ability to monitor their data security is limited, we cannot ensure the security measures they take will be sufficient to protect our information. We may be required to expend significant capital and other resources to protect against, respond to, and recover from any potential, attempted, or existing security breaches or failures and their consequences. As data security-related threats continue to evolve, we may be required to expend significant additional resources to continue to modify or enhance our protective measures or to investigate and remediate any information security vulnerabilities. In addition, our remediation efforts may not be successful. The inability to implement, maintain and upgrade adequate safeguards could have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, there could be public announcements regarding any data security-related incidents and any steps we take to respond to or remediate such incidents, and if securities analysts or investors perceive these announcements to be negative, it could, among other things, have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Consumers are generally concerned with security and privacy of the internet, and any publicized security problems affecting our businesses or those of third parties with whom we are affiliated or otherwise conduct business may discourage consumers from doing business with us, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
While we currently maintain cybersecurity insurance, such insurance may not be sufficient in type or amount to cover us against claims related to breaches, failures or other data security-related incidents, and we cannot be certain that cyber insurance will continue to be available to us on economically reasonable terms, or at all, or that any insurer will not deny coverage as to any future claim. The successful assertion of one or more large claims against us that exceed available insurance coverage, or the occurrence of changes in our insurance policies, including premium increases or the imposition of large deductible or co-insurance requirements, could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Related to Legal, Compliance and Regulation
Failure to comply with past, existing or new laws, rules and regulations, or to obtain and maintain required licenses, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We market and provide services in heavily regulated industries through a number of different channels across the United States. As a result, our businesses have been and remain subject to a variety of laws, rules, regulations, statutes, standards, policies and procedures in various jurisdictions in the United States and abroad, which are subject to change at any time. The failure of our businesses to comply with past, existing or new laws, rules and regulations, or to obtain and maintain required
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licenses, could result in administrative fines or proceedings against us or our businesses by governmental agencies and/or litigation by consumers, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our brand.
Our businesses conduct marketing activities via telephone, mail and/or through online marketing channels, and these general marketing activities are governed by numerous federal regulations, such as the TSR, the CAN-SPAM Act, the TCPA, the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and various state telemarketing laws, federal and state data privacy and security laws and their accompanying regulations and guidelines, among others. Additionally, increased regulation by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“CFPB”), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") and Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") has resulted in restrictions on our marketing activities.
Additional federal, state and in some instances, local laws regulate secured and unsecured lending, and insurance brokerage activities, and certain solicitation activities related to registered investment advisors, which impacts our marketplace, partners and consumers. These laws generally regulate the manner in which lending and lending-related activities, and insurance brokerage activities, and solicitation activities related to registered investment advisors are marketed or made available, including advertising and other consumer disclosures, payments for services and record keeping requirements; these laws include RESPA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Truth-in-Lending Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and various state laws. State laws often restrict the amount (and nature) of interest and fees that may be charged by a lender or mortgage broker, or otherwise regulate the manner in which lenders or mortgage brokers operate or advertise.
State and federal lending laws and regulations generally require accurate disclosure of the critical components of credit costs so that consumers can readily compare credit terms from various lenders. These laws and regulations also impose certain restrictions on the marketing and advertisement of these credit terms. Because we are an aggregator of rate and other information regarding many financial products, including mortgages, loans, deposits and credit cards, we may be subject to some of these laws and regulations and we may be held liable under these laws and regulations for information provided through our online services.
Our businesses are also subject to various state, federal and/or local laws, rules and regulations that regulate the amount and nature of fees that may be charged for transactions and incentives, such as rebates, that may be offered to consumers by our businesses, as well as the manner in which these businesses may offer, advertise or promote transactions. For example, RESPA generally prohibits the payment or receipt of referral fees and fee shares or splits in connection with residential mortgage loan transactions, subject to certain exceptions. The applicability of referral fee and fee sharing prohibitions to lenders and real estate providers, including online networks, may have the effect of reducing the types and amounts of fees that may be charged or paid in connection with real estate-secured loan offerings or activities, including mortgage brokerage, lending and real estate brokerage services, or otherwise limiting our and our Network Partners' ability to conduct marketing and referral activities.
Various federal, state and, in some instances, local, laws also prohibit unfair, deceptive and abusive marketing and sales practices. We have adopted appropriate policies and procedures to address these requirements (such as appropriate consumer disclosures and call scripting, call monitoring and other quality assurance and compliance measures), but it is not possible to ensure that all employees comply with our policies and procedures at all times.
Regulatory authorities and private plaintiffs may allege that we failed to comply with applicable laws, rules and regulations where we believe we have complied. These allegations may relate to past conduct and/or past business operations, such as our discontinued mortgage origination operation (which was subject to various state and local laws, rules and regulations). Even allegations that our activities have not complied or do not comply with all applicable laws and regulations may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The alleged violation of such laws, rules or regulations may entitle an individual plaintiff to seek monetary damages, or may entitle an enforcing government agency to seek significant civil or criminal penalties, costs and attorneys' fees. Regardless of its merit, an allegation typically requires legal fee expenditures to defend against. We have in the past and may in the future decide to settle allegations of non-compliance with laws, rules and regulations when we determine that the cost of settlement is less than the cost and risk of continuing to defend against an allegation. Settlements may require us to pay monetary fines and may require us to adopt new procedures and practices, which may render it more difficult to operate or may raise our internal costs. The future occurrence of one or more of these events could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Compliance with these laws, rules and regulations is a significant component of our internal costs, and new laws, rules and regulations are frequently proposed and adopted, requiring us to adopt new procedures and practices. Changes to existing laws, rules and regulations or changes to interpretation of existing laws, rules and regulations could result in further restriction of activities incidental to our business and could have a material and adverse effect on our business, results of operation and financial condition. Failure to comply with applicable laws and regulatory requirements may result in, among other things, revocation of or inability to renew required licenses or registrations, loss of approval status, termination of contracts without
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compensation, administrative enforcement actions and fines, private lawsuits, including those styled as class actions, cease and desist orders and civil and criminal liability.
Our collection, use, storage, disclosure, transfer and other processing of personal information could give rise to significant costs and liabilities, including as a result of governmental regulation, conflicting legal requirements or differing views of personal privacy rights, which may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the course of our operations and the processing of consumer transactions, our businesses collect, use, store, disclose, transfer and otherwise process a large volume of personal information, including from our consumers, employees and third parties with whom we conduct business, and other user data. The collection, use, storage, disclosure, transfer and other processing of personal information is increasingly subject to a wide array of federal and state laws and regulations regarding data privacy and security, including the GLBA, that are intended to protect the privacy of personal information that is collected, used, stored, disclosed, transferred and otherwise processed in or from the governing jurisdiction. Some countries, including India, also are considering or have passed legislation requiring local storage and processing of data, or similar requirements, which could increase the cost and complexity of delivering our products and services. As we seek to expand our business, we are, and may increasingly become, subject to various laws, regulations and standards, as well as contractual obligations, relating to data use, privacy and security in the jurisdictions in which we operate. In many cases, these laws and regulations apply not only to third-party transactions, but also to transfers of information between or among us, our affiliates and other parties with whom we conduct business. These laws, regulations and standards may be interpreted and applied differently over time and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and it is possible that they will be interpreted and applied in ways that may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The regulatory framework for data privacy and security worldwide is continuously evolving and developing and, as a result, interpretation and implementation standards and enforcement practices are likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future.
In the United States, various federal and state regulators, including governmental agencies, like the CFPB and FTC, have adopted, or are considering adopting, laws and regulations concerning personal information and data privacy and security. This patchwork of legislation and regulation may give rise to conflicts or differing views of personal privacy rights. For example, certain state laws may be more stringent or broader in scope, or offer greater individual rights, with respect to personal information than federal, international or other state laws, and such laws may differ from each other, all of which may complicate compliance efforts. At the federal level, we are subject to the GLBA, which restricts certain collection, storage, use, disclosure and other processing by covered companies of certain personal information, requires notice to individuals of privacy practices and provides individuals with certain rights to prevent the use and disclosure of certain non-public or otherwise legally protected personal information. The GLBA also imposes requirements regarding the safeguarding and proper destruction of personal information through the issuance of data security standards or guidelines. In addition, many states in which we operate have laws that protect the privacy and security of personal information. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (the "CCPA") requires covered companies to, among other things, provide certain disclosures to California residents and provide such residents with certain data protection and privacy rights, including the ability to opt-out of certain sales of personal information. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for certain data breaches that result in the loss of certain personal information. This private right of action may increase the likelihood of, and risks associated with, data breach litigation. The passage of the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”), which expands upon the CCPA, will bring additional compliance obligations with respect to certain processing of personal information of California residents once it comes into effect in most material respects on January 1, 2023. The CCPA and the CPRA contain several exemptions, including a provision to the effect that the CCPA and CPRA do not apply where the personal information is collected, processed, sold or disclosed pursuant to the GLBA. It is possible that further amendments to the CCPA and the CPRA will be enacted, but even in their current forms it remains unclear how various provisions of the CCPA and CPRA will be interpreted and enforced. Numerous other states also have enacted or are in the process of enacting state-level data privacy and security laws and regulations and there is discussion in Congress of a new federal data protection and privacy law to which we may become subject if it is enacted. All of these evolving compliance and operational requirements impose significant costs that are likely to increase over time, may require us to modify our data processing practices and policies, divert resources from other initiatives and projects, and could restrict the way products and services involving data are offered, all of which may have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Many statutory requirements, both in the United States and abroad, include obligations for companies to notify individuals of data breaches involving certain personal information, which have in the past resulted from and may in the future result from, breaches experienced by us or our external service providers. For example, laws in all 50 U.S. states require businesses to provide notice to consumers whose personal information has been disclosed as a result of a data breach. These laws are not consistent, and compliance in the event of a widespread data breach is difficult and may be costly. Moreover, states have been frequently amending existing laws, requiring attention to changing regulatory requirements. We also may be contractually required to notify consumers or other third parties of a security breach. Although we may have contractual protections with our
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external service providers, actual or perceived security breaches have in the past resulted in, and may in the future result in, harm to our reputation and brand, exposure to potential liability or a need to expend significant resources on data security and in responding to any such actual or perceived breach. Any contractual protections we may have from our external service providers may not be sufficient to adequately protect us from any such liabilities and losses, and we may be unable to enforce any such contractual protections.
In addition to government regulation, privacy advocates and industry groups have and may in the future propose self-regulatory standards from time to time. These and other industry standards may legally or contractually apply to us, or we may elect to comply with such standards. We expect that there will continue to be new proposed laws and regulations concerning data privacy and security, and we cannot yet determine the impact such future laws, regulations and standards may have on our business. New laws, amendments to or re-interpretations of existing laws, regulations, standards and other obligations may require us to incur additional costs and restrict our business operations. Because the interpretation and application of laws, regulations, standards and other obligations relating to data privacy and security are still uncertain, it is possible that these laws, regulations, standards and other obligations may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our data processing practices and policies or the features of our products and services. If so, in addition to the possibility of fines, lawsuits, regulatory investigations, public censure, other claims and penalties, and significant costs for remediation and damage to our reputation, we could be materially and adversely affected if legislation or regulations are expanded to require changes in our data processing practices and policies or if governing jurisdictions interpret or implement their legislation or regulations in ways that negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. We may be unable to make such changes and modifications in a commercially reasonable manner, or at all. Any inability to adequately address data privacy or security-related concerns, even if unfounded, or to comply with applicable laws, regulations, standards and other obligations relating to data privacy and security, could result in additional cost and liability to us, harm our reputation and brand, damage our relationships with consumers and have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We make public statements about our use and disclosure of personal information through our privacy policies, information provided on our website and press statements. Although we endeavor to comply with our public statements and documentation, we may at times fail to do so or be alleged to have failed to do so. The publication of our privacy policies and other statements that provide promises and assurances about data privacy and security can subject us to potential government or legal action if they are found to be deceptive, unfair or misrepresentative of our actual practices. Moreover, from time to time, concerns may be expressed about whether our products and services compromise the privacy of consumers and others. Any concerns about our data privacy and security practices, even if unfounded, could damage the reputation of our businesses, discourage potential users from our products and services and have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any failure or perceived failure by us or our Network Partners or external service providers to comply with our posted privacy policies or with any applicable federal, state or foreign laws, regulations, standards, certifications or orders relating to data privacy or security or consumer protection, or any compromise of security that results in the theft, unauthorized access, acquisition, use, disclosure, or misappropriation of personal information or other user data, could result in fines or proceedings or litigation by governmental agencies or consumers, including class action privacy litigation in certain jurisdictions, which would subject us to significant awards, penalties or judgments, one or all of which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if our practices are not consistent, or viewed as not consistent, with legal and regulatory requirements, including changes in laws, regulations and standards or new interpretations or applications of existing laws, regulations and standards, we may also become subject to audits, inquiries, whistleblower complaints, adverse media coverage, investigations, or severe criminal or civil sanctions, all of which may affect our financial condition, operating results and our reputation.
We may become subject to intellectual property disputes, which are costly and may subject us to significant liability and increased costs of doing business.
From time to time, in the ordinary course of business we are subjected to actual and threatened legal proceedings, claims and counterclaims, including allegations relating to infringement of the patents, trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property and similar proprietary rights, and misappropriation of trade secrets, of third parties. Our success depends, in part, on our ability to develop and commercialize our products and services without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property rights of third parties. However, we may not be aware or we may disagree that our products or services are infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating third-party intellectual property rights and such third parties may bring claims alleging such infringement, misappropriation or violation. Lawsuits are often time-consuming and expensive to resolve and they may divert management’s time and attention. Patent litigation tends to be particularly protracted and expensive. Our technologies may not be able to withstand any third-party claims against their use.
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In addition, many companies may have the capability to dedicate substantially greater resources to enforce their intellectual property rights and to defend claims that may be brought against them. If a third party is able to obtain an injunction preventing us from accessing third-party intellectual property rights, or if we cannot license or develop alternative technology for any infringing aspect of our business, we may be forced to limit or stop sales of our products and services or cease business activities related to such intellectual property. Our insurance may not cover potential claims of this type or may not be adequate to indemnify us for all liability that may be imposed. We cannot predict the outcome of lawsuits and cannot ensure that the results of any such actions will not have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of intellectual property-related litigation or proceedings could adversely affect our ability to compete in the marketplace. Any intellectual property litigation to which we might become a party, or for which we are required to provide indemnification, may require us to do one or more of the following:
cease selling or using products or services that incorporate the intellectual property rights that we allegedly infringe, misappropriate or violate;
make substantial payments for legal fees, settlement payments or other costs or damages;
obtain a license, which may not be available on reasonable terms or at all, to sell or use the relevant technology; or
redesign or rebrand the allegedly infringing products or services to avoid infringement, misappropriation or violation, which could be costly, time-consuming or impossible.
Any litigation of this nature, regardless of outcome or merit, could result in substantial costs and diversion of management and technical resources, any of which could materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, during the course of litigation there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock or other adverse consequences.
Failure to obtain proper business licenses or other documentation or to otherwise comply with local laws and requirements regarding marketing, sales or services, may result in civil or criminal penalties and restrictions on our ability to conduct business in that jurisdiction.
Most states require licenses to solicit, broker or make loans secured by residential mortgages and other consumer loans to residents of those states, as well as to operate real estate referral and brokerage services, and in many cases require the licensure or registration of individual employees engaged in aspects of these businesses. Further, as mandated by the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement of Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (the "SAFE Act"), states adopted certain minimum standards for the licensing of individuals involved in mortgage lending or loan brokering. States also require licenses to undertake certain insurance brokerage activities, and state or federal licensure or registration is required to undertake solicitation activities involving registered investment advisors. Compliance with these requirements may render it more difficult for us and our Network Partners to operate or may raise our internal costs or the costs of our Network Partners, which may be passed on to us through less favorable commercial arrangements. While our businesses have endeavored to comply with applicable requirements, the application of these requirements to persons operating online is not always clear. Moreover, any of the licenses or rights currently held by our businesses or our employees may be revoked prior to, or may not be renewed upon, their expiration. In addition, our businesses or our employees may not be granted new licenses or rights for which they may be required to apply from time to time in the future.
Regulations promulgated by some states may also impose compliance obligations on directors, executive officers, and any person who acquires a certain percentage (for example, 10% or more) of the equity in a licensed entity, including requiring such persons to periodically file financial and other personal and business information with state regulators. If any such person refuses or fails to comply with these requirements, we may be unable to obtain certain licenses and existing licensing arrangements may be jeopardized. The inability to obtain, or the loss of, required licenses could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Unanticipated changes in effective tax rates or adverse outcomes resulting from examination of our income or other tax returns could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
The impact of the changes in tax legislation on future years may be material to our consolidated financial statements. Similarly, changes in tax laws and regulations that impact our Network Partners or the economy generally may also impact our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to varying interpretations, and any significant failure to comply with applicable tax laws and regulations in all relevant jurisdictions could give rise to substantial penalties and liabilities. Any changes in enacted tax laws, rules or regulatory or judicial interpretations (including any attempt to tax online services such as those offered by us); any adverse outcome in connection with tax audits in any jurisdiction; or any change in the pronouncements relating to accounting for income taxes could materially and adversely impact our effective tax rate, tax payments, financial condition and results of operations.
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Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be limited.
As of December 31, 2021, we had pre-tax consolidated federal net operating losses (“NOLs”) of $220.1 million. The federal NOLs no longer expire under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ("TCJA"). Our NOLs will be available to offset taxable income subject to the limitations found in Internal Revenue Code Sections 382 and 383. In addition, we have state NOLs of approximately $542.7 million at December 31, 2021, that will expire at various times between 2022 and 2041. The state NOLs could expire before we are able to utilize them. If we experience one or more ownership changes in the future as a result of future transactions in our stock, our ability to utilize NOLs could be limited. Our ability to use our NOLs was limited on an annual basis by the TCJA. This limitation was deferred for tax years 2019 and 2020 by the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act.
