In defense of the Winklevoss twins

The unfairness of being tall, handsome, rich -- and the object of universal derision

By  

”Cameron

Cameron Winklevoss (L) and twin brother Tyler Winklevoss are shown in this combination photo leaving the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a hearing on a settlement dispute with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in San Francisco, California January 11, 2011.

Image credit: REUTERS/Stephen Lam


By now many of you know that a judge on Monday told Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss they must accept the previously agreed-upon $65 million cash and stock settlement with Facebook over allegations that company founder Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for an awesome social networking site.

The rejection of their appeal by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco leaves the twins with the equivalent of a legal Hail Mary: A rehearing before a larger "en banc" group of 9th Circuit judges with the authority to overrule the panel's decision. But an en banc hearing must be requested and is not granted as a normal part of the appeals process.

Failing that, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is the only arrow left in the twins' litigation quiver.

Facebook settled with the Winklevoss's in 2008, when the company was already generating plenty of buzz but well before it began looking like the most successful Internet start-up since Google.

The twins eventually decided they were short-changed in the settlement, arguing that a Facebook internal valuation estimated that the company's worth was considerably higher than the Winklevoss's and their attorneys were led to believe at the time.

However, in announcing Monday's decision, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, "At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached."

It's easy to paint the Winklevoss's in an unflattering light for appealing a settlement to which they've already agreed, one that enables them to split $65 million and thus become even richer than they already are.

Plus these are two 6' 5", incredibly handsome brothers who grew up privileged in Greenwich, Conn., went to tony private schools and then on to Harvard. They're not exactly sympathetic characters, and the notion of them being victims is almost laughable.

But Facebook did settle with the Winklevoss's, and whatever you want to say about settlements, I choose to believe it's an admission of some wrongdoing. After that, it's about price.

Indeed, that's the crux of the Winklevoss case: That they were deceived about Facebook's value at the time of settlement. Clearly the Winklevoss's believed they were -- even if the 9th Circuit panel doesn't agree -- so they pursued a legal remedy.

Which is their right. Yet the Winklevoss's have been mocked for their appeals bid -- including by me, right here, when I wrote, "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."

But I've grown since January, and now realize that when the rights of the wealthy and privileged to exhaust every single, possible, conceivable legal remedy are threatened, the rights of all of us to exhaust every single, possible, conceivable legal remedy are threatened.

Some see Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss fighting for more wealth. I see them fighting for the rest of us. Except, if they win, they get all the money.

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