MediaFile

Wall Street needs to shed Facebook’s shroud

As Facebook continues its search for a bottom after only eight trading days as a public company, there’s a much bigger problem than the $40 billion in market cap it has lost. The people behind Facebook’s dubious $100 billion-plus self-valuation were apparently as doubtful as the rest of us. At stake is the fate of Wall Street’s soul. To paraphrase Sir Thomas More’s line in A Man For All Seasons: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world…” – but for Facebook?

Facebook’s interests are no more aligned with The Street’s than with its members‘. Wall Street needs to take the offense, see the handwriting on the wall and project itself as the ultimate defender of transparent, market principles, which is the only asset it has.

Facebook’s much-anticipated public launch has gone from bad to worse. It priced itself at the high range of $38 and opened 30 minutes late – some 20 of those with traders completely in the dark. Nasdaq has egg on its face and a possible liability in the tens of millions of dollars. Retail investors who bought into the hype are still losing money. Days after the May 18 launch, the tangled mess of positions that may or may not have been taken were still being unwound.

The Facebook fiasco revives the oldest knock against The Street: The little guy doesn’t have a chance. IPOs only reinforce this impression. Retail investors have little or no access to a roadshow, and roadshow presentations are borderline farcical anyway. (Did you catch any important financials in that Facebook roadshow video?)

But Facebook was worse than most. Three days into its roadshow, on May 9, Facebook added some bad news to its main regulatory filing. About one-third of the way into an amended filing with the SEC, Facebook speaks to the most important pillar of its revenue prospects:

Bonnie and Yonni — Disney dynamic duo, immortalized

Bonnie and Yonni are unlikely to go down in the history books as among the nimblest of partners-in-crime. But they might have earned a prominent place among the most candid.

Accoding to U.S. prosecutors, Bonnie Hoxie — an assistant to Disney’s PR chief — and boyfried Yonni Sebbag hatched a less-than-elaborate scheme in which she gets her hands on confidential and potentially stock market-moving material   –  Disney financial information — and passes it on to Sebbag.  Like the Wall Street equivalent of a pusher, Sebbag set out to construct a network of hedge-fund consumers for that info who could  then profit off of it, according to court documents filed.

Set for life. Easy.

Thing is, on the day of the alleged crime (the release of Disney’s second quarter earnings), Hoxie — according to prosecutors — sent messages to Sebbag from her work email account and from her personal cellphone.  Several of the hedge funds contacted by Sebbag — perhaps spooked by the ever-widening fallout from the Galleon insider trading probe — went straight to the Feds. Sebbag himself got fooled by an undercover FBI agent into a face-to-face meeting in New York during which money allegedly changed hands. He told the agent he’d suspected others that had contacted him of being Feds (he was right there).

from DealZone:

Truth in tender offers? An eyewitness account.

U.S. Securities regulators on Thursday sued a well-connected Kuwaiti financier, saying he reaped millions in suspicious profits after false takeover reports briefly sent shares of Harman International Industries soaring this week.

Reuters reporter Ransdell Pierson was in the office working the Sunday shift when he received a fax with the purported takeover offer.  Unable to verify the authenticity of the fax, Reuters did not publish the story.  Here is Ransdell's first person account of what happened, and a copy of the fax. Would you have questioned its veracity?

Ransdell Pierson:

I was scouring newspapers on a Sunday shift in the Reuters New York bureau and waiting for news about distressed lender CIT Group, when the phone finally rang and broke my reverie. "Newsroom," I said, and the caller replied, "Your Jeddah bureau is closed today. Can I send you a fax?" The male caller, who I imagined to be a middle-aged office aide frustrated by the thankless chore of delivering his fax, said it was a press release about a deal. Something about one company buying another for about $3 billion.
"If it's such a big transaction, shouldn't this news be coming over the PRNewswire or BusinessWire?" I asked him. He explained that it was the weekend, so faxing a press release was the best route.
I gave him a fax number and he called back, irritated the document hadn't gone through. I gave him another fax number and he soon called back again, more irritated than before. So I gave him the number of a third Reuters fax machine, but told him that it needed to include contact information for all the parties. "Otherwise, we can't authenticate it." "OK, you'll have it," he replied.

from Summit Notebook:

SEC’s Schapiro says journalist job cuts worrying

Mary Schapiro, America's new top cop for the securities industry, said the current mass culling of journalists' jobs is a concern because it could reduce the number of leads that regulators get as they seek to crack down on nefarious behavior.

"It's an absolute worry for me because I think financial journalists have in many cases been the sources of some really important enforcement cases and really important discovery of practices and products that regulators should be profoundly concerned about," the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission told the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit in Washington on Tuesday.

"But for journalists having been dogged and determined and really pursuing some of these things, they might not be known to the regulators or they might not be known for a long time," she said.

from DealZone:

Allen Stanford: Fraudster or just “Crazy for Cricket”?

Texan billionaire Allen Stanford says the English cricket authorities need to have a new Twenty20 league in place within two years or they risk "missing the boat" during an interview with Reuters on May 1, 2008 in Miami.

Allen Stanford's financial empire is in chaos after the SEC charged that he and his partners were perpetrating a "massive" fraud, but only four months ago things appeared much sunnier, at least in a glowing Forbes profile that described his investment strategy as "sure and steady."

The profile, "Crazy for Cricket," was part of the Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans (Stanford was #205). It outlines his goal of competing within five years with the likes of UBS and Wachovia -- although to be fair, the former company has had its own problems and Stanford managed to outlast the latter.

An exodus of wealth advisers is already under way, says Stanford, as writedowns and layoffs mount at those firms. In a single week in August, he says, his new Richmond, Va. office hired ex-UBS employees with clients representing $1 billion in assets. "There are a lot of deals to be made in financial services--banks, brokerages, trusts," he says. Another industry he's eyeing is desalination plants in developing countries like China: "We're very bullish on making a lot of money on water in the next 20 years."