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Goldman Sachs to its US Clients - NO [FACEBOOK] SOUP FOR YOU!

Yesterday I was interviewed by the New York Post regarding my thoughts on why Goldman Sachs yanked its offer to its US clients to invest in Facebook, indirectly via a special purpose entity it set up that would act as a single shareholder of Facebook.  You can see the article here.  Here is the comment and quote they attributed to me:

Still, some legal experts said that Goldman is being overly cautious as there is little precedent for halting a private deal due to media attention.

"There's just no precedent for a deal being blown up because of hype in the media," said Brian Powers, an attorney specializing in private placements.


My understanding of the deal is that Goldman Sachs was offering shares of the special purpose entity to its high net worth, pre-qualified (i.e. accredited) investors.  The deal has been all over the media, as is anything that involves Facebook - and obviously anyone and everyone wanted in on the deal.  Problems arose on two fronts.  First, the SEC apparently was raising an eye over the requirement that private companies maintain no more than 500 shareholders.  I have no idea how many shareholders Facebook has, but the SEC was apparently concerned about this even though technically the Goldman Sachs deal was only creating 1 additional shareholder.

Second, and more importantly the reason being cited by Goldmans Sachs, the intense media attention made Goldman Sachs fear they would run afoul of the proibition against general solicitation and advertising in a private placement of securities - which this was intened to be.   The applcable regulation is rule 502(c), which states:


[N]either the issuer nor any person acting on its behalf shall offer or sell the securities by means of any form of general solicitation or general advertising, including, but not limited to, the following:
1) Any advertisement, article, notice or other communication published in any newspaper, magazine, or similar media or broadcast over television or radio; and 
2) Any seminar or meeting whose attendees have been invited by any general solicitation or general advertising.
The SEC and courts are pretty clear that an issuer can't just go out and advertise an offering to the general public in the newspaper..etc.  What is different here, though, is that there was no solicitation to the general public or even any sort of "advertisement" in general circulation - there was simply media attention - just lots of it.  The other difference here is that, despite the media attention, Goldman Sachs had no intention or desire to open the offering to anyone other than its own prexisting and pre-qualified clients.  On the surface, then, it doesn't seem like Goldman Sachs has done anything in contravention of SEC rules.
But that is a view from the outside, and I admit that I know very little about the facts here other than what has been reported in a few different media reports.  I don't know how the media attention started - did Goldman Sachs initiate it via a press release?  Was it leaked?  Did it offer the deal to its clients before the story broke?  A safer approach would have been to confidentially open the deal up to its clients BEFORE the story was released (or leaked) to the media.  If, instead, Goldman broke the story in the media BEFORE taking it to clients, the exposure to potentially blowing its exemption from the registration requirements is probably greater.


There is no way of really knowing what action the SEC may have taken had the offering remained on the table to Goldman's US clients. If I had to guess, though, this was simply a matter of eliminating an unecessary risk.  Media reports are saying that the offering was fully subscribed many times over, and I am guessing the entire offering can easily be subscribed via foreign clients. Rather than run the risk of drawing the ire of the SEC - I am betting Goldman decided to simply eliminate that risk and take the much less risky foreign money.


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Reader Comments (2)

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need, thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.

October 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimjen

Wow, very interesting article. I'm really surprised by Goldman Sachs decision to pull that decision from their clients.

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

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