Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Law and Disorder: The Curse of the Winklevii

One thing that’s nice in these volatile times is that the Winklevoss identical twins–aka the Olympic rowing hunks whom Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg seems to have repeatedly dunked since college–can always be relied upon to create nonstop entertainment for those riveted to their increasingly kooky lawsuit against the hot social-networking site.

(Tyler Winklevoss is pictured here and Cameron Winklevoss is below.)

This week, the latest news came from a bizarre cut-and-paste technique that allowed the Associated Press to get redacted financial details of the settlement related to a lawsuit between Facebook and the Winklevosses, in which they alleged that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them.

The method of how AP got to the numbers–getting to the “blacked-out portions by copying from an electronic version of the document and pasting the results into another document”–was perhaps the most interesting piece of news in the hubbub.

That’s because the $3.7 billion valuation for Facebook uncovered Harry Potter-style in the court papers–although treated as new news by the blogosphere–was actually old news from a while back.

For those not paying attention, the legal document revealed that Facebook agreed to pay the Winklevoss-founded social site ConnectU $20 million in cash and 1,253,326 shares of common stock.

The worth of those shares depends on whether you are using Facebook’s “own appraisal” to set the value of the start-up at $3.7 billion or the fictional-from-the-get-go $15 billion from when Microsoft (MSFT) forked over $240 million for preferred shares in Facebook in late 2007.

(If you’re bored, you can play investigative reporter on the docs here too!)

In any case, it’s only the legal hijinks–either via rank incompetency or, more likely, creative leaking–that I want to know more about, especially since heretofore confidential information seems to keep seeping out of this case like some hole-plagued rowing shell.

Besides the invisible ink trick, there was also the “accidental” leak earlier this week by the law firm that once represented ConnectU against Facebook about how well it had scored for the Winklevosses.

In a marketing newsletter, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges bragged it had earned them the higher $65 million figure, based on the Microsoft valuation, rather than the lower Facebook one.

ConnectU fired Quinn Emanuel over the settlement–likely because the lower figure was the right one–and, presto, the new information suddenly emerges.

And last year, Zuckerberg was subjected to widespread ridicule after the Boston-based magazine 01238 got hold of all sorts of court-sealed goodies about his bad behavior while a student at Harvard University, where he created Facebook.

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Of course, the documents that still have not gotten leaked are the alleged “smoking gun” that shows Zuckerberg to be guilty and the Winklevii redeemed. While many on the twins’ side have persistently insinuated they exist, such proof has not surfaced as yet.

That’s why, until then, this whole legal circus remains a ship of fools.


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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post