MarketWatch's Paul Farrell: Facebook Fiasco Could Destroy US Economy

Wednesday, 23 May 2012 07:26 AM

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MarketWatch's Paul Farrell is worried that American investors are blowing a newer, bigger bubble: a "black swan" by the name of Facebook that truly can bring down the economy, bigger than 2000 and 2008 combined.

Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “black swan theory” is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept that an event is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight.

“Does our beloved too-big-to-fail Facebook really have that kind of economy-killing power?" Farrell asks. "You bet."

Editor's Note: How You Lost $85,000 During the Last Decade. See the Numbers.

The reason, Farrell says, is that the Facebook mystique is so powerful that most believe it truly is too big to fail.

The fact, says Farrell, is that Facebook is too big to succeed, and that’s why it’s the ultimate economy killer.

Unlike JPMorgan, which has trillions in hard assets, hundreds of billions in capital, and huge leverage with the Fed and Treasury, Facebook's cash value is now in the pockets of the insiders who are cashing out with the IPO.

"The real ‘value’ is in the minds of a billion friends, which is still a collective illusion that must be kept alive with future cash," says Farrell.

The number of public companies has declined 37 percent since 1997, notes Farrell, and the number of initial public offerings has dropped from 311 annually before 2000 to 99 the past decade.

“Meanwhile, the smart CEOs and the Super Rich are ‘going private,’ to avoid government red tape restricting capitalism,” says Farrell.

Those who got burned in Facebook's initial public offering can blame their own greed for the mess they're in, says Vanguard founder and retired CEO Jack Bogle.

Blame a willingness to invest in an overpriced fad of a stock, which plunged 11 percent the day after going public and sank an additional 8.9% Tuesday.

"This is a classic example, I think, of investor greed, including institutional greed, underwriter greed and company greed. The message to me is, when all the parties to a transaction action are greedy, this is the kind of outcome you can expect," Bogle tells CNBC.

Editor's Note: How You Lost $85,000 During the Last Decade. See the Numbers.


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