Oh, Zuck: Facebook's bumpy start just got a little worse
May 23rd, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Oh, Zuck: Facebook's bumpy start just got a little worse

To say its been a rough ride for Facebook's IPO would be an understatement.

And as the social media giant edges toward the close of its first week of trading, questions are swirling about the company's valuation, its profitability and now allegations that full details of the stock's likely value were shared with only a select group of people.

Did some people get a heads-up Facebook's IPO wasn't what it seemed?

Regulators are now looking into the possibility that Facebook's Wall Street investment banks may have tipped off some clients that Facebook wasn't necessarily a great buy or worth the hype it was receiving, according to reports Wednesday from Reuters and several other news organizations.

“Facebook changed the numbers – they didn’t forecast their business right and they changed their numbers and told analysts,” a person at one of Facebook’s banks told Reuters.

Overheard on CNN.com 'I saw this one coming from a mile away'

The big question is: Did certain privileged customers receive information about the Facebook offering that you as an individual investor might not have?

Rick Ketchum, head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an independent regulatory body, acknowledged in an article from Reuters that a Morgan Stanley analyst reduced his revenue projections for Facebook shortly before the offering and shared the information with institutional investors.

And now Facebook shareholders have filed a lawsuit against the social network, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a number of banks, alleging that crucial information was concealed ahead of Facebook's IPO. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, charges the defendants with failing to disclose in the critical days leading up to Friday's initial public offering "a severe and pronounced reduction."

Facebook  defended themselves on Wednesday saying they "believe the lawsuit is without merit and will defend ourselves vigorously."

The report, and now the lawsuit, raises questions about whether Morgan Stanley, one of the underwriter companies that handled Facebook's IPO, or other banks knowingly offered certain investors privileged information that should have been made public. Other underwriters targeted by the lawsuit include Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America.

It is possible that Morgan Stanley may have signed off on a price that was too high or agreed to sell too many shares in the deal, CNNMoney.com reports. Then, Morgan Stanley analysts are alleged to have told certain people they had a negative assessment of the social network's offering.

"If true, the allegations are a matter of regulatory concern to FINRA and the [Securities and Exchange Commission]," Ketchum said in a statement via a spokeswoman.

The New York Times reported Morgan Stanley did more than just quietly share a negative outlook; they actually "held conference calls to update their banks' analysts on business."

"Analysts at Morgan Stanley and other firms soon started advising clients to dial back their expectations," the article says. "One prospective buyer was told that second-quarter revenue could be 5 percent lower than the bank’s earlier estimates."

Sallie Krawcheck, Bank of America's former head of wealth management, took to Twitter to share her outrage about the allegations.

[tweet https://twitter.com/SallieKrawcheck/status/205090084373008384%5D

A glitch leaves investors not knowing if they have Facebook stock

Facebook's debut on the market was hindered by early confusion when trading was delayed by two hours after what Nasdaq called a "technical error."

"People didn't know where their orders stood, and it became a big guessing game," one trader, who had put in an order to buy Facebook shares ahead of the opening bell, told CNNMoney.com. "Nasdaq couldn't handle it - they blew it."

The trader said he didn't receive a report of how many shares he bought and how much he paid for them until three hours after his order was executed. Typically, that report is transmitted instantaneously, he said.

Facebook IPO: What went wrong?

Others were left even further in the dark. A frustrated 11-year-old investor, who in many ways represents the most basic frustration for individual investors, told the New York Post that three days after the public debut, he had absolutely no idea if he even had gotten shares of the company. 

“They are holding my money hostage,” said Sam Lesser, who had put in a $10,000 Facebook order from money he made in a small business he created. "It’s really disappointing, because we could have made money on this."

To prevent a repeat of Facebook's botched opening, Nasdaq has changed its process to no longer accept order modifications once the final calculation has begun.

Stock disappointing many - unless you're a flipper

If you bought Facebook hoping it would be a steady earner in the early days, you were certainly out of luck.

While the Facebook IPO was one of the most highly anticipated IPOs in recent memory, setting a record for first-day trading volume, it's also been quite a disappointment so far.

The stock is still down about 15 and has yet to post a truly positive trading session. On Friday the stock had a minute gain, but other than that, it hasn't done much to impress early investors.

That is, of course, unless you're someone looking to trade minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour in order to turn a real quick profit.

"It's a day trader's paradise right now," Douglas DePietro, managing director for sales trading and trading execution at Evercore Partners, told CNNMoney.com. "There's high volatility and high volume."

soundoff (772 Responses)
  1. jacobjamessheehan

    Maaahhahaa! Called this from the beginning! I do love this quote: "The big question is: Did certain privileged customers receive information about the Facebook offering that you as an individual investor might not have?" This is nothing new. It happens all the time! But, I bet this happened to a much greater degree. I think Zuckerberg is shiesty and I would never buy shares of FB. I don't care if it's the next Google, my gut just tells me to steer clear.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Noneofyourbusiness

    Good, good....
    My diabolical plot to ruin Mark Zuckerberg is going exactly as I planned...

    May 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Norm


    May 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. NFLD thought

    Investor beware: resarch before writing the cheque.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jackson

    When it comes to Facebook, just remember what the computer from War Games said.

    "The only winning move is not to play"

    May 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tim

    "Did some people get a heads-up Facebook's IPO wasn't what it seemed?" Why, yes they did – from a mysterious gentleman who goes by the name of Common Sense. Of course, the greedy have never met Mr. Sense so now their only option is to pound their chests, pull their hair, rend their clothing and proclaim their victimhood.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bridget

    These ppl are crazy even a small time person like me saw the reports from CNN showing how other companies weren't so great when they hit the market. These ppl need to stop. It was already reported that fb may not make it in the first couple of days. Some ppl can be so smart til they are dumb. Just because you've got money doesn't make you smart at all. Read is fundamental.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. pilgrm

    good ole' Warren Buffett called this weeks ago. i'm betting all those facebook investors are wishing they'd bought a share or two of Berkshire Hathaway instead!

    May 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mcskadittle

    I am not sure it was really a secret, almost every article i read before the ipo said that it was way overvalued

    May 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. james

    "Smile on your brother, try to love one another, come on everybody try to love one another right now" ` ~ The Youngbloods

    May 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bencoates57

    I like the way Zuck pretends to have a thought in his head.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kingofthenet

    When Facebook is valued MORE than Amazon or McDonald's, you KNOW something is wrong... or should

    May 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fred

    Facebook is a straw man at best. The not to distant future will show that Facebook is a data mining company that sells your privacy at all costs, and that will be enough to make it a pariah in the public eye. The employees of Facebook that have taken the money and are running will be seen as thieves and fraudsters. The bubble is already bursting, not a very good scam was it?

    May 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Xman

    FB is the textbook stock about believing in a company before you buy into it. Since not only does FB qualify as a tangibly weak company to buy into because it produces absolutely nothing, it is also a fake "product" that depends heavily on advertising revenue and little else.

    Sorry, but companies that get my attention beyond a perceived stock value have to have more than self serving SOB for a CEO and actually produce something tangible and not just hype. Zuckerberg screwed a lot of people on his way to the top and imo, his stock isn't worth the lint in my pocket.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mcskadittle

    you seem to hate jews but love the old testament, how do you do that?

    May 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • montyross

      maybe because most of the old testament is about a group of people, the Jews, who were favored by God, and they kept turning their back on him and disobeying him, and he put them into slaveri and delivered them and they still rebelled?

      May 23, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
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