Facebook’s scandalous IPO
- Last Updated: 12:39 AM, May 24, 2012
- Posted: 11:35 PM, May 23, 2012
A company with a questionable business model employs an army of lobbyists, flacks and Wall Street bankers to hype shares of an initial public offering. The company’s billionaire CEO and other fat-cat insiders make out like bandits, while average investors lose big as shares decline nearly the minute they’re free to trade.
A perfect target for President Obama, right? Well, yes — if the IPO had anything to do with Mitt Romney, or involved one of the left’s favorite class-warfare targets, such as an evil bank, defense contractor or oil company.
But of course we’re talking about warm and fuzzy Facebook, run by liberal 20-something CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The founding concept of Facebook is something that makes liberals swoon: The world will become a better and more equitable place if people have a venue where they can share thoughts and ideas. The IPO, you see, was to provide capital to expand the business of doing good.
Zuckerberg hasn’t officially declared his support for a presidential candidate, but it’s easy to figure out where he stands. Donations from Facebook employees to Democrats far outnumber those given to Republicans; Zuckerberg last year opened up the company’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters to Obama for one of those phony “Town Hall” meetings that are really just campaign rallies.
At the event, Zuckerberg even endorsed Obama’s tax plan: “I’m cool with that” was how he described his support for the tax hikes — which, when you strip away all the phony rhetoric, basically says that small businesses and families that make just $250,000 a year should pay the same income-tax rates as Silicon Valley billionaires like Zuckerberg.
Pretty cool, indeed.
Not so cool, however, was the Facebook IPO, especially if you’re one of the small investors who got stuck with this lemon.
Sure, shares of Facebook rose a bit yesterday — but that hardly makes up for the disaster that began last Friday, in which a deal, overhyped by Wall Street underwriters and mishandled by the Nasdaq stock market, cratered and destroyed billions of dollars in market value, much of it at the expense of the average investor.
The ugly details go something like this: The much-anticipated IPO ensured Zuckerberg’s place among the world’s richest people, with a net worth in the $15 billion range. The big banks that brought the company public earned between $100 million and $200 million. The Nasdaq, where Facebook shares are listed under the symbol FB, took its pound as well.
The average investor, meanwhile, took it on the chin. Many bought shares at the high of around $42 a share, only to watch the stock fall like a brick over the next couple of days.
Traders tell me that most small investors bought shares at their highs and — because of Nasdaq system failures — couldn’t sell out quickly enough when the stock began to fall.
The scary part is that screwing the little guy may have been by design.
Facebook officials said they wanted a chunk of the offering to be handed to the public — supposedly to give the average investor the same chance to take part in this historic IPO “experience” as a Wall Street fat cat.
But Wall Street regulars know that the usual reason to include “retail” investors in an IPO is that they’re more gullible than the pros and will bid up shares higher than more savvy market players.
Sophisticated market types have access to more and better data, and that was clear in the Facebook IPO, too. For all Zuckerberg’s rhetoric about sharing information, lead underwriter Morgan Stanley concedes it gave special guidance about Facebook’s growing financial obstacles to its best clients while keeping its small investors largely in the dark. (The move, it appears, didn’t violate securities laws because Morgan didn’t put its guidance in writing.)
None of which seems to have bothered Zuckerberg; I hear he’s pleased with the IPO, the billions raised to expand his company and the billions that secured his enormous net worth.
What a way to make the world a better place.
Charles Gasparino is a Fox Business Network senior corespondent.Follow @NYPostOpinion