January 11, 2011, 6:04 PM — I hate it when a company takes advantage of people, whether it's customers, employees or investors.
But I'm having a hard time picturing Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss as poster boys for corporate victimhood. And it sounds like the judge in a San Francisco courtroom hearing the twins' appeal of their $65 million settlement with Facebook in 2008 over the founding of the social networking giant is facing the same empathy challenge.
As Reuters reports:
The 6-foot, 5-inch brothers, who sat in the front row at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, started a company called ConnectU while they were students at Harvard University. They say that fellow Harvard student and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea. Facebook denies these claims.
The twins argue that based on an internal valuation at the time that Facebook did not disclose, they should have gotten more Facebook shares as part of the settlement to the dispute. Facebook argues it was under no obligation to reveal an internal valuation.
Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace pointed out that the twins had several lawyers representing them at settlement talks, and that their father is a business expert.
Well, yeah, but what do they know? Behind the cufflinks and monogrammed shirts, they're rubes!
Facebook attorney E. Joshua Rosenkranz disputed the allegation that the twins and their rube braintrust were misled, claiming that Facebook would have been more than happy to provide valuation and other information, if only the company were asked to do so, which he says it wasn't.
Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Rosenkranz added, "The ConnectU founders struck a deal that made them very very rich, and it is making them richer by the day. At some point it is time to move on."
It's a cold, cruel world we live in when tall, handsome, wealthy Harvard graduates have to make do with a mere $65 million settlement to which they agreed.
The WSJ reports that a verdict in the appeal case "is expected in the coming months." The coming minutes would be more appropriate.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.