Court panel backs Facebook settlement
Winklevoss twins vow to press fight
SAN FRANCISCO — Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the Olympic rowers and identical twins who claimed that they, not Mark Zuckerberg, had the original idea for Facebook, have lost the latest chapter in their six-year legal feud. But it’s a loss that comes with a pretty nice consolation prize. And it may not be the end of the case.
A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the brothers, whose fight over Facebook’s origins was the narrative arc of the Hollywood hit “The Social Network,’’ cannot back out of a settlement they signed with the company in 2008. That settlement is now worth about $200 million, according to estimates by experts.
The twins had asked the court to undo the settlement so they could pursue their original case against Zuckerberg and Facebook, and presumably win a richer payday.
They had argued that Facebook had deceived them about the original value of the settlement, and the court roundly rejected their claims. Yet the decision, written by Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, apparently has not persuaded the twins to give up. They said through their lawyers that they plan to ask that their case be heard by the full Appeals Court.
Kozinski wrote: “The Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace. With the help of a team of lawyers and a financial adviser, they made a deal that appears quite favorable in light of recent market activity.’’
He added: “For whatever reason, they now want to back out. Like the district court, we see no basis for allowing them to do so.’’
The settlement, which included $20 million in cash and more than 1.2 million Facebook shares, was initially valued at $65 million. Shortly after signing it, the Winklevosses, and their partner, Divya Narendra, argued that Facebook had deceived them about the value of the shares. Narenda is not part of the current suit.