Tech Companies Are Trying to Bribe Journalists With Pre-IPO Stock

Analyzing the top news stories across the web
May 9 2014 7:45 AM

Tech Companies Are Trying to Bribe Journalists With Pre-IPO Stock

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There's not enough bribery going on for your show to be true to life, Mike.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Here's a startling story about the extent of the hubris in Silicon Valley these days, as well as the lengths tech companies are currently willing to go to win favor and buzz...

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A leading technology journalist, Adam Lashinsky, writes that he was just offered pre-IPO stock in Arista Networks, a company that makes a new networking technology. 

The offer came directly and personally from the company's CEO, Jayshree Ullal:

I was surprised but not completely flabbergasted by the phone call I received a few weeks ago. A representative of Arista Networks, a networking company I've written about recently, phoned to inform me that the company's chief executive wanted to offer me "friends and family" shares in Arista's upcoming initial public offering. The offer was explicit, down to the number of shares I'd have the opportunity to purchase at the IPO price. The caller specifically wanted me to understand this offer came directly from CEO Jayshree Ullal.

Lashinsky, like any good journalist, called Arista and asked whether the company was bribing other journalists, too. The answer, it sounds like, was, "yes":

I phoned Wednesday to ask if other journalists had been offered IPO shares; a spokeswoman pointed me to a section of its Form S-1 filing which states that a directed share program exists—and nothing more.

This response suggests that many people at Arista are involved in the journalist-bribery program, not just the company's CEO. It appears to be an organized public-relations campaign, dreamed up or at least actively supported by the most senior people at the company (who apparently didn't consider the possibility that the company might accidentally offer stock to a journalist with integrity).

(It's not clear whether the program is designed as payment for prior favors—Lashinsky recently conducted an interview with CEO Ullal—or future loyalty. It also doesn't seem like it really matters.) 

Lashinsky views this program as proof that Silicon Valley is once again caught up in the throes of a bubble — a mass delusion in which an entire community has become so enveloped by its own echo chamber that it believes normal rules no longer apply.

This attitude, Lashinsky and others recall, is exactly like the arrogance, delusion, and programmatic wheel-greasing that infected the Valley last time around.

(As just one of many examples, in 2000, a San Jose Mercury journalist was "reprimanded" for accepting a similar offer of pre-IPO stock in a Valley company.)

Henry Blodget is the founder, editor, and CEO of Business Insider. Follow him on Twitter.

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