Prosper is the latest of many, many companies that have paid for an audit or survey aimed at making their business look good. Prosper recently contracted with Ashland Partners & Company LLP to do an “audit” of its investment returns. Although, the audit only confirmed Prosper’s numbers based on the company’s own methodology. The audit had little, if anything, to do with comparing the risk and reward of investing in peer-to-peer loans between Prosper and Lending Club.

It’s also interesting to note that the study only contains data dating back to July of 2009, when Prosper revamped its business model. Before that date, Prosper did not place stringent enough requirements on borrowers and made use of a reverse Dutch auction model which caused investors to bid each other down to the point where interest rates made little financial sense. As a result, many early investors lost money by investing in peer-to-peer loans on Prosper, resulting in a class action lawsuit against the company.

Prosper has had gotten its act together much more in the last year, but issuing dishonest, self-congratulating press releases is not a great way to inspire confidence.

Here’s the text of the release:

Independent Audit Confirms Industry-Best Returns of P2P Lender Prosper.com

Industry-first independent audit demonstrates a model for transparency in P2P lending, verifies Prosper’s industry-leading returns

San Francisco – January 25, 2012 – Following a year that ended with 178% year-over-year growth, Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace for personal loans, today announced that Ashland Partners & Company LLP has released the results of its independent audit of investor returns on Prosper.com. The independent audit represents a first in P2P lending, setting the stage for full transparency and return on investment (ROI) verification.

The report confirmed Prosper’s 10.69% annualized seasoned rate of return, net of fees, for the period of July 1, 2009 through September 30, 2011. This is the first time an accredited, independent organization has conducted a comprehensive audit of P2P lending returns.

Ashland is a leading provider of compliance consultation and verification services to the investment management community, with offices in the U.S., Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul. Ashland is specializes in GIPS verification and consultation.

“Our investors need the highest degree of confidence in the transparency, accuracy and reliability of our high-yield P2P lending returns,” said Chris Larsen, Prosper’s co-founder and CEO. “We conducted this audit because we believe that high minimum standards, full data transparency and rigorous self-regulation are critical to earning customer trust and protecting the long-term viability of this industry.”

Prosper contracted Ashland to conduct a comprehensive audit of its individual loans and operational infrastructure in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Ashland examined a specified Schedule of Performance for the Prosper All Rated Notes by Vintage Month Performance Record for the period July 1, 2009 through September 30, 2011.

Prosper is the only P2P lender to report seasoned returns, which it first reported in October 2011. Seasoned returns are a more conservative and accurate indicator of returns, reflecting a loan or portfolio of loans that has matured enough for the performance to stabilize. This return is thought to more accurately reflect the true underlying return of the asset.

On November 4, 2011, Prosper held the industry’s first P2P Lending Performance Measurement Summit to discuss the need for industry performance measurement standards in the U.S. Prosper senior executives discussed the need for rigorous analytics, full transparency of metrics and a call for seasoned returns in P2P lending. Prosper requested the audit by Ashland Partners & Company to establish the first set of P2P lending standards.

“Prosper is committed to regular audits of its returns to verify our performance and continue to earn the trust of our investor community,” said Joseph Toms, chief investment officer of Prosper. “As the peer-to-peer lending industry continues to experience such dramatic growth, we look forward to continuing to set the industry standard in reliable investor returns, and transparency and accountability.”

For a full copy of the P2P lending industry’s first independent performance report or to learn more about Prosper’s lender returns and competitive personal loans, visit www.prosper.com.