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Congressional panels reviewing Facebook IPO issues

(Reuters) / 24 May 2012

The U.S. House and Senate committees that oversee financial sector matters are planning to look into the issues surrounding Facebook Inc’s initial public offering, aides to both committees said on Wednesday.

Sean Oblack, a spokesman to the Senate Banking Committee, said the review will focus on “issues raised in the news” and that staff will be conducting briefings with “Facebook, regulators and other stakeholders.”

Marisol Garibay, a spokeswoman for the House Financial Services Committee, said staff there is also receiving briefings on the issue and “gathering information and facts.”

“While no hearings specifically focused on this IPO are planned at this time, the Committee will have hearings over the coming weeks where this topic is likely to be raised,” she said in a statement.

The announcements by the committees come on the heels of reports by Reuters that an analyst for lead underwriter Morgan Stanley cut his revenue forecasts for Facebook in the days before the offering.

It is unclear whether Morgan Stanley only told its top clients about the revised view or spread the word more broadly.

The IPO also suffered setbacks following a technology glitch on the Nasdaq exchange during Facebook’s first day of trading on Friday. Staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission are reviewing the incident.

Neither committee aide said what specific issues they are looking at regarding the Facebook IPO.

In a separate statement, Senate Banking Committee member Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, called on the SEC to probe whether or not the banks underwriting Facebook’s IPO violated any securities laws.

“Effective capital markets require transparency and accountability, not one set of rules for insiders and another for the rest of us,” said Brown, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee’s subcommittee on financial institutions.

“There’s a lot that we don’t know about this IPO, but a lot that we do. We know that the SEC must fully investigate and take appropriate action if it discovers any violations.”

On Tuesday, two top U.S. financial market regulators said they would explore the circumstances surrounding Facebook’s IPO.

Richard Ketchum, the head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said regulators plan to review allegations that Morgan Stanley shared negative news with institutional investors before Facebook’s IPO.

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro also said her agency wanted to explore “issues” surrounding the Facebook IPO as well, but she did not provide specifics.

Morgan Stanley has said it has complied with all of the applicable regulations.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts state securities regulators have issued a subpoena to Morgan Stanley seeking information about its analyst’s discussions with investors about Facebook.

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