Thursday, 24 May 2012

Facebook, Zuckerberg & banks sued over IPO

The lawsuit charges the defendants with failing to disclose "a severe and pronounced reduction" in forecasts for Facebook's revenue growth in the run-up to Friday's IPO.
The lawsuit names Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, as a defendant, as well as top Silicon Valley investors Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Facebook, Morgan Stanley and some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley are being pursued over the social network's disastrous share sale by the law firm that won a $7bn settlement for Enron's shareholders.

Robbins Geller is co-ordinating a class action lawsuit alleging that Facebook and its bankers misled investors about the true state of their business while informing a handful of privileged clients about the company's true prospects.

The lawsuit, filed in New York, names Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, as a defendant, as well as top Silicon Valley investors Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen, and Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Barclays Capital.

Facebook shareholders have sued 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 this 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" in forecasts for Facebook's revenue growth, as users more and more access Facebook through mobile devices, according to Reuters, which cited a law firm for the plaintiffs. (The case is Brian Roffe Profit Sharing Plan v. Facebook, 12-04081.)

Earlier this month, Facebook updated its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to say that the shift to smartphones and other mobile gadgets is cutting into the prices it can set for advertisers, which would in turn hurt the company's revenue. In March, the social network had 488 million monthly average unique users of its mobile products, out of a total of just over 900 million registered users.

The plaintiffs charge that the changes to the forecast by several underwriters of the IPO were only "selectively disclosed" to a small group of preferred investors and not to the investment community at large. "The value of Facebook common stock has declined substantially and plaintiffs and the class have sustained damages as a result," the complaint says, per the Reuters report.

Facebook's stock opened Friday priced at $38 and, aside from a slight uptick right at the start, has been trading lower since then. It closed at $31 last night. In early trading today, shares are up better than three percent to around $32.
A report from well-known Wall Street watcher Henry Blodget, citing an unnamed source, posits that a Facebook executive was responsible for telling institutional investors, but not smaller investors, about the reduction in revenue estimates.

Speaking on CBS This Morning today, Blodget described the sequence of events regarding the estimates and the failure to fully share material information. "The fact that it was only distributed verbally to a handful of institutions as opposed to all investors is a problem," he said.

This isn't the only lawsuit related to Facebook's IPO. A Maryland investor, for instance, is suing the Nasdaq stock exchange over glitches in how it handled the offering.

We're reaching out to Facebook for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

Jonathan E. Skillingsby Jonathan E. Skillings 

Facebook, banks sued over pre-IPO analyst calls

In this photo illustration, a Facebook logo on a computer screen is seen through glasses held by a woman in Bern May 19, 2012. Picture taken May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Hodel

Wed May 23, 2012 11:02am EDT
 
(Reuters) - Facebook Inc and banks including Morgan Stanley were sued by the social networking leader's shareholders, who claimed the defendants hid Facebook's weakened growth forecasts ahead of its $16 billion initial public offering.

The defendants, who also include Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, were accused of concealing from investors during the IPO marketing process "a severe and pronounced reduction" in revenue growth forecasts, resulting from increased use of its app or website through mobile devices. Facebook went public last week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday, according to a law firm for the plaintiffs. A day earlier, a similar lawsuit by a different investor was filed in a California state court, according to a law firm involved in that case.

In the New York case, shareholders said research analysts at several underwriters had lowered their business forecasts for Facebook during the IPO process, but that these changes were "selectively disclosed by defendants to certain preferred investors" rather than to the public generally.

"The value of Facebook common stock has declined substantially and plaintiffs and the class have sustained damages as a result," the complaint said.

Representatives of Facebook and Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Facebook shares fell 18.4 percent from their $38 IPO price in the first three days of trading, reducing the value of stock sold in the IPO by more than $2.9 billion.

(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Lisa Von Ahn)


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