Facebook Terminated Corporate Development Employee Over Insider Trading Scandal
Facebook corporate development manager Michael Brown (pictured left in happier days) recently and abruptly left Facebook, and the company then hired a senior Google employee to replace him. It was a curious departure and the chatter around Silicon Valley was that there was a lot more to the story.
And in fact there is. Via a scandal that could have far reaching consequences by bringing even more SEC scrutiny onto rampant secondary trading in non-public startups like Facebook and Twitter.
Brown, multiple sources have confirmed, purchased Facebook stock on secondary markets (like those occurring weekly on SecondMarket) immediately before the announcement of the Goldman Sachs investment that valued the company at $50 billion earlier this year. Effectively, he engaged in insider trading, say sources, by purchasing stock that he knew would soon increase sharply in value based on insider information unknown to the seller.
In a public company this would almost certainly violate a number of federal laws. However, say sources, the fact that Facebook is not (technically) a publicly traded company means those laws don’t apply. His actions did violate Facebook’s own insider trading policies, say sources, and he was terminated by Facebook for those violations.
Facebook would not comment on this story, other than to say “we don’t comment on personnel matters.” We also spoke with Michael Brown’s attorney, Edward Swanson, who confirmed that he was representing Brown but wouldn’t comment further.
The size of the trades was relatively small, we’ve heard. But the consequences to Silicon Valley’s newfound love of free-wheeling unregulated secondary market trades may be much larger.