When Greed Turns Ugly: The Winklevoss Twins vs. Facebook Capers

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

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I admire chutzpah; it’s the quality that enables entrepreneurs to strike out on their own – when many aren’t brave or foolhardy enough – and it’s what can take organizations and individuals from “almost made it” to “congratulations.”

What is admirable chutzpah can turn sour if it veers further south into entitlement and greed; “I deserve things because I’m me, not because of anything I’ve done or earned.” Though not my cup of tea, a little greed and entitlement may be OK (Oscar Wilde “Everything in moderation including moderation”) assuming it stays in certain bounds; too much and you’re looking a personal or organizational cancer, the sort of thing that sours people or companies for one long time.

What to make then of the case of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss? After cutting an idea origination lawsuit deal – claiming that Mark Zuckerberg stole their concept – with Facebook in 2008 for $65 million ( a settlement now worth an estimated $140 million due to increased value of the stock portion of the deal), the Winklevoss twins now claim that Facebook deceived them and they want to unwind the settlement.

They are asking for more. How much more with Facebook now worth an estimated $50 billion given the recent $450 million by Goldman Sachs? No one is saying.

There are certain psychological ticks that are frequently telling. When someone volunteers that they’re not a crook, they probably are (See Richard Nixon, picture above, on YouTube saying “I”m not a crook” – before the fact that he had obstructed investigations in the Watergate burglary came to light.) When someone says it won’t hurt, it probably will.

When someone says it’s not about the money, as the Winklevoss twins have, you know it’s about the money.

While represented by attorneys in the negotiations – attorneys they are now suing – the gist of their lawsuit, as shown on this clip from NBC’s Today Show,  is that Facebook didn’t play fair and hid information. When asked if they could have taken Facebook to the same market leading position as Zuckerberg has their response is “Absolutely.”

I have no idea if the idea for Facebook was stolen or not, or whether or not Mark Zuckerberg is a thief or a genius – or both. I will say that taking Facebook to the point where is it has been no apparent piece of cake.

The frank reality when you enter into a deal is it can turn out favorable or not-so-hot. Perhaps the twin’s perception is different than mine but $65-140 million seems like a large chunk of change. And asking for more seems like asking for all the upside, and none of the downside.

The Bhagavad Gita says that “Hell has three gates: lust, anger and greed.” With the Winklevoss vs. Facebook case it looks like we get to see two out of the three.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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