from the this-makes-no-sense dept
So it's a bit of a head-scratcher to see NY Times financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin suggesting Facebook's CFO, David Ebersman, deserves to be fired for getting a positively amazing deal for Facebook. In Sorkin's world, Ebersman was supposed to get less for Facebook to benefit Wall Street. That seems wrong.
And yet if there is one single individual more responsible than any other for the staggering mispricing of Facebook’s I.P.O., it is Mr. Ebersman. He signed off on the ever-increasing offer price, which ended up at $38 after the company had originally planned a price range of $29 to $34.Sure. Perhaps someone on Wall Street should be fired, or Nasdaq for its technical problems, but Ebersman? He convinced Wall Street to fork over a ton of money to Facebook at an extremely high price. He should be seen as a financial wizard, not someone who should be fired. Mathew Ingram points out that it's silly to blame Ebersman when it takes a lot of people to make a market. But the best response may come from this Tumblr page that rewrites Sorkin's article in a more accurate way -- highlighting how Facebook got a hell of a deal for itself.
He — almost alone — pushed to flood the market with 25 percent more shares than originally planned in the final days before the offering. And since then, as the point person for investors, he has done little to articulate how or why the company’s strategy will lift the stock price any time soon.
At a time when investors are looking for some semblance of accountability on Wall Street and in corporate America, it is remarkable that nobody — no bankers, no one at Nasdaq, no one at Facebook — has been fired for botching the offering.
Now, yes, there's a longer term issue to think about as well: Facebook's relationship with investors is not a one-time thing (in theory), and you can question if the continued and rapid descent in share price makes it more difficult to go back to the public markets in the future. But this is Wall Street we're talking about, where money speaks above all, and it speaks loudest for those who get a lot of it. If there's an opportunity to make money from future Facebook offerings, they'll happen no problem. And, really, does anyone doubt that Wall Street take advantage of Facebook in the same way, if the shoe was on the other foot? I mean, look at the history of IPO "pops" that shot up 100% or more on opening day -- which is basically Wall Street doing the exact same thing that Ebersman did: mis-pricing the stock for their own financial benefit. But those are celebrated, not panned.
Basically, Sorkin's column seems like sour grapes from the Wall Streeters' perspective. Facebook made out very nicely in the IPO, got a ton of money at a much higher valuation than the market now thinks the company is worth. In other words it got a heckuva deal. A failure would have been pricing the stock at a point that people didn't want to buy it. But they did buy it, because Wall Street incorrectly thought that sucker retail investors would eat up the stock and drive up the price. They didn't. But that's not Facebook's fault.
Some have bemoaned that this shows how Facebook doesn't care about investors. But there's something to be said for that. Wall Street investors are notorious short-term thinkers, focused on this quarter or possibly (if they're looking "far out") the financial year. But that's not how you build long term strategic value. It seems Facebook was smart to take a ton of money when it was offered, and then to focus on trying to build a good product, and not really worry what Wall St. or its favorite journalists have to say.