There’s stupid, and then there’s Harvard stupid.
Give credit to Motley Fool funds lead advisor Bill Mann for coining the term. In 2008, he used it to characterize the sort of smart-guy stupid that had overrun Wall Street, creating a system so bankrupt it raised questions about the future of free market capitalism.
But Harvard stupid doesn’t begin and end there. Sometimes, it manifests itself as audacity. Call it the I’m-too-special-to-be-stupid brand of stupidity. For this, I give you exhibits A and B: Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.
Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled the twins could no longer seek to toss out a settlement reached in 2008. At the time, Facebook paid $20 million in cash and $45 million in equity to settle charges that Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for the social network from the Winklevosses when all three were classmates at Harvard.
The twins have since sought to undo the settlement -- now worth more than $160 million, Fox News reports -- claiming they were duped when the company didn’t volunteer a richer valuation for the stock.
Translation: “Um, we were told there would be no math for this quiz. Please pay us what we were supposed to be paid.”
I’ll grant that valuation isn’t an easy art to master, especially when it comes to pricing early stage companies that trade for outrageous multiples to negligible revenues. But the Winklevosses majored in economics. They went on to attend business school at Oxford. They’re supposed to, you know, have some expertise valuing companies that aren’t easy to value.
With that sort of background, it takes a special sort of audacity to claim you were too stupid to know you were being offered a bad deal. Specifically: it takes Harvard stupid audacity.
There’s an investing lesson in all this, Fool. If you have neither the time nor the patience to understand early-stage growth businesses such as Facebook, stay away. Don’t buy. Don’t short. Don’t even get within spitting distance.
The same holds true for high-priced tech stocks such as salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) and Acme Packet (Nasdaq: APKT ) . Both stocks have seen more than 5% of their current shares outstanding sold short, often to the detriment of those shorting. Value investor Whitney Tilson knows the feeling. He paid the price for shorting Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) .
In the end, what this means is that the Winklevosses had no business accepting Facebook stock in the original settlement. They didn’t know what they were getting. If they did, there wouldn’t be a suit. The deal terms would have simply been better.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about the Facebook settlement, the rise of social media, and the art of valuing tech stocks using the comments box below.