In what was one of the more unusual events on Wall Street last week, Twitter’s (TWTR) Q1 earnings report was leaked before the closing bell. Ironically, the results were made public via a series of tweets from Selerity, a data science firm. The tweets revealed that Twitter missed revenue expectations by more than $20 million and also cut quarterly and annual guidance. Not surprisingly, Twitter’s stock price plummeted more than 20%.
Although Twitter was not at fault for the leak (the Nasdaq corporation admitted it had accidentally published the earnings report beforehand), the dismal results reaffirmed the growing number of bearish outlooks surrounding the company’s future. In response, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo blamed the disappointing earnings results on "lower-than-expected contribution[s] from some of our newer direct response [ad] products." Costolo, who is already under scrutiny for Twitter’s disappointing 2014 Q4 results, is now facing more criticism than ever, and for good reason.
After Twitter missed Q4 2014 expectations, Costolo deceitfully encouraged shareholders to retain their shares. After issuing said guidance, Costolo sold $35 million of his shares. Not only did this selloff lower Twitter's stock price, but it also diminished shareholders’ faith in the company and its CEO. Similarly in Q1 of this year, Costolo not only failed to meet analyst expectations, but he also once again demonstrated that his managerial intentions are strictly personal. Dick selfishly prefers to see his wealth increase at the expense of Twitter's success. The company's Q1 report revealed that Twitter is buying TellApart, a tech-advertising firm. Twitter explained the acquisition is in line with the company’s intention to grow it’s e-commerce advertising sales. However, Twitter failed to explain how Costolo is a major investor in TellApart. Seems like a conflict of interest, right? Therefore, Dick will either receive cash, stock, or a combination of both to satisfy his greedy tendencies.
For Twitter’s shareholders, now is the best time to demand for Costolo's resignation. Although Chairman Jack Dorsey and co-founder Evan Williams both support Costolo, there is literally nothing else weighing in his favor. Moreover, it also appears Costolo is losing support among other Twitter executives. A Wall Street Journal article published in November indicated that Twitter's executives have become “confused and frustrated” by Costolo’s unreasonable decisions. Yet, there remains no indication that Costolo is on his way out. For the time being, Twitter serves as an important lesson regarding executive leadership and shareholder relations. As long as Costolo is at the helm, he will use Twitter as his personal piggy bank and its performance will continue to disappoint. It is now up to shareholders to fix the Board of Directors' crony decisions and extreme acts of incompetence; Costolo must go if Twitter is to succeed.
While this is unlikely given the company's childish leadership, all investors should review Twitter’s ongoing situation as a case study into failed corporate governance and accountability. The mere existence of corrupt corporations like Twitter are as good a reason as any to conduct thorough research and analyses prior to investing. Specifically, you should research company executives to determine if they have a failed managerial history and/or conflicts of interest.