Before Facebook’s botched IPO, which was widely documented on a global scale, the social network had been secretly waging a series of battles with the SEC. While the market was bubbling in anticipation over the tech world’s largest IPO in history, a rather frustrated Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was fighting the SEC to keep the details about mobile risks hidden. This perhaps explains why Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s early investors bailed on the social network right before the IPO. In essence, venture capitalists are privileged to information that public investors are not
At the heart of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s struggle with the SEC was Barbara Jacobs, an assistant director for corporation finance at the organization. Jacob’s undisguised skeptical take on Facebook drove her to thoroughly veto the social network’s February 1st proposal to go public. The filing, which highlighted the effectiveness of ads, was purportedly backed by research from Nielsen, a reputable audience-counting company. Jacobs and her staff vetted the filing and concluded that the claim was seemingly sourced from marketing materials and not studies from Nielsen. This finding prompted Jacobs to write to David Ebersman, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer.
In her letter that was penned on February 28th, a no-nonsense Jacobs gave 42 year old Ebersman an ultimatum. Jacobs told Ebersman that if he was not ready to provide Nielsen’s official consent for use of the data, then he might as well not mention the audience-counting company in the filing. Despite a little resistance, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) dropped the Nielsen reference. This suggested that there was something dubious issues in its filing.
Jacob’s probing was an essential element of a two and a half month long exchange of letters between the now embattled social network and the SEC officials. All through, the exchange of messages between the two parties painted a picture of a company that was not willing to disclose vital information ahead of its IPO.
On the critical issue of mobile users, Jacobs noted that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) had even gone to the extent of counting mobile users twice. “Please explain how you determined that your metrics are not overstated,” she noted in her March 22nd letter. According to her, Facebook was not surefooted in its mobile numbers and instead decided to doctor them to its advantage.
Mobile represents a key segment of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s business model, and the company expects it to be a high revenue earner because of the high number of people who use mobile. The mobile issue has gathered momentum in light of Facebook’s increased user base this year. In fact Facebook’s swelling 1 billion user base, including 600 million mobile users, is one of the factors that pushed CEO Mark Zuckerberg to consider developing a search engine.