Originally published: May 23, 2012
Last updated: May 23, 2012 - 4:05pm
[Commentary] When Mark Zuckerberg's stated mission to connect and empower people collides with Wall Street's actual mission, which is to empower and enrich the well-connected, guess which mission prevails? Wall Street's, hands down. That's the lesson we can take from the debacle of Facebook's initial public stock offering. It's really sort of funny, if you're into dark financial humor.
Facebook (FB) and its underwriters, led by Morgan Stanley, whipped up enthusiasm for the offering, whose initial price range was $28 to $35 a share, but ultimately was increased to $38. Buyers were salivating. The buzz about the offering was deafening. Then, at the last-minute, some big investors were reportedly given access to an analysis saying that the company's prospects weren't quite as rosy as the picture painted in its early disclosure documents. So the big guys, it appears, cut back or even canceled their orders to buy shares in the offering. This late-in-the-game burst of activity may even have had something to do with the Nasdaq foul up that roiled trading May 18, the day the stock debuted. The exit of the well-connected, combined with an increase in the number of shares being offered, left more shares available for individual investors, who paid the full retail price of $38. Then, they got to watch the stock's sickening slide. The well-connected who canceled their IPO orders -- all of which, I'm sure, is perfectly legal on everyone's part -- have had a chance to buy stock in the low 30s rather than at $38.
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