We may fail to adequately obtain, maintain, enforce and protect our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights or may be accused of infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating intellectual property or similar proprietary rights of third parties.
We regard our intellectual property rights, including our patents, trademarks, service marks, copyrights, domain names, trade secrets and similar intellectual property and proprietary rights (as applicable), as critical to our success. Our businesses also rely heavily upon software, informational databases and other components that make up their products and services.
We rely on a combination of laws, confidentiality procedures and contractual restrictions with employees, consumers, suppliers, affiliates and others to establish and protect our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights. However, the steps we take to obtain, maintain, enforce and protect our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights may be inadequate. We may not be able to protect our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights if we are unable to enforce our rights or if we do not detect unauthorized use of our intellectual property or similar proprietary rights. If we fail to protect our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights adequately, third parties, including our competitors, may gain access to our intellectual property and proprietary technology and develop and commercialize substantially identical products, services or technologies, which would harm our business, financial condition and results of operations. Despite the precautions we have in place, it may be possible for a third party to copy or otherwise obtain and use our intellectual property, including our trade secrets, without authorization. In addition, third parties may independently and lawfully develop substantially similar intellectual property.
In some cases, litigation or other actions may be necessary to protect or enforce our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights or to determine the validity and scope of intellectual or proprietary rights claimed by others. Defending, protecting and enforcing our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights might entail significant expense or be time-consuming or distracting to management. Further, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights may be met with defenses, counterclaims, and countersuits attacking the validity and enforceability of our intellectual property rights, and if such defenses, counterclaims or countersuits are successful, we could lose valuable intellectual property rights. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential or sensitive information could be compromised by disclosure in the event of litigation.
We have generally registered and continue to apply to register, or secure by contract when appropriate, our principal trademarks and service marks as they are developed and used, and reserve and register domain names when and where we deem appropriate. We generally consider the protection of our trademarks to be important for purposes of brand maintenance and reputation. While we strive to protect our trademarks, service marks and domain names, effective trademark protection may not be available, and contractual disputes may affect the use of marks governed by private contract. Similarly, not every variation of a domain name may be available or be registered, even if available. Our failure to protect our intellectual property rights in a meaningful manner or challenges to related contractual rights could result in erosion of our brand names and reputation, and limit our ability to control marketing on or through the Internet using our various domain names or otherwise, which could materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. The value of our intellectual property could diminish if others assert rights in or ownership of our trademarks and other intellectual property rights, or trademarks that are similar to our trademarks. We may be unable to successfully resolve these types of conflicts to our satisfaction.
We have been granted one U.S. patent and from time to time we may have patent applications pending with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and various foreign patent authorities for various proprietary technologies and other inventions. The status of any patent involves complex legal and factual questions, and the breadth of claims allowed is uncertain. Accordingly, any patent application filed may not result in a patent being issued, or existing or future patents may not be adjudicated valid by a court or be afforded adequate protection against competitors with similar technology. Even if we continue to seek patent protection in the future, we may be unable to obtain or maintain patent protection for our technology. In addition, any patents issued from pending or future patent applications or licensed to us in the future may not provide us with competitive advantages, or may be successfully challenged by third parties. Likewise, the issuance of a patent to us does not mean that our processes or inventions will be found not to infringe upon patents or other intellectual property rights of third parties. There may be issued patents of which we are not aware, held by third parties that, if found to be valid and enforceable,
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could be alleged to be infringed by our current or future processes or inventions. There also may be pending patent applications of which we are not aware that may result in issued patents, which could be alleged to be infringed by our current or future processes or inventions. Moreover, third parties may create new products or methods that achieve similar results without infringing upon patents that we own.
Any patents, trademarks or other intellectual property rights that we have or may obtain may be challenged or circumvented by others or invalidated or held unenforceable through administrative process, including re-examination, inter partes review, interference and derivation proceedings and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (e.g., opposition proceedings) or litigation. Furthermore, legal standards relating to the validity, enforceability, and scope of protection of intellectual property rights are often uncertain. Patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret protection may not be available to us. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries may not be as protective of intellectual property rights as those in the United States, and mechanisms for enforcement of intellectual property rights may be inadequate. As we expand our activities, our exposure to unauthorized copying and use of our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights will likely increase. Moreover, policing unauthorized use of our intellectual property and similar proprietary rights may be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, particularly in foreign countries where the laws may not be as protective of intellectual property rights as those in the United States and where mechanisms for enforcement of intellectual property rights may be weak. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may be unable to prevent third parties from infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating our intellectual property or similar proprietary rights.
We cannot ensure that all persons and entities contributing to our intellectual property have validly assigned to us all applicable intellectual property rights they may have or that we will be able to enforce our rights under any such agreements. Moreover, we cannot guarantee that we have entered into confidentiality agreements with each party that has or may have had access to our confidential or proprietary information, know-how and trade secrets, or that any such confidentiality agreements will be effective in controlling access to, and distribution, use, misuse, misappropriation, reverse engineering or disclosure of, our confidential or proprietary information, know-how and trade secrets. These agreements may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach.
In the ordinary course of business, we are party to litigation involving contract, intellectual property and a variety of other claims, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
We are involved in various legal proceedings and claims involving taxes, contract, alleged infringement of third-party intellectual property rights, consumer protection, securities laws, and other claims, including, but not limited to, the legal proceedings described in Part I, Item 3, Legal Proceedings. These matters could involve claims for substantial amounts of money or for other relief that might necessitate changes to our business or operations. The defense of these actions has been, and will likely continue to be, both time consuming and expensive, and the outcomes of these actions cannot be predicted with certainty. Determining reserves for pending litigation is a complex, fact-intensive process that requires significant legal judgment. It is possible that unfavorable outcomes in one or more such proceedings could result in substantial payments that could adversely affect our business, consolidated financial position, results of operations, or cash flows in a particular period.
Our reputation, ability to do business and financial statements may be harmed by improper conduct by our business partners.
Our business partners (or businesses we acquire or partner with) may violate U.S. and/or non-U.S. laws, including the laws governing payments to government officials, bribery, fraud, kickbacks and false claims, pricing, sales and marketing practices, conflicts of interest, competition, employment practices and workplace behavior, export and import compliance, money laundering and data privacy and security. Our business partners typically act as independent contractors and not as agents in their solicitations and transactions with consumers, and we cannot ensure that these entities will comply with applicable laws and regulations at all times. Failure on the part of a lender, insurer, website operator or other third party to comply with applicable laws or regulations could result in, among other things, claims of vicarious liability or a negative impact on our reputation and business.
If our Network Partners fail to produce required documents for examination by, or other affiliated parties fail to make certain filings with, state regulators, we may be subject to fines, forfeitures and the revocation of required licenses.
Some of the states in which our businesses maintain licenses require us to collect various loan documents from our Network Partners and produce these documents for examination by state regulators. While our Network Partners are contractually obligated to provide these documents upon request, these measures may be insufficient. Failure to produce required documents for examination could result in fines, as well as the revocation of our licenses to operate in certain states, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
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If we fail to maintain an effective system of disclosure controls and internal control over financial reporting, our ability to produce timely and accurate financial statements or comply with applicable regulations could be impaired.
In the event that our chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or independent registered public accounting firm determines in the future that our internal control over financial reporting is not effective as defined under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we could be subject to one or more investigations or enforcement actions by state or federal regulatory agencies, stockholder lawsuits or other adverse actions requiring us to incur defense costs, pay fines, settlements or judgments, thereby causing investor perceptions to be adversely affected and potentially resulting in restatement of our financial statements for prior periods and a decline in the market price of our stock.
In addition, our current internal controls and any new controls we implement may become inadequate because of changes in conditions in our business or information technology systems or changes in the applicable laws, regulations and standards. We may, in the future, acquire companies that were not subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations prior to acquisition and accordingly were not required to establish and maintain an internal control infrastructure meeting the standards promulgated under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Any failure to design or operate effective controls, any difficulties encountered in their implementation or improvement, or any failure to implement adequate internal controls for our acquired companies could harm our operating results or cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. Not correctly designing controls nor fully recognizing, understanding or testing the state of or changes in our internal control environment could also adversely affect the results of management evaluations and independent registered public accounting firm audits of our internal control over financial reporting, about which we are required to include in our periodic reports filed with the SEC. Ineffective disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial and other information, which would likely have a negative effect on the trading price of our common stock. In addition, if we are unable to continue to meet these requirements, we may not be able to remain listed on the Nasdaq stock market in the future.
We may be exposed to liabilities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our operations in India may subject us to compliance with various laws and regulations, including the FCPA and similar anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws, which generally prohibit companies and their intermediaries from engaging in bribery or making other improper payments to private or public parties for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or gaining an unfair business advantage. The FCPA also requires proper record keeping and characterization of such payments in our reports filed with the SEC. Violations of these laws could result in severe criminal or civil sanctions and financial penalties and other consequences that may have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in the regulation of the Internet, mobile carriers and their partners could negatively affect our business.
Our business is dependent on the continued growth and maintenance of the Internet’s infrastructure, as well as our ability to market products through channels such as e-mail and voice and text messaging. There can be no assurance that the Internet’s infrastructure will continue to be able to support the demands placed on it by sustained growth in the number of users and amount of traffic. To the extent that the Internet’s infrastructure is unable to support the demands placed on it, our business may be impacted. We may also be disadvantaged by the adverse effect of any delays or cancellations of private sector or government initiatives designed to expand broadband access. The reduction in the growth of, or a decline in, broadband and Internet access poses a risk to us.
In addition, federal, state and international government bodies and agencies have in the past adopted, and may in the future adopt, laws and regulations affecting the use of the Internet as a commercial medium. Changes in these laws or regulations could adversely affect the demand for our products and services or require us to modify our products and services in order to comply with these changes. Laws, rules and regulations governing advertising and e-commerce through Internet communications and mobile carriers and their partners are dynamic, and the extent of future government regulation is uncertain. Federal and state regulations govern various aspects of our online business, including intellectual property ownership, infringement and misappropriation, including with respect to trade secrets, the distribution of electronic communications, marketing and advertising, data privacy and security, search engines and Internet tracking technologies. Future taxation on the use of the Internet or e-commerce transactions could also be imposed. Existing or future regulation or taxation could hinder growth in or negatively impact the use of the Internet generally, including the viability of Internet e-commerce, which could reduce our revenue, increase our operating expenses and expose us to significant liabilities.
The possibility of additional future regulations, changing rule interpretations and examinations by regulatory agencies may result in more stringent compliance standards and could adversely affect the results of our operations.
In response to conditions in the U.S. financial markets and economy, as well as a heightened regulatory and Congressional focus on consumer and small business lending and consumer investing, regulators have increased their scrutiny of the financial services industry, the result of which has included new regulations and guidance. We are unable to predict the long-term impact
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of this enhanced scrutiny. We are also unable to predict whether any additional or similar changes to statutes or regulations, including the interpretation or implementation thereof, will occur in the future. Likewise, states or municipalities may adopt statutes or regulations making it unattractive, impracticable or infeasible for our businesses to continue to conduct business in such jurisdictions. The impact of additional future regulations and/or withdrawal from any jurisdiction due to emerging legal requirements could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Related to an Investment in our Common Stock
Fluctuations in our operating results, quarter to quarter earnings and other factors may result in significant decreases in the price of our common stock.
The market price for our common stock has been volatile, as the trading volume has fluctuated and may continue to fluctuate, causing significant price variations to occur. From when we became a publicly-traded company to as of December 31, 2021, the price per share of our common stock has fluctuated from an intra-day low of $1.42 per share to an intra-day high of $434.94 per share. The market price of our common stock may fluctuate or decline significantly in the future. Some of the factors that could negatively affect the price of our common stock or result in fluctuations in the price or trading volume of our common stock include:
our ability to attract new customers and retain existing customers;
the timing and success of introductions of new services;
rapid technological change, frequent new product introductions and evolving industry standards;
variations in our quarterly operating and financial results or our projected operating and financial results;
failure to meet analysts' earnings estimates;
publication of research reports about us, our Network Partners or our industry;
additions or departures of key management personnel;
adverse market reaction to any indebtedness we may incur or preferred or common stock we may issue in the future;
actions by stockholders, including "activist" investors;
changes in market valuations of other companies in our industry, including our Network Partners and competitors;
announcements by us or our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, dispositions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments;
increased competition from one or more large, well-established technology companies;
systems, data center, website and internet failures, breaches and service interruptions;
speculation in the press or investment community, including the short selling of our common stock;
changes or proposed changes in laws or regulations affecting our industry or enforcement of these laws and regulations, or announcements relating to these matters;
threatened or actual ligation;
loss of key employees;
changes in estimated fair value of contingent consideration related to acquisitions; and
changes in general economic or market conditions.
The stock market is subject to frequent price and volume fluctuations. These market fluctuations could result in extreme volatility in the trading price of our common stock, which could cause a decline in the value of your investment in our common shares. In addition, the trading price of our common stock could decline for reasons unrelated to our business or financial results, including in reaction to events that affect other companies in our industry even if those events do not directly affect us. You should also be aware that price volatility may be greater if the public float and trading volume of our common stock are low. These factors may result in short-term or long-term negative pressure on the value of our common stock.
If securities or industry analysts publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for internet marketplace operators and lead-generation companies depends, in part, on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about the industry and specific companies. If one or more analysts covering
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us currently or in the future fail to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our common stock could decline, which could cause our stock price and trading volume to decline. If one or more recognized securities or industry analysts that cover our company or our industry in the future downgrades our common stock or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business or industry, our stock price would likely decline.
One holder of our common stock owns a substantial portion of our outstanding common stock, which concentrates voting control and limits your ability to influence corporate matters.
As of February 18, 2022, Douglas Lebda, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, beneficially owned approximately 16% of our outstanding common stock. Additionally, Mr. Lebda holds options to purchase a maximum of 1,271,300 shares that are not included in beneficial ownership because Mr. Lebda does not have the right to acquire them within 60 days. If these options were exercisable, they would represent additional beneficial ownership of approximately 7% of our outstanding common stock.
Therefore, for the foreseeable future, Mr. Lebda will have influence over our management and affairs and all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election or removal (with or without cause) of directors and approval of any significant corporate transaction, such as a merger or other sale of us or our assets. The interests of Mr. Lebda may not necessarily align with the interests of our other stockholders. Mr. Lebda could elect to sell a significant interest in us and you may receive less than the then-current fair market value or the price you paid for your shares as a result of such transaction. This concentrated control could delay, defer or prevent a change of control, merger, consolidation, takeover or other business combination involving us that other stockholders may otherwise support. This concentrated control could also discourage a potential investor from acquiring our common stock and might harm the market price of our common stock.
Future sales of common stock by our existing stockholders may cause our stock price to fall.
The market price of our common stock could decline as a result of sales by our existing stockholders in the market, or the perception that these sales could occur. These sales might also make it more difficult for us to sell equity securities at a time and price that we deem appropriate.
We may issue additional shares of our common stock in the future pursuant to current or future equity incentive plans, or in connection with current or future acquisitions or financings. If we were to raise capital in the future by selling shares of our common stock, or securities that are convertible into our common stock or issuing shares of our common stock in a business acquisition, their issuance would have a dilutive effect on the percentage ownership of our stockholders and, depending on the prices at which such shares or convertible securities are sold or issued, on their investment in our common stock and, therefore, could have a material adverse effect on the market prices of our common stock.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could make an acquisition of us more difficult, limit attempts by stockholders to replace or remove our management and affect the market price of our common stock.
Provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws, as amended and restated, may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control or changes in our management. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and/or amended and restated bylaws include provisions that:
Authorize our board of directors to issue, without further action by our stockholders, up to five million shares of undesignated preferred stock, sometimes referred to as "blank check preferred";
Prohibit cumulative voting in the election of directors;
Provide that vacancies on our board of directors may be filled only by the affirmative vote of a majority of directors then in office or by the sole remaining director;
Provide that only our board of directors may change the size of our board of directors;
Specify that special meetings of our stockholders may be called only by or at the direction of our board of directors or by a person specifically designated with such authority by the board; and
Prohibit stockholders from taking action by written consent.
The provisions described above may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors, which is responsible for appointing our management. These provisions may also have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control of our company, even if stockholders support such a change of control.
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We do not intend to pay any cash dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future.
We have not declared or paid a cash dividend on our common stock during the eight most recent fiscal years. We have no current intention to declare or pay cash dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future. In addition, the Credit Facility contains certain restrictions on our ability to pay dividends. See Note 15—Debt, in the notes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. The declaration, payment and amount of future cash dividends, if any, will be at the discretion of our board of directors. As a result, capital appreciation, if any, of our common stock will be the sole source of gain for the foreseeable future for holders of our common stock.
Our financial results fluctuate as a result of seasonality, which may make it difficult to predict our future performance and may adversely affect our common stock price.
Several of our products are subject to seasonal trends. Products in our Home segment have seasonal trends that reflect the general patterns of the mortgage industry and housing sales, which typically peak in the spring and summer seasons and decline in the winter. Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate as a result of these seasonal trends. In certain historical periods, broader cyclical trends in interest rates, as well as the mortgage and real estate markets, have upset the customary seasonal trends. Our Consumer and Insurance segments also have certain products with various seasonality trends which may create further uncertainty in our quarterly operating results. See Item 1. Business—Seasonality included elsewhere in this annual report for more information. Any of these seasonal trends, or the combination of them, may negatively impact the price of our common stock.
