As Twitter’s stock price plummeted nearly 18% in the course of a single day of trading Tuesday, numerous former employees sat on their hands and watched their shares shed value. Some, no doubt, were following the lead of CEO Dick Costolo and cofounders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, who say they’re in it for the long haul, not the quick gain. Some knew selling shares on the day an insider lockup expires is generally a pretty bad idea.
And then there were those who wanted to sell but couldn’t. The frustrations of the latter came to light on Valleywag, which published a screengrab of a Facebook comment thread where a number of ex-Twitterians commiserated about the events of the day.
The Valleywag screengrab is real. It’s from private Facebook group called Flown The Coop, which is only open to ex-employees of Twitter. I reached out to a few sources for a better understanding of what went down.
Several months ago, Twitter notified members of its employee equity compensation plans that it had transferred management of those plans to a company called Computershare. Computershare is based in Australia but has offices in a number of U.S. cities, including New York and San Francisco.
As the expiration of the lockup approached and holders of shares, options and restricted stock units began considering what to do with them, some noticed that Computershare charges painfully high transaction fees. One person I spoke with inquired about transferring his shares to another brokerage and was told the only way to do that was for him to write a letter and mail it. There was no online form for it.
Twitter does have a corporate email helpline for employees having problems with their equity grants, but ex-employees say the [email protected] address was mostly unresponsive. (You can see people joking about it in the Facebook thread.) In general, Twitter did little to communicate with former employees about the lockup expiration and help them navigate their choices.
The result: As trading started Tuesday morning and TWTR shares began their long journey south, many ex-employees who’d been waiting months or years to realize the value of their equity grants were still in a chaotic scramble.
Perhaps Twitter could have foreseen the problems with Computershare, seeing as its own servers are full of people complaining about the company.
Anyone else finding Computershare unresponsive and uncontactable? “Due to high number of calls, try again later.” No apology. Epic #Fail
— Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk) April 14, 2014
— Craig Broadbent (@toppee) May 3, 2014
@Computershare your customer service truly sucks… i mean truly… it always.. ALWAYS takes 3 to 4 phone calls to get ANYTHING done
— Wilson Wilson (@WilsonWilson101) April 30, 2014
One person who’s been griping about it is Betaworks partner Sam Mendel.
— Sam Mandel (@sammandel) April 30, 2014
Mandel was in charge of business operations at Tweetdeck when Twitter acquired it in May 2011.
The complainers are right: It’s annoyingly hard to get in touch with a human at Computershare. I’ve sent several emails and called the main number at the San Francisco office, where the only answer was a recording specifically instructing callers not to leave a message. I’ve also emailed Twitter and will update this post with their comments if and when I get them.