Stock In News: SEC clears Facebook in the IPO Investigation

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ FB)’s May 2012 IPO was not your average initial public offering. Not only was it a large IPO, it was Facebook, which meant almost everybody wanted a piece of the new offering.

However, things went south fast. First, a major computer glitch hit the NASDAQ market system shortly after the shortly after Facebook shares debuted, resulting in a huge snafu and big losses for brokers. Second, it turned out the lead underwriter of the IPO had downgraded the firm just days before the IPO and told its large clients about the downgrade before publishing the report.

In the aftermath of the public stink, the SEC launched a probe to see if the company had appropriately disclosed its advertising revenue before the IPO. In its recent quarter earnings report with the SEC, Facebook noted that the SEC “had terminated its inquiry and that no enforcement action had been recommended.”

Facebook Inc: Investigations Closed

An investigation uncovered that just before the Facebook IPO, “independent” analysts working for the underwriters lowered their forecast price for the stock based an a downgrade of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ FB)’s ad revenue. Moreover, the underwriters told their large clients about it, but smaller, private investors never got tipped off. Within a few months the $38 per share IPO had lost nearly half its value to trade around $20.

In defending its actions, the lead underwriter of the Facebook IPO, Morgan Stanley, said that making disclosures only to select investors was “standard practice” in the industry. Legal experts say there a loophole in IPO rules such that it’s against the law for the underwriters to “publish” research on pre-IPO companies, but there’s no law preventing brokers in the firm advising key clients of new information in person or over the phone.

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Facebook Inc (NASDAQ FB) Business News

Company shares lost almost half their value within a few months of the Facebook IPO, but have recovered nicely over the last year and change to trade above $75. Analysts note that although Facebook Inc (NASDAQ FB) has been cleared in the SEC’s probe, the regulators may still be investigating the IPO underwriters, including Morgan Stanley.

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