The conditional conversion feature of our outstanding convertible senior notes, if triggered, may adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.
If the conditional conversion feature of our 0.50% Convertible Senior Notes due July 15, 2025 (the “2025 Notes”) and 0.625% Convertible Senior Notes due June 1, 2022 (the “2022 Notes”, and, together with the 2025 Notes, the “Notes”) is triggered, holders of Notes will be entitled to convert the Notes at any time during specified periods at their option. Convertibility for each quarter will be determined based on whether the last reported sales price of our common stock, for at least 20 trading days (whether or not consecutive) during the period of 30 consecutive trading days ending on, and including, the last trading day of the immediately preceding calendar quarter, is greater than or equal to 130% of the conversion price under the Notes on each applicable trading day. If so, then the Notes will be convertible during that calendar quarter. The Notes will also be convertible at any time during the five business day period immediately following any five consecutive trading day period in which the trading price per $1,000 principal amount of Notes for each trading Day of such five trading day period is less than 98% of the product of the last reported sale price of our common stock on each such trading day and the conversion ratio under the Notes, as more fully described in the respective indentures governing the Notes, which are incorporated by reference as an exhibit to this annual report.
If one or more holders elect to convert their Notes, unless we elect to satisfy our conversion obligation by delivering solely shares of our common stock (other than paying cash in lieu of delivering any fractional share), we would be required to settle a portion or all of our conversion obligation through the payment of cash, which could adversely affect our liquidity. In addition, even if holders do not elect to convert their Notes, we could be required under applicable accounting rules to reclassify all or a portion of the outstanding principal of the respective Notes as a current rather than long-term liability, which would result in a material reduction of our net working capital.
We may not have the ability to raise the funds necessary to settle conversions of the Notes in cash or to repurchase the Notes upon a fundamental change, and our future debt may contain limitations on our ability to pay cash upon conversion or repurchase of the Notes.
Holders of the Notes will have the right to require us to repurchase all or a portion of their Notes upon the occurrence of a fundamental change at a repurchase price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the Notes to be repurchased, plus accrued and unpaid special interest, if any. We may not have enough available cash or be able to obtain financing at the time we are required to make repurchases of Notes surrendered therefore, or pay cash with respect to Notes being converted if we elect not to issue shares, which could harm our reputation and affect the trading price of our common stock.
Our hedge and warrant transactions may affect the value of the Notes and our common stock.
In connection with the pricing of the Notes, we entered into convertible note hedge transactions with certain counterparties. The hedge transactions are generally expected to reduce the potential dilution upon conversion of the Notes and/or offset any cash payments we are required to make in excess of the principal amount of converted Notes, as the case may be. We also entered into warrant transactions with such counterparties. However, the warrant transactions could separately have a dilutive effect to the extent that the market price per share of our common stock exceeds the applicable strike price of the warrants. The
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initial strike price of the warrants is $709.52 for the warrants associated with the 2025 Notes and $266.39 for the warrants associated with the 2022 Notes.
In connection with establishing their initial hedge of the hedge and warrant transactions, the counterparties or their respective affiliates may have purchased shares of our common stock and/or entered into various derivative transactions with respect to our common stock concurrently with or shortly after the pricing of the Notes. In addition, the counterparties or their respective affiliates may modify their hedge positions by entering into or unwinding various derivatives with respect to our common stock and/or purchasing or selling our common stock or other securities of ours in secondary market transactions prior to the maturity of the Notes (and are likely to do so during any observation period related to a conversion of Notes or following any repurchase of Notes by us on any fundamental repurchase date or otherwise). This activity could cause or avoid an increase or a decrease in the market price of our common stock or the Notes.
The accounting method for our convertible senior notes and warrants issued could have a material adverse effect on our reported financial results.
In August 2020, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") issued Accounting Standards Update ("ASU") 2020-06, which simplifies the accounting for convertible instruments, amends the derivatives scope exception guidance for contracts in an entity’s own equity, and amends the related earnings-per-share guidance. These amendments are required to be adopted in reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2021. We expect these amendments to impact the accounting for our convertible senior notes and warrants issued. Subsequent to adoption, these amendments are expected to result in an increase to the carrying value of the debt liability, and lower dilutive earnings per share, compared to the historical method of accounting.
We may need additional equity, debt or other financing in the future, which we may not be able to obtain on acceptable terms, or at all, and any additional financing may result in restrictions on our operations or substantial dilution to our stockholders.
We may need to raise funds in the future, for example, to develop new technologies, expand our business, respond to competitive pressures and make acquisitions. We may try to raise additional funds through public or private financings, strategic relationships or other arrangements. Although our existing credit facility limits our ability to incur additional indebtedness, these restrictions are subject to a number of qualifications and exceptions and may be amended with the consent of our lenders. Accordingly, under certain circumstances, we may incur substantial additional debt.
Our ability to obtain debt or equity funding will depend on a number of factors, including market conditions, interest rates, our operating performance, our credit rating and investor interest. Additional funding may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If adequate funds are not available, we may be required to reduce expenditures, including curtailing our growth strategies, foregoing acquisitions or reducing our business development efforts. If we succeed in raising additional funds through the issuance of equity or equity-linked securities, then existing stockholders could experience substantial dilution. If we raise additional funds through the issuance of debt securities or preferred stock, these new securities would have rights, preferences and privileges senior to those of the holders of our common stock. In addition, any such issuance could subject us to restrictive covenants relating to our capital raising activities and other financial and operational matters, which may make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities, including potential acquisitions. Further, to the extent we incur additional indebtedness or such other obligations, the risks associated with our existing debt, including our possible inability to service our existing debt, would increase.
General Risk Factors
If our goodwill or indefinite-lived intangible assets become impaired, we may be required to record a significant charge to earnings.
Under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America ("GAAP"), we review the carrying value of goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets on an annual basis as of October 1, or more frequently if an event occurs or circumstances change that would more likely than not reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying value. Factors that may be considered a change in circumstances, indicating that the carrying value of our goodwill or indefinite-lived intangible assets may not be recoverable, include a decline in stock price and market capitalization, reduced future cash flow estimates and slower growth rates in our industry or our customers' industries. We may be required to record a significant charge in our financial statements during a period in which any impairment of our goodwill or indefinite-lived intangible assets is determined, negatively impacting our results of operations.
If the fair value of our equity investments decrease, we will be required to record a significant charge to earnings.
Our equity investments do not have readily determinable fair values and, upon acquisition, we elected the measurement alternative to value these securities. These equity securities are carried at cost and subsequently marked to market upon
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observable market events with any gains or losses recorded in operating income in the consolidated statement of operations. If there is an observable market event that indicates a decrease in the fair value of our equity investments, we will be required to record a significant charge in our financial statements, negatively impacting our results of operations.
Charges to earnings resulting from acquisitions may adversely affect our operating results.
Under GAAP, when we acquire businesses, we allocate the purchase price to tangible assets and liabilities and identifiable intangible assets acquired at their acquisition date fair values. Any residual purchase price is recorded as goodwill. We also estimate the fair value of any contingent consideration. Our estimates of fair value are based upon assumptions believed to be reasonable but which are uncertain and involve significant judgments by management. After we complete an acquisition, the following factors could result in material charges and adversely affect our operating results and may adversely affect our cash flows:
costs incurred to combine the operations of companies we acquire, such as transitional employee expenses and employee retention or relocation expenses;
impairment of goodwill or intangible assets;
a reduction in the useful lives of intangible assets acquired;
impairment of long-lived assets;
identification of, or changes to, assumed contingent liabilities;
changes in the fair value of any contingent consideration;
charges to our operating results due to duplicative pre-merger activities;
charges to our operating results from expenses incurred to effect the acquisition; and
charges to our operating results due to the expensing of certain stock awards assumed in an acquisition.
Substantially all of these potential charges would be accounted for as expenses that would decrease our net income and earnings per share for the periods in which those costs are incurred. Charges to our operating results in any given period could differ substantially from other periods based on the timing and size of our acquisitions and the extent of acquisition accounting adjustments.
For acquisitions with potential future contingent consideration payments, we assign a fair value to the contingent consideration and reassess this fair value quarterly. Increases or decreases based on the actual performance of the acquired company against the contingent consideration targets or other factors will cause decreases or increases, respectively, in our results of operations. These quarterly adjustments could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. During 2021, 2020 and 2019, we incurred $(8.2) million, $5.3 million and $28.4 million, respectively, of contingent consideration expense due to the change in estimated fair value of the earnout payments.
ITEM 1B.  Unresolved Staff Comments
Not applicable.
ITEM 2.  Properties
Our principal executive offices are located on approximately 176,000 square feet of office space in Charlotte, North Carolina under a lease that expires in 2036. We have an additional Charlotte office located on approximately 27,800 square feet under a lease that expires in 2024.
Primarily as a result of our acquisitions in recent years, we also operate offices in: Charleston, South Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; New York City, New York; Rancho Cordova, California; San Mateo, California; Seattle, Washington; Tampa, Florida; Beachwood, Ohio; and Makarba, India.
Our Charlotte operations support all three of our segments: Home, Consumer and Insurance. Our Home segment is also supported by our San Mateo office. The Consumer segment has personnel in the Charleston, Chicago, Jacksonville, New York City, San Mateo, and Makarba offices. The Insurance segment has personnel in the Denver, New York City, Rancho Cordova, Tampa, Beachwood, and Seattle offices.
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ITEM 3.  Legal Proceedings
In the ordinary course of business, we are party to litigation involving property, contract, intellectual property and a variety of other claims. The amounts that may be recovered in such matters may be subject to insurance coverage. See Note 17Contingencies and Note 21—Discontinued Operations in the notes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for a discussion of our current and recently settled litigation.
ITEM 4.  Mine Safety Disclosures
Not applicable.
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PART II
ITEM 5.  Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
General Market Information, Holders and Dividends
Our common stock is quoted on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol "TREE". As of February 18, 2022, there were approximately 528 holders of record of our common stock.
We have no current intention to declare or pay cash dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future. The declaration, payment and amount of future cash dividends, if any, will be at the discretion of our board of directors.
Performance Graph
The performance graph shall not be deemed "filed" for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act or incorporated by reference into any filings under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, except as otherwise expressly set forth by specific reference in such filing.
Set forth below is a line graph, for the period from December 31, 2016 through December 31, 2021, comparing the cumulative total stockholder return of $100 invested (assuming that all dividends were reinvested) in (1) our common stock, (2) the cumulative return of all companies listed on the Nasdaq Composite Index and (3) the cumulative total return of the Research Development Group ("RDG") Internet index. Returns over the indicated periods should not be considered indicative of future stock prices or stockholder returns.
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Unregistered Sales of Equity Securities and Use of Proceeds
During the year ended December 31, 2021, we did not issue or sell any shares of our common stock or other equity securities in transactions that were not registered under the Securities Act.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
In each of February 2018 and February 2019, the board of directors authorized and we announced a stock repurchase program which allowed for the repurchase of up to $100.0 million and $150.0 million, respectively, of our common stock. Under this program, we can repurchase stock in the open market or through privately-negotiated transactions. We have used available cash to finance these repurchases. We will determine the timing and amount of any additional repurchases based on our evaluation of market conditions, applicable SEC guidelines and regulations, and other factors. This program may be suspended or discontinued at any time at the discretion of our board of directors. During the quarter ended December 31, 2021, 334,253 shares of common stock were repurchased under the stock repurchase program. As of February 18, 2022, approximately $121.7 million is authorized for future share repurchases.
Additionally, the LendingTree Seventh Amended and Restated 2008 Stock Plan approved by our stockholders on June 9, 2021 allows, and the LendingTree 2017 Inducement Grant Plan terminated by us in April 2021 allowed, employees to forfeit shares of our common stock to satisfy federal and state withholding obligations upon the exercise of stock options, the settlement of restricted stock unit awards and the vesting of restricted stock awards granted to those individuals under the plans. During the quarter ended December 31, 2021, 8,637 shares were purchased related to these obligations under the LendingTree Seventh Amended and Restated 2008 Stock Plan and 1,085 shares were purchased related to these obligations under the LendingTree 2017 Inducement Grant Plan. The withholding of those shares does not affect the dollar amount or number of shares that may be purchased under the stock repurchase program described above.
The following table provides information about the Company's purchases of equity securities during the quarter ended December 31, 2021.
Period
Total Number of
Shares Purchased (1)
Average Price
Paid per Share
Total Number of
Shares Purchased as
Part of Publicly
Announced Plans or
Programs (2)
Approximate
Dollar Value of Shares
that May Yet be
Purchased Under the
Plans or Programs
(in thousands)
10/1/21 - 10/31/216,472 $151.73 — $179,673 
11/1/21 - 11/30/21141,399 $128.22 141,225 $161,566 
12/1/21 - 12/31/21196,104 $113.55 193,028 $139,665 
Total343,975 $120.30 334,253 $139,665 
(1)During October 2021, November 2021 and December 2021, 6,472 shares, 174 shares and 3,076 shares, respectively (totaling 9,722 shares), were purchased to satisfy federal and state withholding obligations of our employees upon the settlement of restricted stock units and restricted stock awards, all in accordance with our Seventh Amended and Restated 2008 Stock Plan and 2017 Inducement Grant Plan, as described above.
(2)See the narrative disclosure above the table for further description of our publicly announced stock repurchase program.
ITEM 6.  [Reserved]
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ITEM 7.  Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes included elsewhere within this report. This discussion includes both historical information and forward-looking information that involves risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Our actual results may differ materially from management's expectations as a result of various factors, including but not limited to those discussed in the sections entitled "Risk Factors" and "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information."
Company Overview
LendingTree, Inc. is the parent of LT Intermediate Company, LLC, which holds all of the outstanding ownership interests of LendingTree, LLC, and LendingTree, LLC owns several companies.
We operate what we believe to be the leading online consumer platform that connects consumers with the choices they need to be confident in their financial decisions. Our online consumer platform provides consumers with access to product offerings from our Network Partners, including mortgage loans, home equity loans and lines of credit, reverse mortgage loans, auto loans, credit cards, deposit accounts, personal loans, student loans, small business loans, insurance quotes, sales of insurance policies and other related offerings. In addition, we offer tools and resources, including free credit scores, that facilitate comparison shopping for loans, deposit products, insurance and other offerings. We seek to match consumers with multiple providers, who can offer them competing quotes for the product, or products, they are seeking. We also serve as a valued partner to lenders and other providers seeking an efficient, scalable and flexible source of customer acquisition with directly measurable benefits, by matching the consumer inquiries we generate with these Network Partners.
Our My LendingTree platform offers a personalized comparison-shopping experience by providing free credit scores and credit score analysis. This platform enables us to monitor consumers' credit profiles and then identify and alert them to loans and other offerings on our marketplace that may be more favorable than the terms they may have at a given point in time. This is designed to provide consumers with measurable savings opportunities over their lifetimes.
We are focused on developing new product offerings and enhancements to improve the experiences that consumers and Network Partners have as they interact with us. By expanding our portfolio of financial services offerings, we are growing and diversifying our business and sources of revenue. We intend to capitalize on our expertise in performance marketing, product development and technology, and to leverage the widespread recognition of the LendingTree brand, to effect this strategy.
We believe the consumer and small business financial services industry is still in the early stages of a fundamental shift to online product offerings, similar to the shift that started in retail and travel many years ago and is now well established. We believe that like retail and travel, as consumers continue to move towards online shopping and transactions for financial services, suppliers will increasingly shift their product offerings and advertising budgets toward the online channel. We believe the strength of our brands and of our partner network place us in a strong position to continue to benefit from this market shift.
The LendingTree Loans business is presented as discontinued operations in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets, consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive income (loss) and consolidated cash flows for all periods presented. Except for the discussion under the heading "Discontinued Operations," the analysis within Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations reflects our continuing operations.
Economic Conditions
During March 2020, a global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization related to the rapidly growing outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic has significantly impacted the economic conditions in the U.S., as federal, state and local governments react to the public health crisis, creating significant uncertainties in the U.S. economy. The downstream impact of various lockdown orders and related economic pullback are affecting our business and marketplace participants to varying degrees. We are continuously monitoring the impacts of the current economic conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Of our three reportable segments, the Consumer segment was most impacted as unsecured credit and the flow of capital in certain areas of the market have contracted. The impact to our Home and Insurance segments was much less substantial. We believe our three reporting segments have generally recovered from the impact of the pandemic. Most of our selling and marketing expenses are variable costs that we adjust dynamically in relation to revenue opportunities to profitably meet demand. Thus, as our revenue was negatively impacted during the recession, our marketing expenses generally decreased in line with revenue.
Segment Reporting
We have three reportable segments: Home, Consumer and Insurance.
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Recent Business Acquisitions
On February 28, 2020, we acquired an equity interest in Stash for $80.0 million. On January 6, 2021 we acquired an additional equity interest for $1.2 million. Stash is a consumer investing and banking platform. Stash brings together banking, investing, and financial services education into one seamless experience offering a full suite of personal investment accounts, traditional and Roth IRAs, custodial investment accounts, and banking services, including checking accounts and debit cards with a Stock-Back® rewards program. In the fourth quarter of 2021, we sold a portion of our investment in Stash for $46.3 million, realizing a gain on the sale of $27.9 million.
On January 10, 2019, we acquired ValuePenguin, a personal finance website that offers consumers objective analysis on a variety of financial topics from insurance to credit cards, for $106.2 million. Combining ValuePenguin’s high-quality content and search engine optimization capability with proprietary technology and insurance carrier network from QuoteWizard enables us to provide immense value to insurance carriers and agents. This strategic acquisition positions us to achieve further scale in the insurance space as well as the broader financial services industry.
These acquisitions continue our diversification strategy.
Recent Mortgage Interest Rate Trends
Interest rate and market risks can be substantial in the mortgage lead generation business. Short-term fluctuations in mortgage interest rates primarily affect consumer demand for mortgage refinancings, while long-term fluctuations in mortgage interest rates, coupled with the U.S. real estate market, affect consumer demand for new mortgages. Consumer demand, in turn, affects lender demand for mortgage leads from third-party sources, as well as our own ability to attract online consumers to our website.
Typically, when interest rates decline, we see increased consumer demand for mortgage refinancing, which in turn leads to increased traffic to our website and decreased selling and marketing efforts associated with that traffic. At the same time, lender demand for leads from third-party sources typically decreases, as there are more consumers in the marketplace seeking refinancings and, accordingly, lenders receive more organic mortgage lead volume. Due to lower lender demand, our revenue earned per consumer typically decreases, but with correspondingly lower selling and marketing costs.
Conversely, when interest rates increase, we typically see decreased consumer demand for mortgage refinancing, leading to decreased traffic to our website and higher associated selling and marketing efforts associated with that traffic. At the same time, lender demand for leads from third-party sources typically increases, as there are fewer consumers in the marketplace and, accordingly, the supply of organic mortgage lead volume decreases. Due to high lender demand, we typically see an increase in the amount lenders will pay per matched lead, which often leads to higher revenue earned per consumer. However, increases in the amount lenders will pay per matched lead in this situation is limited by the overall cost models of our lenders, and our revenue earned per consumer can be adversely affected by the overall reduced demand for refinancing in a rising rate environment.
We dynamically adjust selling and marketing expenditures in all interest rate environments to optimize our results against these variables.
According to Freddie Mac, 30-year mortgage interest rates steadily decreased from a monthly average of 4.46% in January 2019, ending at a monthly average of 3.72% in December 2019. The declining trend continued into 2020, largely as a result of stimulus efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning at a monthly average of 3.62% in January 2020 and ending at a monthly average of 2.68% in December 2020. During 2021, 30-year mortgage interest rates steadily increased from a monthly average of 2.74% in January 2021, ending at a monthly average of 3.10% in December.
On a full-year basis, 30-year mortgage interest rates decreased to an average 2.96% in 2021, compared to 3.11% and 3.94% in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

