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Facebook struggles as lawsuits loom

The stock climbed a dollar on Wednesday, but it is still 16 percent below its IPO price last Friday.

By Barbara OrtutayThe Associated Press / May 23, 2012

The pre-market price for Facebook stock is shown, Wednesday, May 23, at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York. Facebook stock rose in early trading Wednesday, although still far below the $38 it was priced at before its initial public offering (IPO) Friday.

Mark Lennihan/AP

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Facebook's fourth day of trading as public company brought shareholder lawsuits, and an increase in the company's stock price as the fallout continued from the social network's botched initial public offering.

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Facebook Inc.'s stock climbed $1, or 3.2 percent, to close at $32 on Wednesday.

The gain was only a small reprieve for shareholders. The stock's rocky inaugural trading day Friday was followed by a two-day decline. The stock is still trading nearly 16 percent below its $38 IPO price.

The IPO was tarnished Friday morning by a half-hour delay in the trading of Facebook's stock, caused by glitches on the Nasdaq Stock Market. It was marred further this week as investors began accusing the banks that arranged the IPO of sharing important information about Facebook's business prospects with a select group of clients.

Several shareholders who bought stock in the IPO have filed lawsuits against Facebook, its executives and Morgan Stanley, the IPO's lead underwriter. At question is whether analysts at the big underwriter investment banks cut their second-quarter and full-year forecasts for Facebook just before the IPO, and told only a handful of clients about it.

One suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, claims Facebook's IPO documents contained untrue statements and omitted important facts, such as a "severe reduction in revenue growth" that Facebook was experiencing at the time of the offering. The suit's three plaintiffs, who bought Facebook stock on its first day of trading May 18, claim they were damaged in the process.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment. Facebook said the lawsuit is without merit.

Another lawsuit, filed in San Mateo County Superior Court in California, holds Facebook and underwriters liable, claiming that Facebook's IPO documents misled investors. Both suits seek class action status on behalf of investors who bought Facebook stock on Friday and lost money.

"No one gets it perfect, as far as saying what the financial results are," said Anthony Michael Sabino, professor at John's University's Peter J. Tobin College of Business. The bottom line, he added, is whether Facebook or the underwriter had material information about Facebook's finances that was not disclosed publicly.

"At this moment, it's still too early to say," he said. "We don't know enough, but this could turn out to be an issue."

Adding to the day's events, Facebook was in talks with the New York Stock Exchange to move its stock from the Nasdaq Stock Market after the botched offering, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The news of the talks was first reported by Reuters.

NYSE spokesman Rich Adamonis said: "There have been no discussions with Facebook regarding switching their listing in light of the events of the last week, nor do we think a discussion along those lines would be appropriate at this time."

A Nasdaq spokesman declined to comment.

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