Goldman Sachs Limits Facebook Investors to Foreigners

By Ed Silverstein January 18, 2011

Goldman Sachs may lose out from having a leading role on a lucrative IPO by the latest turn of events, which has led the company to limit investments in Facebook to foreigners.

Goldman Sachs had come up with an investment vehicle that would have allowed basically any of its wealthy clients to invest in Facebook. But the scheme was widely reported in the media after it was e-mailed to clients. Now, the only investors who can take part in the Facebook investment plan have to live outside of the United States – where U.S. government rules do not apply.

The emerging situation was called “a huge embarrassment” for the banking firm, by Business Insider, with the New York Times calling it a “serious embarrassment.”

The media got interested because the scheme was similar in ways to traditional public investment in Facebook and appeared to some to be a way to get around securities law. Many observers also thought it was a launching point for an initial public offering in the successful social media company.

Media reports say that Goldman Sachs took the move to ban U.S. investors because of pressure being applied from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Goldman Sachs, however, said it took the move on its own.

Facebook is still expected to have an IPO in 2012, but given the snafu with Goldman Sachs, Facebook may find another lead financial partner to handle it, the New York Times and other newspapers reported.

Goldman Sachs blamed the situation on the media attention. The New York Times explains that “federal and state regulations prohibit … ‘general solicitation and advertising’ in private offerings” so “firms …cannot take action that resembles public promotion of the offering, like buying ads or communicating with news outlets.”

On top of all the media stories, Facebook has gotten additional attention recently, with a major Hollywood movie now playing about its founding.

The Times reports that the SEC recently started reviewing “news reports and the structure of the transaction” between Goldman Sachs and Facebook.

In addition, the SEC says companies have to disclose select financial data if there are over 499 investors, according to a report from TechZone360.

Interest was further fueled in Goldman Sachs after it invested $450 million into Facebook. Facebook was recently valued at $50 billion.

Want to learn more about how federal regulations are shaping and re-defining communications and information technology? Then be sure to attend the Regulatory 2.0 Workshop, collocated with TMC’s ITEXPO East, taking place Feb 2-4, 2011, in Miami. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has pursued the singular goal of ubiquitous broadband access to an open Internet. While some progress has been made, the most difficult decisions are ahead. What's the Commission to do? This program will examine the important issues facing the FCC including net neutrality, inter-carrier compensation and universal service reform, new CALEA legislation, next generation 911, additional spectrum for wireless broadband and the evolving role of state regulation. To register, click here.

Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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