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Typically, as mortgage interest rates decline, there are more consumers in the marketplace seeking refinancings and, accordingly, the mix of mortgage origination dollars will move towards refinance mortgages. According to Mortgage Bankers Association ("MBA") data, total refinance origination dollars increased from 38% of total 2019 mortgage origination dollars to 60% in 2020, then remained relatively consistent at 59% in 2021 as a result of the general trend in average mortgage interest rates. Total refinance origination dollars increased by 109% in 2020 over 2019 and decreased by 11% in 2021 over 2020. Industry-wide mortgage origination dollars increased by 59% in 2020 over 2019 and decreased by 3% in 2021 over 2020.
Looking forward, the MBA is projecting 30-year mortgage interest rates to increase slightly in 2022 to an average 4.0%. According to MBA projections, the mix of mortgage origination dollars is expected to move back towards purchase mortgages with the refinance share representing just 33% for 2022.
The U.S. Real Estate Market
The health of the U.S. real estate market and interest rate levels are the primary drivers of consumer demand for new mortgages. Consumer demand, in turn, affects lender demand for purchase mortgage leads from third-party sources. Typically, a strong real estate market will lead to reduced lender demand for leads, as there are more consumers in the marketplace seeking financing and, accordingly, lenders receive more organic lead volume. Conversely, a weaker real estate market will typically lead to an increase in lender demand, as there are fewer consumers in the marketplace seeking mortgages. 
According to Fannie Mae data, existing-home sales in 2019 remained consistent with 2018 levels, which had decreased due to limited inventory of homes for sale and rising interest rates. In 2020, existing home sales grew by 6% over 2019, fueled by increased competition for low inventory as well as an increase in first-time home buyers. This trend continued into 2021 with existing home sales growing 9% over 2020. Fannie Mae expects a 5% decrease in existing home sales in 2022.
Convertible Senior Notes and Hedge and Warrant Transactions
On July 24, 2020, we issued $575.0 million aggregate principal amount of our 0.50% Convertible Senior Notes due July 15, 2025 and, in connection therewith, entered into Convertible Note Hedge and Warrant transactions with respect to our common stock.
On May 31, 2017, we issued $300.0 million aggregate principal amount of our 0.625% Convertible Senior Notes due June 1, 2022 and, in connection therewith, entered into Convertible Note Hedge and Warrant transactions with respect to our common stock. On July 24, 2020, a portion of the net proceeds from the issuance of the 2025 Notes was used to repurchase approximately $130.3 million principal amount of the 2022 Notes. A portion of the call spread transactions associated with the 2022 Notes was also terminated on July 24, 2020 in notional amounts corresponding to the principal amount of the 2022 Notes repurchased.
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For more information, see Note 15—Debt, in the notes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report.
North Carolina Office Properties
Our principal executive office is located on approximately 176,000 square feet of office space in Charlotte, North Carolina under an approximate 15-year lease that commenced in the second quarter of 2021.
With our expansion in North Carolina, in December 2016, we received a grant from the state that provides an aggregate amount up to $4.9 million in reimbursements through 2029 beginning in 2017 for investing in real estate and infrastructure in addition to increasing jobs in North Carolina at specific targeted levels through 2021, and maintaining the jobs thereafter. Additionally, the city of Charlotte and the county of Mecklenburg provided a grant that will be paid over five years and is based on a percentage of new property tax we pay on the development of a corporate headquarters. In December 2018, we received an additional grant from the state that provides an aggregate amount up to $8.4 million in reimbursements through 2032 beginning in 2021 for increasing jobs in North Carolina at specific targeted levels through 2024, and maintaining the jobs thereafter.
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Results of Operations for the Years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020
For information on fiscal 2019 results and similar comparisons, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations for the Years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 of our Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
 Year Ended December 31,2021 vs. 2020
 20212020$
Change
%
Change
 (Dollars in thousands)
Home$441,738 $320,992 $120,746 38 %
Consumer329,945 253,198 76,747 30 %
Insurance326,153 333,765 (7,612)(2)%
Other663 2,035 (1,372)(67)%
Revenue1,098,499 909,990 188,509 21 %
Costs and expenses: 
Cost of revenue (exclusive of depreciation and amortization shown separately below)
57,297 54,494 2,803 %
Selling and marketing expense773,990 617,404 156,586 25 %
General and administrative expense153,472 129,101 24,371 19 %
Product development52,865 43,636 9,229 21 %
Depreciation17,910 14,201 3,709 26 %
Amortization of intangibles42,738 53,078 (10,340)(19)%
Change in fair value of contingent consideration(8,249)5,327 (13,576)(255)%
Severance53 295 (242)(82)%
Litigation settlements and contingencies392 (943)1,335 142 %
Total costs and expenses1,090,468 916,593 173,875 19 %
Operating income (loss)8,031 (6,603)14,634 222 %
Other (expense) income, net: 
Interest expense, net(46,867)(36,300)10,567 29 %
Other income123,272 376 122,896 32,685 %
Income (loss) before income taxes84,436 (42,527)126,963 299 %
Income tax (expense) benefit(11,298)19,961 (31,259)(157)%
Net income (loss) from continuing operations73,138 (22,566)95,704 424 %
Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax(4,023)(25,689)(21,666)(84)%
Net income (loss) and comprehensive income (loss)$69,115 $(48,255)$117,370 243 %
Revenue
Revenue increased in 2021 compared to 2020 due to increases in our Home and Consumer segments, partially offset by decreases in our Insurance segment.
Our Consumer segment includes the following products: credit cards, personal loans, small business loans, student loans, auto loans, deposit accounts, and other credit products such as credit repair and debt settlement. Many of our Consumer segment products are not individually significant to revenue. Revenue from our Consumer segment increased $76.7 million in 2021 from 2020, or 30%, primarily due to increases in our personal loans, small business loans products, and credit cards.
Revenue from our personal loans product increased $43.6 million to $110.1 million in 2021 from $66.5 million in 2020, or 66%, primarily due to an increase in revenue earned per consumer, and an increase in the number of consumers completing request forms.

