Who's to blame for Facebook's follies?
The blame is shared by everyone: the CFO, the entire executive suite, the bankers and even the media.
So who's to blame? Not CFO David Ebersman, as The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin has charged.
Ebersman, 41, is not solely responsible for Facebook's slowing revenue growth, and Wall Street has pounced on this fact. Second-quarter earnings met analysts' expectations, but growth in the company's largest revenue segment, advertising, is slowing. That burden falls on CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg and the rest of Facebook's executive team, including Ebersman.
When a company is afforded the hype and lofty expectations as Facebook was, any slip-up can lead to a damaged stock price. Despite the loss in market value from the May IPO, Facebook is still trading at 62 times 2012 earnings. That's hardly the kind of valuation that forgives a misstep here or there.
The former Genentech CFO was not responsible for the botched opening on the Nasdaq ($COMPX). That gaffe, while hard to quantify, has certainly cost Facebook the public trust. Markets are built on trust and performance, and when one of the two is gone, it's damn near impossible for the other one to compensate.
This is not to say Ebersman is without fault. He's largely responsible for raising the offering amount of shares during the IPO. He's also been largely complacent as the company has lost some $50 billion in market value since going public. On the second-quarter earnings call, Ebersman expressed the fact Facebook is "disappointed about how the stock has traded, but I think the important thing for us is to stay focused on the fact that we're the same company now as we were before."
He went on to say that if the company can focus on great products, Facebook will be known for its quality of user experience and long-term value. That does not sound like someone who is worried about the share-price performance.
Sorkin does partially blame the underwriters, notably Morgan Stanley (MS), JPMorgan (JPM) and Goldman Sachs (GS) for the mismatched pricing. However, it is the banks' and the CFO's job to raise as much money as possible. The company succeeded in its goal, as the shares finished up just 23 cents over the $38 offer price.
Facebook's problems are much deeper than what Ebersman has or has not done. If there's a mea culpa to go around on this one, the bankers, the company and the media should all be signing their names on this one.
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