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Report: Facebook letting employees unload stock options?

A rumor hints that current employees of the company may be able to cash out on a portion of their stock options starting this fall.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy

If you see an increase in the number of 20-somethings driving nice cars around Palo Alto any time soon, maybe this is why: VentureBeat reported Monday that Facebook is ready to let current employees unload a fifth of their stock options, at the company's internal valuation of $4 billion. It's slated to start this fall. For early employees of the company, which was founded in a Harvard dorm room, this could mean some legit cash.

Facebook's valuation was reported at $15 billion when Microsoft took a $240 million stake last year, but the company has backtracked on that number, referring to it as a "business deal" rather than a former paper valuation. Microsoft's stake was considered to be in "preferred stock," whereas the $4 billion valuation refers to common stock.

The company's actual valuation came under scrutiny in the last throes of the ConnectU vs. Facebook trial, in which plaintiff ConnectU's founders cried foul that their erstwhile rival hadn't disclosed its true worth during the legal process.

If VentureBeat's report is true, this could be a sign that another way for Facebook employees to cash in their stock--an initial public offering or a sale to a big tech or media company--isn't on the immediate horizon. It also might raise a few eyebrows: for a young corporation still abiding by a mantra of "growth over profits," employees selling stock could seem a little bit presumptuous.

Facebook representatives were not immediately available for comment.