For the periods presented, no other products in our Consumer segment represented more than 10% of revenue; however, certain other Consumer products experienced notable changes. Revenue from our small business loans product increased $21.5 million in 2021 compared to 2020, due to loosening underwriting standards and improved flow of capital, as well as an
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increase in revenue earned per consumer. Revenue from our credit cards product increased $16.1 million in 2021 compared to 2020 due to an increase in the number of approvals and an increase in revenue earned per approval.
Revenue from our Insurance segment decreased $7.6 million to $326.2 million in 2021 from $333.8 million in 2020, or 2%, due to a decrease in revenue earned per consumer, partially offset by an increase in the number of consumers seeking insurance coverage.
Our Home segment includes the following products: purchase mortgage, refinance mortgage, home equity loans and lines of credit, reverse mortgage loans, and real estate. Revenue from our Home segment increased $120.7 million in 2021 from 2020, or 38%, primarily due to increases in revenue from our refinance mortgage, purchase mortgage, and home equity loans products.
Revenue from our refinance mortgage product increased $65.5 million in 2021 compared to 2020, primarily due to an increase in revenue earned per consumer, partially offset by a decrease in the number of consumers completing request forms. Revenue from our purchase mortgage product and our home equity loans and lines of credit product increased $24.5 million and $31.5 million, respectively, in 2021 compared to 2020. Revenue from our purchase mortgage product and home equity loans and lines of credit product increased due to a shift in both lender and consumer focus away from refinance products as well as an increase in revenue earned per consumer.
While we believe our three reportable segments have generally recovered from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are continuously monitoring the impacts of the pandemic on the economy and any potential future impacts to our segment revenue.
Our Other category primarily includes revenue from the resale of online advertising space to third parties. Revenue in the Other category decreased $1.4 million in 2021 compared to 2020, as we ceased reselling online advertising space during the first quarter of 2020.
Cost of revenue
Cost of revenue consists primarily of costs associated with compensation and other employee-related costs (including stock-based compensation) relating to internally-operated customer call centers, third-party customer call center fees, costs for online advertising resold to third parties, credit scoring fees, credit card fees, website network hosting and server fees.
Cost of revenue increased in 2021 from 2020, primarily due to increases in compensation and benefits, website network hosting and server fees, and call center technology of $3.7 million, $1.5 million, and $1.5 million, respectively, partially offset by a $3.3 million decrease in credit card fees.
Cost of revenue as a percentage of revenue decreased to 5% in 2021 compared to 6% in 2020.
Selling and marketing expense
Selling and marketing expense consists primarily of advertising and promotional expenditures and compensation and other employee-related costs (including stock-based compensation) for personnel engaged in sales or marketing functions. Advertising and promotional expenditures primarily include online marketing, as well as television, print and radio spending. Advertising production costs are expensed in the period the related ad is first run.
The increase in selling and marketing expense in 2021 compared to 2020 was primarily due to the increases in advertising and promotional expense discussed below. Additionally, compensation and benefits increased $7.7 million in 2021 compared to 2020.
Advertising and promotional expense is the largest component of selling and marketing expense, and is comprised of the following:
Year Ended December 31,2021 vs. 2020
 20212020$
Change
%
Change
 (Dollars in thousands)
Online$687,976 $539,910 $148,066 27 %
Broadcast8,738 13,415 (4,677)(35)%
Other19,925 14,423 5,502 38 %
Total advertising expense$716,639 $567,748 $148,891 26 %
Revenue is primarily driven by Network Partner demand for our products, which is matched to corresponding consumer requests. We adjust our selling and marketing expenditures dynamically in relation to anticipated revenue opportunities in order
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to ensure sufficient consumer inquiries to profitably meet such demand. An increase in a product’s revenue is generally met by a corresponding increase in marketing spend, and conversely a decrease in a product’s revenue is generally met by a corresponding decrease in marketing spend. This relationship exists for our Home, Consumer and Insurance segments.
We adjusted our advertising expenditures in 2021 compared to 2020 in response to changes in Network Partner demand on our marketplace as they recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic discussed above. We will continue to adjust selling and marketing expenditures dynamically in relation to this and in response to anticipated revenue opportunities.
General and administrative expense
General and administrative expense consists primarily of compensation and other employee-related costs (including stock-based compensation) for personnel engaged in finance, legal, tax, corporate information technology, human resources and executive management functions, as well as facilities and infrastructure costs and fees for professional services. 
General and administrative expense increased in 2021 compared to 2020, primarily due to increases in compensation and benefits, technology expense, and facilities expense of $18.0 million, $4.0 million, and $2.1 million, respectively. This was partially offset by decrease in professional fees of $2.3 million. Losses on the disposal of assets also increased $2.3 million in 2021 compared to 2020.
Non-cash compensation expense within general and administrative expense increased in 2021, which resulted in reductions in net income from continuing operations in 2021 compared to historical periods. For additional information, see Note 13—Stock-Based Compensation in the notes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report. Non-cash compensation expense is excluded from Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization ("Adjusted EBITDA"), as discussed below.
General and administrative expense as a percentage of revenue remained consistent at 14% for each of 2021 and 2020.
Product development
Product development expense consists primarily of compensation and other employee-related costs (including stock-based compensation) and third-party labor costs that are not capitalized, for employees and consultants engaged in the design, development, testing and enhancement of technology. 
Product development expense increased in 2021 compared to 2020 as we continued to invest in internal development of new and enhanced features, functionality and business opportunities that we believe will enable us to better and more fully serve consumers and Network Partners.
Depreciation
The increase in depreciation expense in 2021 compared to 2020 was primarily the result of higher investment in internally developed software in recent years, to support the growth of our business.
Contingent consideration
During 2021, we recorded aggregate contingent consideration gains of $8.2 million due to adjustments in the estimated fair value of the earnout payment related to the QuoteWizard acquisition for which the earnout period ended in 2021.
During 2020, we recorded aggregate contingent consideration expense of $5.3 million due to adjustments in the estimated fair value of the earnout payments related to our recent acquisitions. For 2020, the net contingent consideration expense for the QuoteWizard, Ovation, and SnapCap acquisitions was $4.0 million, $1.3 million and $0.1 million, respectively.
Interest expense
Interest expense increased in 2021 compared to 2020 primarily due to the issuance of the 0.50% Convertible Senior Notes due July 15, 2025 (the “2025 Notes”) as well as the partial repurchase of the 2022 Notes in July 2020. Interest expense was recognized on the 2025 Notes for the entire year of 2021, compared to the partial period in 2020. This incremental interest expense was partially offset by lower interest expense on the 2022 Notes in 2021 compared to 2020 as a result of the July 2020 partial repurchase of the notes. The overall increase was further offset by the loss on debt extinguishment of $7.8 million recognized in July 2020, noted above. See Note 15—Debt for additional information on the issuance of the 2025 Notes and the partial repurchase of the 2022 Notes.
Other Income
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During 2021, we sold a portion of our investment in Stash and realized a gain of $27.9 million. Additionally, we recorded unrealized gains of $95.4 million as a result of an adjustment to the fair value of the Stash equity securities still held by us based on observable market events.
Income tax benefit
 Year Ended December 31,
 20212020
(in thousands, except percentages)
Income tax (expense) benefit$(11,298)$19,961 
Effective tax rate13.4 %46.9 %
For 2021, the effective tax rate varied from the federal statutory rate of 21% in part due to the benefit derived from excess tax deductions from exercise of stock options of $11.7 million, including state taxes and from research and experimentation ("R&D") tax credits of $3.2 million, partially offset by expense due to nondeductible executive compensation of $3.1 million and incremental valuation allowance on state net operating losses of $0.6 million, primarily due to state legislative changes.
For 2020, the effective tax rate varied from the federal statutory rate of 21% in part due to the benefit derived from excess tax deductions from the vesting of restricted stock and exercise of stock options of $2.5 million, including state taxes. The effective tax rate for 2020 was also impacted by a tax benefit of $6.1 million for the impact of the CARES Act, as described below.
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act. This legislation is an economic relief package in response to the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and includes various provisions that impact us, including, but not limited to, modifications for net operating losses, accelerated timeframe for refunds associated with prior minimum taxes and modifications of the limitation on business interest.
We revalued deferred tax assets related to net operating losses in light of the changes in the CARES Act and recorded a net tax benefit of $6.1 million during 2020. These deferred tax assets have been revalued, as they have been carried back to 2016 and 2017, which are tax periods prior to the TCJA when the federal statutory tax rate was 35% versus the 21% federal statutory tax rate in effect after the enactment of the TCJA.
Discontinued Operations
The results of discontinued operations include the results of the LendingTree Loans business formerly operated by our wholly-owned subsidiary, HLC. The sale of substantially all of the assets of HLC, including the LendingTree Loans business, was completed on June 6, 2012. HLC filed a petition under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code on July 21, 2019, which was converted to Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code on September 16, 2019.
As a result of the voluntary bankruptcy petition, as of the initial July 21, 2019 bankruptcy petition filing date, HLC and its consolidated subsidiary were deconsolidated from LendingTree’s consolidated financial statements. The effect of such deconsolidation was the elimination of the consolidated assets and liabilities of HLC (and its consolidated subsidiary) from LendingTree’s consolidated balance sheets.
During the HLC bankruptcy, a bar date for claims against HLC was set, establishing a deadline for all HLC's creditors to assert any claim they may have had against HLC. Distributions were made to holders of allowed claims deemed timely filed. After all distributions to creditors were made and HLC's Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate was fully administered, the HLC bankruptcy case was closed on July 14, 2021.
Prior to the bankruptcy filing, losses from the LendingTree Loans business were primarily due to litigation settlements and contingencies and legal fees associated with legal proceedings.
The results of discontinued operations include litigation settlements and contingencies and legal fees associated with legal proceedings against LendingTree, Inc. or LendingTree, LLC that arose due to the LendingTree Loans business or the HLC bankruptcy filing.
See Note 21—Discontinued Operations to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for more information, including the accounting effect of HLC’s bankruptcy filing on our consolidated financial statements.
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Segment Profit
 Year Ended December 31,2021 vs. 2020
 20212020$
Change
%
Change
 (Dollars in thousands)
Home$153,352 $132,123 $21,229 16 %
Consumer143,497 106,890 36,607 34 %
Insurance113,464 131,142 (17,678)(13)%
Other53 (682)735 108 %
Segment profit$410,366 $369,473 $40,893 11 %
Segment profit is our primary segment operating metric. Segment profit is calculated as segment revenue less segment selling and marketing expenses attributed to variable costs paid for advertising, direct marketing and related expenses that are directly attributable to the segments' products. See Note 22—Segment Information in the notes to the consolidated financial statements for additional information on segments and a reconciliation of segment profit to pre-tax income from continuing operations.
HOME
The Home segment had an increase in revenue and segment profit of 38% and 16%, respectively in 2021 compared to 2020. Our unit economics steadily improved throughout the year, with increases in revenue per lead for refinance, purchase and home equity in 2021 compared to 2020. Mortgage rates have risen from historic lows and refinance volumes have subsequently declined. The purchase market remains competitive as a national home inventory shortage and lower affordability impact purchase application rates. In this type of environment our lender partners rely even more on LendingTree to help meet their origination goals. We continue to look for opportunities to optimize towards higher converting products such as cash-out refinance and home equity loans, as our partners are focused on these products. The average home with a mortgage has increased its available equity from a year ago. As interest rates have risen broadly from all-time lows, loans secured with home equity represent the lowest cost source of financing for most consumers. We continue to focus on improving the consumer experience to increase repeat users, cross-sell, and conversion rates. This will allow us to increase our reach and better align the right borrowers to the right experiences based on their readiness to transact.
CONSUMER
The Consumer segment grew steadily throughout the year, generating revenue and segment profit growth of 30% and 34%, respectively, in 2021 compared to 2020. Personal loans and small business revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021 returned to 2019 levels and we are forecasting strong growth to continue in 2022, while credit card is experiencing a slower rebound. As we add new lending partners to the TreeQual platform, we anticipate a significantly improved customer experience that should drive increased conversion rates, margins, and pace of revenue growth in both credit card and personal loans.
Demand for the personal loans continues to grow as consumer savings rates decline with the end of government stimulus programs and higher consumer spending. Our partner network has grown in 2021 compared to 2020, and we maintain a strong pipeline of new lenders looking to onboard. The addition of TreeQual to the personal loans product and our continued investment in the down funnel experience should continue to push close rates higher and increase monetization.
Our credit card business continues its recovery from pandemic lows. Issuers remain aggressive with the introduction of new cards and features, and we have expanded our partner network. Margins in the credit card business continue to lag pre-pandemic levels. We are working to diversify our marketing mix, actively pursuing more profitable marketing channels and partnerships to expand our reach and attract more consumers, which should lead to improved unit economics over time.
Our small business product has been consistently growing, and we expect that to continue in 2022. We launched our Premium Marketplace offering in the fourth quarter of 2021, which led to increased conversions and higher revenue per referral from enhanced customer tiering. Volume increased as our concierge model helps small business owners find the right financing options to fit their unique business needs. We expect these positive trends to continue in 2022 as we focus on product diversification, optimization of customer matching by segment, and cross-sell to unlock additional marketing opportunities.
INSURANCE
The claims market for our carrier partners was challenging in the last half of 2021, driving insurance revenue down 2% in 2021 from 2020 and segment profit down 13%. Property and Casualty ("P&C") carriers reduced marketing budgets as they incurred significantly higher loss ratios, but we believe this down cycle may be behind us. Although the dynamic remains fluid, we expect the business to return to a normalized operating environment by mid-year. In the face of the overall industry challenge, we are committed to capturing additional share of carrier budgets by focusing on conversion rate and lead quality,
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which will benefit results when carriers look to aggressively acquire new customers. Consumer demand, as measured by traffic to our sites, remains robust and continued to strengthen into year end. We expect this trend to continue as significant rate increases kicks-off a historic cycle of drivers shopping for new auto policies.
We also made significant progress expanding our P&C Agency, adding P&C carriers to the platform and increasing our agent base, driving growth in policies sold and written premium in our direct-to-consumer channel. Providing bindable insurance quotes improves the consumer experience and increases conversion rates, and aligns well with our strategy of improving customer fulfillment across our platform.
Our Medicare Agency has scaled nicely, with growth in written policies of 111% in 2021 compared to 2020 as we invested in additional training while managing our agent count responsibly. Exiting our second Annual Enrollment Period, we continue to evaluate our performance and look for ways to improve unit economics through marketing effectiveness and close rates. We have observed the challenges increased customer churn and lower policy persistency have created for competitors in the space. We will only scale this business to the extent we can do so with attractive targeted returns.
Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization
We report Adjusted EBITDA as a supplemental measure to GAAP. This measure is the primary metric by which we evaluate the performance of our businesses, on which our marketing expenditures and internal budgets are based and by which, in most years, management and many employees are compensated. We believe that investors should have access to the same set of tools that we use in analyzing our results. This non-GAAP measure should be considered in addition to results prepared in accordance with GAAP but should not be considered a substitute for or superior to GAAP results. We provide and encourage investors to examine the reconciling adjustments between the GAAP and non-GAAP measures discussed below.
Definition of Adjusted EBITDA
We report Adjusted EBITDA as net income from continuing operations adjusted to exclude interest, income tax, amortization of intangibles and depreciation, and to further exclude (1) non-cash compensation expense, (2) non-cash impairment charges, (3) gain/loss on disposal of assets, (4) gain/loss on investments (5) restructuring and severance expenses, (6) litigation settlements and contingencies, (7) acquisitions and dispositions income or expense (including with respect to changes in fair value of contingent consideration), and (8) one-time items. Adjusted EBITDA has certain limitations in that it does not take into account the impact to our statement of operations of certain expenses, including depreciation, non-cash compensation and acquisition-related accounting. We endeavor to compensate for the limitations of the non-GAAP measures presented by also providing the comparable GAAP measures with equal or greater prominence and descriptions of the reconciling items, including quantifying such items, to derive the non-GAAP measures. These non-GAAP measures may not be comparable to similarly titled measures used by other companies. 
One-Time Items
Adjusted EBITDA is adjusted for one-time items, if applicable. Items are considered one-time in nature if they are non-recurring, infrequent or unusual and have not occurred in the past two years or are not expected to recur in the next two years, in accordance with SEC rules. One-time items for the year ended December 31, 2020 consisted of expenses incurred in connection with a secondary public offering of our common stock by our largest shareholder, for which we did not receive any proceeds. There are no adjustments for one-time items for the year ended December 31, 2021.
Non-Cash Expenses that are Excluded from Adjusted EBITDA
Non-cash compensation expense consists principally of expense associated with grants of restricted stock, restricted stock units and stock options, some of which awards have performance-based vesting conditions. These expenses are not paid in cash, and we include the related shares in our calculations of fully diluted shares outstanding. Upon settlement of restricted stock units, exercise of certain stock options or vesting of restricted stock awards, the awards may be settled, on a net basis, with us remitting the required tax withholding amount from our current funds.
Amortization of intangibles are non-cash expenses relating primarily to intangible assets acquired through acquisitions. At the time of an acquisition, the intangible assets of the acquired company, such as purchase agreements, technology and customer relationships, are valued and amortized over their estimated lives.
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The following table is a reconciliation of net income (loss) from continuing operations to Adjusted EBITDA.
Year Ended December 31,
 20212020
(in thousands)
Net income (loss) from continuing operations$73,138 $(22,566)
Adjustments to reconcile to Adjusted EBITDA:
Amortization of intangibles42,738 53,078 
Depreciation17,910 14,201 
Severance53 295 
Loss on impairments and disposal of assets3,465 1,160 
Gain on investments(123,272)— 
Non-cash compensation expense68,555 53,733 
Costs of secondary public offering— 863 
Change in fair value of contingent consideration(8,249)5,327 
Acquisition expense1,796 2,217 
Litigation settlements and contingencies392 (943)
Interest expense, net46,867 36,300 
Income tax expense (benefit)11,298 (19,961)
Adjusted EBITDA$134,691 $123,704 

