It is the same characteristic that causes people to believe against staggering odds that they can win the lottery, or score big in Atlantic City or discover a foolproof "system" for playing the stock market. It is the familiar get-rich-quick notion that somehow one can bypass hard work, sound financial planning and win The Big One, retiring to a life of ease.
The old maxim "There's a sucker born every minute" can be amended in the Internet age. Today, there's a sucker born every second. No matter the teaching of moralists, history and experience, there are still those who believe they have discovered something new, or that they alone have a gift for making money.
Facebook was going to create "instant" millionaires, even billionaires. It did for founder Mark Zuckerberg and a few of his associates, who sold their stock immediately and reaped immediate profits. There is nothing wrong with what they did. That's business.
But shareholders are blaming Mr. Zuckerberg and Morgan Stanley, one of the firms handling the IPO sale. Reuters reports the plaintiffs are accusing the defendants of "concealing from investors during the IPO marketing process 'a severe and pronounced reduction' in revenue growth forecasts, resulting from increased use of Facebook's app or website through mobile devices."
This is like suing a casino because you lost money at the roulette table. Gamblers know, or should know, the risk in betting. The stock market is simply another form of "gaming." When investing in an IPO, one is "betting" the stock will rise and the investor will profit. There are no guarantees. Even a novice investor has probably heard the disclaimer, "past performance does not guarantee future results."
The problem with moral lessons is they must constantly be relearned. The dot com bubble burst of the '90s wasn't enough for some people. Big and small scams, some of them advertised on TV, continue to catch the easily duped. Recall the recent rash of gold commercials in which the announcer proclaims that "some experts" predict gold prices will soon top $3,000 an ounce. Gold prices are down from their historic highs, but the commercials continue to run.
How about a reverse mortgage? There are dangers with those, too, but to hear the paid spokesmen talk about them, you might think they are the answer to all your financial problems. In fact, they are not for everyone and may cause new and even worse problems.
Why don't people learn from history and the experiences of others? Greed is listed among the "seven deadly sins" for a reason. In the case of those who poured a lot of money into Facebook stock seeking instant wealth, only to see the price plummet, their greed did them in.
There are rules about money. Licensed financial advisers -- as opposed to some of the TV hotshots who "recommend" stocks -- inform individuals about responsible investing. But our human nature too often gets in the way of sound judgment, and it is that which the flimflam artists, snake oil salesmen and sleight of hand merchants have relied on for generations to fool us into believing they have discovered the fast track to prosperity.
Those who lost money in the Facebook IPO have wound up with egg on their faces. They should have known better. Congress now wants to get into the act. It shouldn't. Facebook involved private money. If Congress wants to investigate something, it should examine how it wastes taxpayer money.