My friend and fellow train commuter Adam pointed out an article in the WSJ yesterday. It was about a CFO for a publicly traded fashion retailer who had been fired over Facebook and Twitter postings. Here’s an excerpt:
Mr. Morphis was chief financial officer of fashion retailer Francesca's Holdings Corp. The Houston-based company fired him because he "improperly communicated company information through social media."
I read the article fully expecting to be shocked, but found his comments to be pretty tame – they did not reveal insider information (at least, in my opinion), he did not harass, swear, etc. At worst, they seemed a bit sophomoric, like he was trying to be hip on social media, yet clearly wasn't getting the "everyone and anyone can listen and your words can live online forever and be used against you" part.
Here are a few examples:
- ...he tweeted: "Dinner w/Board tonite. Used to be fun. Now one must be on guard every second."
- The following day, he posted "Board meeting. Good numbers=Happy Board."
- Mr. Morphis posted on Facebook about a company earnings call: "Earnings released. Conference call completed. How do you like me now Mr. Shorty?"
- Months earlier...he posted about another investor call. "Cramming for earnings call like a final. I thought I had outgrown that..."
- Mr. Morphis also posted about an investor road show... "Roadshow completed. Sold $275 million of secondary shares. Earned my pay this week." (The retailer held an initial public offering last July.)
I asked my friend Bob, also a CFO, for his opinion about the situation. He pointed out that the company likely would not have fired this guy for the reasons stated if they liked him, and really wanted to keep him. Bob said, however: “This guy sounds like a self indulgent jerk; he deserves to get fired because he made comments that could hurt or embarrass the company.”
Many companies have policies that provide guidelines for how to use social media. While it might seem to be common sense, they should spell out rules that vary according to job title and function – top executives should be held to a higher standard, especially at public companies where there is much sensitivity (and legal rules) about fair disclosure.