Financial Position, Liquidity and Capital Resources
For information on fiscal 2019 results and similar comparisons, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Financial Position, Liquidity and Capital Resources of our Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
General
As of December 31, 2021, we had $251.2 million of cash and cash equivalents, compared to $169.9 million of cash and cash equivalents as of December 31, 2020.
We expect our cash and cash equivalents and cash flows from operations to be sufficient to fund our operating needs for the next twelve months and beyond. Our credit facility described below is an additional potential source of liquidity. We will continue to monitor the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on our liquidity and capital resources.
Notable transactions affecting cash and cash equivalents during the reported periods are as follows:
2021
In 2021, we repurchased an aggregate of 334,253 shares of our common stock pursuant to a stock repurchase program for $40.0 million.
In the first quarter of 2021, we acquired an additional equity interest in Stash for $1.2 million. In the fourth quarter of 2021, we sold a portion of our Stash equity securities to a third party for $46.3 million. See Note 8—Equity Investment to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for additional information on the equity interest in Stash.
2020
In July 2020, we made litigation settlement payments of $26.5 million to the ResCap Liquidating Trust ("ResCap") and $36.0 million to the HLC bankruptcy Trustee for the matters noted in Note 21—Discontinued Operations. In October 2020, due to the timing of distributions from the HLC bankruptcy estate, we were required to make a further payment of $6.4 million to ResCap. In 2021, we received an $8.6 million reimbursement from the HLC bankruptcy estate related to the ResCap payments.
In July 2020, we issued $575.0 million of our 2025 Notes for net proceeds of approximately $559.9 million. We used approximately $63.0 million of the net proceeds to enter into Convertible Note Hedge and Warrant transactions. Further, we used $234.0 million of the net proceeds to repurchase approximately $130.3 million principal amount of our 2022 Notes. To the
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extent of the repurchases of the 2022 Notes, we received approximately $15.6 million as a result of terminating a corresponding portion of the Convertible Note Hedge and Warrant transactions entered into on May 31, 2017. See Note 15—Debt for additional information.
In February 2020, we acquired an equity interest in Stash for $80.0 million. The investment was funded through $80.0 million drawn on our Amended Revolving Credit Facility. See Note 8—Equity Investment to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for more information.
During 2020, we made net repayments of $75.0 million on our Amended Revolving Credit Facility.
During 2020, we made contingent consideration payments of $6.0 million, $4.4 million and $20.2 million related to the prior acquisitions of SnapCap, Ovation and QuoteWizard, respectively.
Credit Facility
On September 15, 2021, we entered into a credit agreement (the “Credit Agreement”), consisting of a $200.0 million revolving credit facility (the “Revolving Facility”), which matures on September 15, 2026, and a $250.0 million delayed draw term loan facility (the “Term Loan Facility” and together with the Revolving Facility, the “Credit Facility”), which matures on September 15, 2028 to the extent the loans thereunder will be drawn. The delayed draw commitments under the Term Loan Facility will be available until June 1, 2022. The proceeds of the Revolving Facility can be used to finance working capital, for general corporate purposes and any other purpose not prohibited by the Credit Agreement. The proceeds of the Term Loan Facility can be used to settle the Company’s 2022 Notes, including related fees, costs and expenses, and up to $80.0 million may be used for general corporate purposes and any other purposes not prohibited by the Credit Agreement. See Note 15—Debt for additional information.
As of February 28, 2022, we have outstanding a $0.2 million letter of credit under the Revolving Facility, and the remaining borrowing capacity is $199.8 million. No term loans have been drawn under the Term Loan Facility as of February 28, 2022.
For additional information on the Credit Facility, see Note 15—Debt in the notes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report.
Convertible Debt
Our 2022 Notes have a principal balance of $169.7 million and mature on June 1, 2022, unless earlier repurchased or converted. Our 2025 Notes have a principal balance of $575.0 million and mature on July 15, 2025, unless earlier repurchased or converted. See Note 15—Debt to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for more information.
Operating Leases
We have operating lease obligations associated with office space in various cities across the country and office equipment. Our principal executive office is located in Charlotte, North Carolina under an approximate 15-year lease that commenced in the second quarter of 2021. We anticipate cash payments under operating lease obligations of $13.7 million in 2022. See Note 11—Leases to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for more information.

