Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Even If It Had 500 Shareholders Today, Facebook Doesn’t Have to Disclose Financials Until Spring of 2012

For all those in a tizzy–including BoomTown–about Facebook’s deal with Goldman Sachs, which some think is designed to circumvent securities rules related to shareholder numbers and financial disclosure, meet Section 12(g)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Because if anyone cared to read the actual text of the law in question (as I did, after it was pointed out to me), even if it was determined that Facebook had 500 shareholders at this very moment, it is technically not required to disclose any of its financial details until May of 2012.

As in next spring, which is exactly when its execs have told many sources it will finally have its much anticipated IPO. Thus, look Facebook to finally go public in the second quarter of 2012.

As far as government literature goes, 12(g)(1) is pretty clear, noting that any company of Facebook’s size, after it reaches 500 shareholders, must make financial and other disclosures “within one hundred and twenty days after the last day of its…fiscal year.”

For Facebook, its current fiscal year ends December 31, 2011, making its disclosure deadline April 29, 2012.

As the New York Times noted today:

“Section 12 (g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 came about in the 1960s as over-the-counter trading in shares of privately held companies began to heat up and regulators worried that investors were not getting enough information.”

The huge amount of time Facebook has to adhere to the private company disclosure law has not been noted in copious coverage of the deal, in which Goldman Sachs clients would be able to invest up to $1.5 billion in the Silicon Valley company, as part of a single entity “special purpose vehicle.”

But it brings into focus–given its long lead time–whether Facebook would go to such lengths to keep its shareholder size small at this point.

Nonetheless, from a perceptual viewpoint, the Goldman investment has brought unneeded scrutiny to Facebook, from both the public and also government regulators.

It has also painted the company–which has an everyman, mainstream image, in general–as elitist and consorting with rich Wall Street bankers.

In any case, with the Goldman deal, a lot of financial information about Facebook is now seeping out anyway, as part of the investment bank’s offering documents to the clients it is presenting the Facebook opportunity to.

As The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

“According to people familiar with the document, Facebook had net income of $200 million in 2009 on revenue of $777 million. Figures for 2010 weren’t disclosed, but analysts have said the company’s revenue last year could be as much as $2 billion, fueled by advertising growth.”

Whether that smallish net income and revenue deserves a $50 billion valuation or not will be up to investors to decide. But, as the Journal also pointed out, the Facebook offering is oversubscribed already, even without any significant information about the company’s finances.

Which Facebook can keep from us all for a while–although I urge CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google-style, to FREE THE DATA!

And if you don’t believe me, please enjoy the 12(g)(1) below:

Every issuer which is engaged in interstate commerce, or in a business affecting interstate commerce, or whose securities are traded by use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce shall—(a) within one hundred and twenty days after the last day of its first fiscal year ended after July 1, 1964, on which the issuer has total assets exceeding $10,000,000 and a class of equity security (other than an exempted security) held of record by seven hundred and fifty or more persons; and (b) within one hundred and twenty days after the last day of its first fiscal year ended after two years from July 1, 1964, on which the issuer has total assets exceeding $10,000,000 and a class of equity security (other than an exempted security) held of record by five hundred or more but less than seven hundred and fifty persons, register such security by filing with the Commission a registration statement (and such copies thereof as the Commission may require) with respect to such security containing such information and documents as the Commission may specify comparable to that which is required in an application to register a security pursuant to subsection (b) of this section. Each such registration statement shall become effective sixty days after filing with the Commission or within such shorter period as the Commission may direct. Until such registration statement becomes effective it shall not be deemed filed for the purposes of section 18. Any issuer may register any class of equity security not required to be registered by filing a registration statement pursuant to the provisions of this paragraph. The Commission is authorized to extend the date upon which any issuer or class of issuers is required to register a security pursuant to the provisions of this paragraph.

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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