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.
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.