Cash Flows from Continuing Operations
Our cash flows attributable to continuing operations are as follows:
 Year Ended December 31,
 20212020
 (in thousands)
Net cash provided by operating activities$131,256 $111,299 
Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities$10,067 $(122,149)
Net cash (used in) provided by financing activities$(63,347)$193,290 
Cash Flows from Operating Activities
Our largest source of cash provided by our operating activities is revenues generated by our products. Our primary uses of cash from our operating activities include advertising and promotional payments. In addition, our uses of cash from operating
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activities include compensation and other employee-related costs, other general corporate expenditures, litigation settlements and contingencies, certain contingent consideration payments, and income taxes.
Net cash provided by operating activities attributable to continuing operations increased in 2021 from 2020 primarily due to a increase in revenue, partially offset by a corresponding increase in selling and marketing expense. Additionally, cash from changes in working capital increased primarily as a result of changes in contingent consideration, accounts payable, accrued expenses and other current liabilities, and income taxes receivable, partially offset by unfavorable changes in accounts receivable.
Cash Flows from Investing Activities
Net cash provided by investing activities attributable to continuing operations in 2021 of $10.1 million consisted of $46.3 million in proceeds from a partial sale of our equity interest in Stash partially offset by $1.2 million for the purchase of an additional equity interest in Stash and capital expenditures of $35.1 million primarily related to internally developed software.
Net cash used in investing activities attributable to continuing operations in 2020 of $122.1 million consisted of the purchase of an $80.0 million equity interest in Stash and capital expenditures of $42.1 million primarily related to internally developed software and leasehold improvements for our new principal corporate offices.
Cash Flows from Financing Activities
Net cash used in financing activities attributable to continuing operations in 2021 of $63.3 million consisted primarily of $40.0 million for the repurchase of our stock, $14.4 million in withholding taxes paid upon surrender of shares to satisfy obligations on equity awards, net of proceeds from the exercise of stock options, as well as $6.4 million for the payment of debt issuance costs and $2.5 million paid for the original issue discount on the undrawn Term Loan Facility.
Net cash used in financing activities attributable to continuing operations in 2020 of $193.3 million consisted primarily of $575.0 million of gross proceeds from the issuance of the 2025 Notes, partially offset by $233.9 million paid to repurchase a portion of the 2022 Notes, a net $47.4 million paid for the related convertible note hedge and warrant transactions outlined above, $75.0 million of net repayments on our Amended Revolving Credit Facility, and $16.6 million for the payment of debt issuance costs.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
The following disclosure is provided to supplement the description of our accounting policies contained in Note 2—Significant Accounting Policies to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report in regard to significant areas of judgment. This disclosure includes accounting policies related to both continuing operations and discontinued operations. Management is required to make certain estimates and assumptions during the preparation of the consolidated financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. These estimates and assumptions impact the reported amount of assets and liabilities and disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities as of the date of the consolidated financial statements. They also impact the reported amount of net earnings during any period. Actual results could differ from those estimates. Because of the size of the financial statement elements to which they relate, some of our accounting policies and estimates have a more significant impact on our consolidated financial statements than others. A discussion of some of our more significant accounting policies and estimates follows.
Income Taxes
Estimates of deferred income taxes and the significant items giving rise to the deferred assets and liabilities are shown in Note 14—Income Taxes to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report, and reflect management's assessment of actual future taxes to be paid on items reflected in the consolidated financial statements, giving consideration to both timing and the probability of realization. Actual income taxes could vary from these estimates due to future changes in income tax law, state income tax apportionment or the outcome of any review of our tax returns by the IRS, as well as actual operating results that may vary significantly from anticipated results.
We also recognize liabilities for uncertain tax positions based on the two-step process prescribed by the accounting guidance for uncertainty in income taxes. The first step is to evaluate the tax position for recognition by determining if the weight of available evidence indicates it is more likely than not that the position will be sustained on audit, including resolution of related appeals or litigation processes, if any. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount that is more than 50% likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement. This measurement step is inherently difficult and requires subjective estimations of such amounts to determine the probability of various possible outcomes. We consider many factors when evaluating and estimating our tax positions and tax benefits, which may require periodic adjustments and which may not accurately anticipate actual outcomes.
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A valuation allowance is provided on deferred tax assets if it is determined that it is "more likely than not" that the deferred tax asset will not be realized. At December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019, we recorded a partial valuation allowance of $6.0 million, $5.8 million and $4.1 million, respectively, primarily related to state net operating losses, which we do not expect to be able to utilize prior to expiration.
Stock-Based Compensation
The forms of stock-based awards granted to our employees are principally restricted stock units ("RSUs"), RSUs with performance conditions, stock options, and employee stock purchases related to the Employee Stock Purchase Plan ("Employee Stock Purchase Rights"). Further, stock options with market conditions, restricted stock awards ("RSAs") with performance conditions and RSAs with market conditions have been granted to our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. The value of RSUs is measured at their grant dates as the fair value of common stock and amortized ratably as non-cash compensation expense over the vesting term. The value of stock options issued and Employee Stock Purchase Rights are generally estimated using a Black-Scholes option pricing model. The value of performance-based grants is measured at their grant dates and recognized as non-cash compensation expense, considering the probability of the targets being achieved. Performance-based grants with a market condition are generally valued using a Monte Carlo simulation model. If an award is modified, we determine if the modification requires a new calculation of fair value or change in the vesting term of the award. See Note 13—Stock-Based Compensation to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for additional information on assumptions and inputs to the fair value determination of stock-based awards.
Evaluation of Goodwill Impairment
We test goodwill annually for impairment as of October 1, or more frequently upon the occurrence of certain events or substantive changes in circumstances. As part of our annual impairment testing of goodwill, we may elect to assess qualitative factors as a basis for determining whether it is necessary to perform the traditional quantitative impairment testing. If our assessment of these qualitative factors indicates that it is not more likely than not that the fair value of the reporting unit or indefinite-lived intangible asset is less than its carrying value, then no further testing is required. Otherwise, the goodwill reporting unit must be quantitatively tested for impairment.
Performing the quantitative test for goodwill impairment that compares the reporting unit fair value with its carrying value using a discounted cash flow analysis requires the exercise of significant judgments, including judgments about appropriate discount rates, perpetual growth rates and the amount and timing of expected future cash flows. If the carrying amount of a reporting unit exceeds its fair value, an impairment loss is recognized in an amount equal to that excess.
The value of goodwill subject to assessment for impairment at December 31, 2021 is $420.1 million.
Recoverability of Long-Lived Assets
We review the carrying value of all long-lived assets, primarily property and equipment, definite-lived intangible assets and operating lease right-of-use assets for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value of an asset may be impaired. Impairment is considered to have occurred whenever the carrying value of a long-lived asset cannot be recovered from cash flows that are expected to result from the use and eventual disposition of the asset. This recoverability test requires us to make assumptions and judgments related to factors used in a calculation of undiscounted cash flows, including, but not limited to, management’s expectations for future operations and projected cash flows. The key assumptions used in this calculation include Adjusted EBITDA, the remaining useful lives of the primary cash flow generating asset in the asset group and, to a lesser extent, the deduction of capital expenditures and taxes paid in cash to arrive at net cash flows.
Subsequent to the adoption of ASU 2018-15 in the first quarter of 2020, capitalized implementation costs incurred in a hosting arrangement that is a service contract are also allocated to and included within long-lived asset groups tested for recoverability.
The combined value of long-lived assets and capitalized implementation costs incurred in a hosting arrangement that is a service contract subject to assessment for impairment is $230.2 million at December 31, 2021.
Business Acquisitions
When we acquire businesses, we allocate the purchase price to tangible assets and liabilities and identifiable intangible assets acquired at their acquisition date fair values. Any residual purchase price is recorded as goodwill. We also estimate the fair value of any contingent consideration using Level 3 unobservable inputs. Our estimates of fair value are based upon assumptions believed to be reasonable but which are uncertain and involve significant judgments by management.
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We reassess the fair value of contingent consideration quarterly until the contingency is resolved, and changes in the fair value are recorded in operating income in the consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive income (loss).
Equity Investment
Our equity investment does not have a readily determinable fair value and, upon acquisition, we elected the measurement alternative to value these securities. Accordingly, these equity securities are carried at cost and subsequently marked to market upon observable market events with any gains or losses recorded in operating income in the consolidated statement of operations.
The carrying value of our equity investment at December 31, 2021 is $158.1 million.
New Accounting Pronouncements
See Note 2—Significant Accounting Policies to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report for a description of recent accounting pronouncements.
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ITEM 7A.  Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk
Other than our Credit Facility, we do not have any financial instruments that are exposed to significant market risk. We maintain our cash and cash equivalents in bank deposits and short-term, highly liquid money market investments. A hypothetical 100-basis point increase or decrease in market interest rates would not have a material impact on the fair value of our cash equivalents securities, or our earnings on such cash equivalents, but would have an effect on the interest paid on borrowings under the Credit Facility, if any. As of February 28, 2022, there were no borrowings under the Credit Facility.
Fluctuations in interest rates affect consumer demand for new mortgages and the level of refinancing activity which, in turn, affects lender demand for mortgage leads. Typically, when interest rates decline, we see increased consumer demand for mortgage refinancing, which in turn leads to increased traffic to our website and decreased selling and marketing efforts associated with that traffic. At the same time, lender demand for leads from third-party sources typically decreases, as there are more consumers in the marketplace seeking refinancings and, accordingly, lenders receive more organic lead volume. Due to lower lender demand, our revenue earned per consumer typically decreases but with correspondingly lower selling and marketing costs. Conversely, when interest rates increase, we typically see decreased consumer demand for mortgage refinancing, leading to decreased traffic to our website and higher associated selling and marketing efforts associated with that traffic. At the same time, lender demand for leads from third-party sources typically increases, as there are fewer consumers in the marketplace and, accordingly, the supply of organic mortgage lead volume decreases. Due to high lender demand, we typically see an increase in the amount lenders will pay per matched lead, which often leads to higher revenue earned per consumer. However, increases in the amount lenders will pay per matched lead in this situation is limited by the overall cost models of our lenders, and our revenue earned per consumer can be adversely affected by the overall reduced demand for refinancing in a rising rate environment.
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ITEM 8.  Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

