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Facebook IPO: An Anatomy of Wall Street Overreach

Before trading, Facebook's bankers were ready to count their profits in billions. By close, they'd had to bail out their own IPO.

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What happened was a decisive statement. Wall Street is trying to capitalize on the financial hype by sending out companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga and Groupon public before they are mature enough to sustain the pressure of being publicly-owned companies. But what Wall Street wants and what Wall Street gets, these days, are two very different things.

Regular investors – just normal Americans – bought 20% of the Facebook IPO. They are usually known derisively as the "dumb money". They have wised up a bit, perhaps, in the decade since the dotcom bubble. Most of the hype, and the expectation of vast riches, came from Wall Street bankers and professional investors – another sign, perhaps, that the finance industry is trapped in its own bubble, out of touch with American sentiment.

For Facebook, the first day of trading was mildly embarrassing – no big "pop". It closed on the day moving down: the stock closed at $38, the exact prior price set by the underwriters. As a metaphor, this was irresistible: after all the excitement, talk, euphoria and disappointment, Facebook ended the day right where it started.

Heidi Moore is the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace, from American Public Media. Formerly, Heidi was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, where she was the lead writer for the paper's award-winning Deal Journal. Priot to that, she was US bureau chief for London-based, Dow Jones-owned weekly newspaper and daily website, Financial News.

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