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ConnectU-Facebook fight one stroke closer to finish line

Claiming that letting the settlement hang in limbo would benefit neither party, judge rules that it must go through before ConnectU's founders can appeal.

As twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss power toward Wednesday's semifinal in the rowing events of the Olympics in Beijing, their longstanding court case against Facebook is winding down.

A San Jose, Calif., judge ruled late last week that ConnectU, the start-up that the brothers founded with Harvard classmate Divya Narendra, must transfer its stock to Facebook as part of the settlement acquisition by Tuesday, despite the claims on behalf of ConnectU that Facebook failed to disclose its true valuation when negotiating the terms of the settlement. The start-up's founders alleged fraud on Facebook's part, and claimed that irreparable harm would ensue from the settlement going through in its present form.

Facebook had been valued on paper at $15 billion when Microsoft took a $240 million stake last November. But that valuation was specific to Microsoft's preferred stock and the business deal surrounding it, Facebook said. Its real valuation is between $3 billion and $4 billion--reports place it at $3.75 billion.

Judge James Ware ruled last Friday that while ConnectU's appeal can be heard, the settlement has to go through first. "The longer the court delays in enforcing the settlement between the parties, the more likely the value of the consideration subject of the settlement (i.e. the value of the stock of each company) will change," Ware wrote in his ruling. "This means that the status quo cannot be preserved with a stay."

Ware originally rejected claims of fraud in June, prompting the appeal.

ConnectU's founders are slated to receive a mixture of cash and Facebook stock as part of the settlement. They originally sued Facebook in 2004, claiming that founder Mark Zuckerberg had swiped their code and business plan after being employed as a ConnectU software developer.