Zynga stock options: give some of them back or get fired and lose them all

Zynga, creators of Facebook games FarmVille and CityVille, are taking a cue from their MafiaWars games and strong-arming some employees to give back stock options or be fired and lose them all.

Could Don Corleone do it better? Entice talent with dreams of the big payoff, ride their 80 hour work weeks to success, then kick them to the curb if they don't give up half the options you promised them. And employees can only be given options, they can't somehow take them, so the executives who now claim employees don't deserve their options have to take much of the blame.

In California, employees work "at will" and can be fired at any time for any reason. When fired, your un-vested options go back to the company. If Zynga CEO Mark Pincus had fired the employees he considers under-performing before the big IPO push started, no one could say a thing. But seeing dollar signs in your eyes for a potential $20 Billion IPO, then kicking people to the curb, makes for some horrendous publicity.


People like this are CANCER.

samstave on news.ycombinator.com

Amateur hour. Is there a Darwin Award for dumb CEO actions?

Thomas Turchioe on wsj.com

As a professional in the equity compensation world, I can say I have not seen a company take this path in the past.

Dan Walter on cnn.com

I think this is the execs trying to grab as much stock as possible for themselves pre-IPO, so they can dump it and run.

cheald on news.ycombinator.com

Pincus is greedy, thieving, stupid, inept, dishonest, and completely despicable. Next thing you know, he will run for congress.

Wayne Wilson on wsj.com

Employee advice

The employees of Zynga should stand up to this bullying and theft. Any terminations that occur due to vesting are unethical and immoral. They should strike and demand the board of directors, as their proxies, hold management accountable to honor the equity rights already in place. This is a despicable, underhanded maneuver.

Matthew Nelson on wsj.com

this is unacceptable behavior and I'd like to see more employees who take a risk on startups getting what they deserve and enforcing their rights.

mmaunder on news.ycombinator.com

Smart management

I'd argue that the "down sizing" of options though is something that should be done when the role is downsized, not months/years later when the CEO is having buyer's remorse. That's, I suspect, what feels slimy to people. Especially if the demotion is politically motivated, which happens a lot at the executive level.

melindybyerley on cnn.com

Maybe all those with vested shares should band together and vote to take away Pincus' shares. That would be just fabulous.

Albert Davis on wsj.com

Fundamentally, though, Pincus has done nothing unethical (based on the facts as presented in the article).

Jon Karlen on cnn.com

I wonder if the market will consider Zynga's IPO less valuable because of this executive decision and the bad publicity. That would hurt the employees a second time.

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