INDEX TO FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
  Page
Number
LENDINGTREE, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES:
CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: 

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Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

To the Board of Directors and Shareholders of LendingTree, Inc.
Opinions on the Financial Statements and Internal Control over Financial Reporting
We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of LendingTree, Inc. and its subsidiaries (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2021 and 2020, and the related consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive income (loss), of shareholders' equity and of cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2021, including the related notes (collectively referred to as the “consolidated financial statements”). We also have audited the Company's internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2021, based on criteria established in Internal Control - Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO).
In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of December 31, 2021 and 2020, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2021 in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. Also in our opinion, the Company maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2021, based on criteria established in Internal Control - Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the COSO.
Basis for Opinions
The Company's management is responsible for these consolidated financial statements, for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting, and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting, included in Management’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting appearing under Item 9A. Our responsibility is to express opinions on the Company’s consolidated financial statements and on the Company's internal control over financial reporting based on our audits. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (PCAOB) and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.
We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the consolidated financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud, and whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects.
Our audits of the consolidated financial statements included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the consolidated financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the consolidated financial statements. Our audits also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the consolidated financial statements. Our audit of internal control over financial reporting included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, and testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk. Our audits also included performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinions.
Definition and Limitations of Internal Control over Financial Reporting
A company’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A company’s internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (i) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (ii) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (iii) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
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Critical Audit Matters
The critical audit matter communicated below is a matter arising from the current period audit of the consolidated financial statements that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee and that (i) relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the consolidated financial statements and (ii) involved our especially challenging, subjective, or complex judgments. The communication of critical audit matters does not alter in any way our opinion on the consolidated financial statements, taken as a whole, and we are not, by communicating the critical audit matter below, providing a separate opinion on the critical audit matter or on the accounts or disclosures to which it relates.
Valuation of equity securities - Stash

As described in Note 8 to the consolidated financial statements, on February 28, 2020, the Company acquired an equity interest in Stash Financial, Inc. (“Stash”) for $80.0 million. On January 6, 2021, the Company acquired an additional equity interest for $1.2 million. The Stash equity securities do not have a readily determinable fair value and, upon acquisition, the Company elected the measurement alternative to value its securities. The Stash equity securities are carried at cost and subsequently marked to market upon observable market events with any gains or losses recorded in operating income in the consolidated statement of operations. On October 18, 2021, the Company entered into a stock transfer agreement with third parties to sell a portion of its Stash equity securities for $46.3 million. The Company sold $35.3 million in October and closed on an additional $11.0 million in November 2021. The Company recorded a realized gain of $27.9 million based on the sale of Stash equity securities under the stock transfer agreement. In 2021, the Company recorded a net unrealized gain on the investment in Stash of $95.4 million as a result of an adjustment to the fair value of the Stash equity securities based on observable market events, which is included within other income on the consolidated statement of operations and comprehensive income.

The principal considerations for our determination that performing procedures relating to the valuation of the Stash equity securities is a critical audit matter are (i) the significant judgment by management to determine the fair value of the Stash equity securities, which included identifying the observable market events utilized in the fair value estimate, and (ii) a high degree of auditor judgment, subjectivity, and effort in performing procedures and evaluating management's fair value estimate.

Addressing the matter involved performing procedures and evaluating audit evidence in connection with forming our overall opinion on the consolidated financial statements. These procedures included testing the effectiveness of controls relating to management’s valuation of the Stash equity securities, including controls over the identification of the observable market events. These procedures also included, among others, (i) testing management’s process for determining the fair value of the Stash equity securities, (ii) evaluating the appropriateness of the model and management’s identification of observable market events, and (iii) evaluating the appropriateness of the observable market events used to estimate the fair value of the Stash equity securities. Evaluating the observable market events involved assessing whether the inputs were reasonable considering consistency with recent company and third party executed transactions.
 


/s/ PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

Charlotte, North Carolina
February 28, 2022
We have served as the Company’s auditor since 2012.

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LENDINGTREE, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS AND COMPREHENSIVE INCOME (LOSS)
 Year Ended December 31,
 202120202019
 (in thousands, except per share amounts)
Revenue$1,098,499 $909,990 $1,106,603 
Costs and expenses:
Cost of revenue (exclusive of depreciation and amortization shown separately below)
57,297 54,494 68,379 
Selling and marketing expense773,990 617,404 735,180 
General and administrative expense153,472 129,101 116,847 
Product development52,865 43,636 39,953 
Depreciation17,910 14,201 10,998 
Amortization of intangibles42,738 53,078 55,241 
Change in fair value of contingent consideration(8,249)5,327 28,402 
Severance53 295 1,026 
Litigation settlements and contingencies392 (943)(151)
Total costs and expenses1,090,468 916,593 1,055,875 
Operating income (loss)8,031 (6,603)50,728 
Other (expense) income, net:  
Interest expense, net(46,867)(36,300)(20,271)
Other income123,272 376 524 
Income (loss) before income taxes84,436 (42,527)30,981 
Income tax (expense) benefit(11,298)19,961 8,479 
Net income (loss) from continuing operations73,138 (22,566)39,460 
Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax(4,023)(25,689)(21,632)
Net income (loss) and comprehensive income (loss)$69,115 $(48,255)$17,828 
Weighted average shares outstanding:
Basic13,199 13,007 12,834 
Diluted13,695 13,007 14,619 
Income (loss) per share from continuing operations:  
Basic$5.54 $(1.73)$3.07 
Diluted$5.34 $(1.73)$2.70 
Loss per share from discontinued operations:   
Basic$(0.30)$(1.98)$(1.69)
Diluted$(0.29)$(1.98)$(1.48)
 Net income (loss) per share:   
Basic$5.24 $(3.71)$1.39 
Diluted$5.05 $(3.71)$1.22 

The accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements are an integral part of these statements.
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LENDINGTREE, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
December 31, 2021December 31, 2020
 (in thousands, except par value
and share amounts)
ASSETS:  
Cash and cash equivalents$251,231 $169,932 
Restricted cash and cash equivalents111 117 
Accounts receivable (net of allowance of $1,456 and $1,402, respectively)
97,658 89,841 
Prepaid and other current assets25,379 27,949 
Current assets of discontinued operations 8,570 
Total current assets374,379 296,409 
Property and equipment (net of accumulated depreciation of $28,315 and $20,238, respectively)
72,477 62,381 
Operating lease right-of-use assets77,346 84,109 
Goodwill420,139 420,139 
Intangible assets, net85,763 128,502 
Deferred income tax assets87,581 96,224 
Equity investment (Note 8)
158,140 80,000 
Other non-current assets6,942 5,334 
Non-current assets of discontinued operations16,589 15,892 
Total assets$1,299,356 $1,188,990 
LIABILITIES:  
Current portion of long-term debt$166,008 $ 
Accounts payable, trade1,692 10,111 
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities106,731 101,196 
Current liabilities of discontinued operations1 536 
Total current liabilities274,432 111,843 
Long-term debt478,151 611,412 
Operating lease liabilities96,165 92,363 
Non-current contingent consideration 8,249 
Deferred income tax liabilities2,265  
Other non-current liabilities351 362 
Total liabilities851,364 824,229 
Commitments and contingencies (Notes 16 and 17)
SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY:  
Preferred stock $.01 par value; 5,000,000 shares authorized; none issued or outstanding
  
Common stock $.01 par value; 50,000,000 shares authorized; 16,070,720 and 15,766,193 shares issued, respectively, and 13,095,149 and 13,124,875 shares outstanding, respectively
161 158 
Additional paid-in capital1,242,794 1,188,673 
Accumulated deficit(571,794)(640,909)
Treasury stock; 2,975,571 and 2,641,318 shares, respectively
(223,169)(183,161)
Total shareholders' equity447,992 364,761 
Total liabilities and shareholders' equity$1,299,356 $1,188,990 
   
The accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements are an integral part of these statements.
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LENDINGTREE, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY
  Common Stock  Treasury Stock
 TotalNumber
of Shares
AmountAdditional
Paid-in
Capital
Accumulated
Deficit
Number
of Shares
Amount
 (in thousands)
Balance as of December 31, 2018$346,208 15,428 $154