Social Media is not a buzzword, it is a powerful medium that transcends demographic boundaries and introduces you to new friends, reunites you with family, brings together potential business partners, and sometimes even gets you that elusive job you had always wanted. And at other times it can cost you that great job others would kill to have. That is exactly what has happened to Gene Morphis the CFO of a public company, the fashion retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp.
Like most of us, Mr. Morphis maintained a social presence through his public Facebook profile, a Twitter handle and a Blog, and used to share things from his personal to professional life through these mediums. It’s the stuff that he shared about his company’s activities that cost him his job.
Here are some of the things that he shared which eventually led to his ouster from the company:
- Earlier on Dec. 5 : “Cramming for earnings call like a final. I thought I had outgrown that…”
- Jan. 27 : “Roadshow completed. Sold $275 million of secondary shares. Earned my pay this week.”
- March 6 : “Dinner w/Board tonite. Used to be fun. Now one must be on guard every second.” The next day, he posted “Board meeting. Good numbers=Happy Board.”
- March 13 : “Earnings released. Conference call completed. How do you like me now Mr. Shorty?
Mr. Morphis had been Francesca’s CFO since October 2010, earning a total of $566,720 in 2011 and $1.2 million the previous year. He previously held CFO positions at David’s Bridal and the Rowe Companies, and was listed as being 63 years old in an SEC filing last month.
“We are disappointed by this situation but we expect our executives to comply with all company policies,” – Greg Brenneman, chairman, Francesca’s board of directors and chairman, private-equity firm CCMP Capital
While it is now a widely known and reported fact that social media updates have led to people being detained in several countries. Certain governments (read China) keep a close tab on and constantly monitor the activities of people online and track down any violators and offenders and use their social media musings such as a Facebook update or a Tweet against them as verifiable proof of offence in a court of law, but incidents of employees being fired for their social media updates is not rare anymore.
“It’s understood by employers that employees are going to use social media, but hopefully they won’t run afoul of their company’s rules and potentially harm the employer,” – Eric B. Meyer, Employment lawyer in Philadelphia with Dilworth Paxson LLP.
According to a survey released this year by the Society for Human Resource Management about 40% of employers have formal social-media policies, the survey was conducted across 470 companies, a third of these companies with policies have taken action against an employee in the past year. Still it is not every other day that a senior executive of the position of a CFO gets fired for his/her social media updates, therefore this case is a bit of an exception.
“They are going to have access to more inside, confidential information so there is the risk that they can publish it” – Eric B. Meyer.
So the next time you decide to post your opinion about your company’s quarterly revenue growth/decline, shun the idea. You just might get yourself fired for breaching company policy.