January 23, 2009

How Quickly Are Things Changing? eBay Sends 70 Tweets During Its Earnings Call

With the coming regulatory reform likely to be a whopper (the House passed the “TARP Reform and Accountability Act” on Wednesday; it’s not expected to go anywhere in the Senate though), I predict a huge host of changes this year beyond those required by law. For example, Corporate America will start catching up with the young folks online (my 14-year old lives for Facebook).

Case in point: On Wednesday, eBay’s Richard Brewer-Hay (the guy behind eBay’s “Ink Blog”) sent a total of approximately 70 tweets during an eBay earnings call (it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number; it depends if you count “retweets”). It’s pretty amazing to witness a play-by-play of what is happening during the earnings call. Talk about real-time disclosure!

I’ll leave aside the legal analysis of this activity for another day as I’m still agape over how this could alter the disclosure playing field. Yes, earnings calls are now available via audio streaming (ie. webcast) – but for those that like the written word and don’t want to wait for a transcript, this is a pretty remarkable development. Third-party services have done similar things with earnings calls, but not anyone in-house that I’ve seen.

However, as Dominic Jones shares with his LinkedIn group (see below for more on that):

In my view, live tweeting is *not* a worthwhile practice or good use of Twitter. As you will be able to see for yourself, it creates a lot of noise and is difficult to follow. Here’s a predefined search on Twitter that shows you only the twitter messages relevant to eBay’s earnings announcement (not how the average twitter user would see them). However, much more effective is how eBay is now treating its quarterly earnings announcements on its corporate news blog. They’ve set up a new page that posts a summary of the earnings release, links to the webcast replay, access to past earnings releases AND links to news articles about the company’s results. This is an interesting development.

Essentially, eBay is targeting different audiences with the blog version of its earnings announcements than it does with its traditional IR website. I’m not sure this is a good idea, and eventually I expect that the IR website will begin to reflect the blog. As it stands, the blog people at eBay are doing a better job communicating the company’s results than the IR people. That’s something the IR profession needs to think about.

Welcome to Dominic Jones, Co-Editor of

Hat tip to Dominic Jones of IR Web Report fame for pointing out this eBay eye-opener! Not only is Dominic on the cutting-edge of issues related to the intersection of IR and technology, he is tremendous as an investigative reporter. I’m very excited to announce that he recently agreed to join me as Co-Editor of and he wrote the lead article in the Winter ’09 issue that we just posted. It’s entitled “Online Annual Reports and Proxy Statements: What’s Wrong And How to Fix It.” Remember is absolutely free – you just need to sign up.

For those interested in IR matters, I recommend that you request to join Dominic’s new LinkedIn Group, “Investor Relations 2.0.”

I’m heading to San Diego on Tuesday so I can witness Northwestern’s “Annual Securities Regulation Institute” for the first time. If you’re heading that way, let me know and we can break bread. I’m tempted to tweet during it, but may take notes the old-fashioned way and report back…

The Obama Administration’s Promising Push to Modernize

Just after Barack Obama was sworn-in as President on Tuesday, the White House website underwent a make-over as noted in this NY Times piece. Although there has been a lot of fanfare over the White House’s new blog and YouTube channel, the real power that the Obama Administration will bring to government is the leveraging of social media and other technologies to get better ideas from a larger collective and to communicate regulatory changes and interpretations more effectively.

Ever since Obama won the election, his transition team has hit the ground running here in DC – and I have heard that they promptly requested that all federal agencies provide them with information regarding their technological capabilities. It could be that the Obama Administration will force all the agencies to weave social media and other technologies into their daily activities in the near future.

Some pretty exciting stuff – and it may well make some of the ideas expressed in the SEC’s “21st Century Disclosure Initiative” seem quaint before you know it. On the other hand, the reality is that this is the government we are talking about. As this Washington Post article suggests, it’s not going to be easy for the new Administration to do what they are used to with technology.

January-February Issue of The Corporate Counsel

We recently mailed the January-February issue of The Corporate Counsel to the printers. This issue includes pieces on:

– Annual Proxy Season Practice Tips
– The FAS 5 Treaty—Impact of Recent and Coming Changes in Accounting Standards
– S-K 403 Disclosure of Negative Pledge
– Reverse Split Uptick?
– A Few Thoughts on Form 12b-25
– Staff Reverses/Clarifies That 8-K Item 5.02(b) Not Triggered by Director’s Required Tender of Resignation
– Schedule 13D/G—CSX and Other Uncertainties—Time for Staff Input
– New CDI Now Says Plan Should Be Filed As S-8 Exhibit
– Two Recent Restricted Stock Staff Letters
– Get Ready for More Short Sale Regulation

Act Now: Get this issue on a complimentary basis when you try a 2009 no-risk trial today. As all subscriptions are on a calendar-year basis, renew now to continue receiving upcoming issues during a time of great change.

– Broc Romanek

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