Billed as a means for the average investor to get in on the ground floor of the hottest company to go public in years, Google’s auction-style IPO has nonetheless ended up with elitist overtones. “The underwriters’ definition of ‘average investor’ for this IPO apparently includes above-average knowledge, experience, and money,” writes AP business writer Michael J. Martinez, whose brokerage firm disqualified him from participating.
Martinez’s story is an interesting inside peek at the new process. He describes his experience filling out a required eligibility questionnaire before Ameritrade would permit him to enter the auction. To satisfy SEC requirements, each individual underwriter must determine a bidder’s eligibility to participate in the Google IPO–and each brokerage can set its own requirements. To avoid more lawsuits from disgruntled investors, the firms are being pretty strict this time around, it seems.
Google’s process, involving public bidding, a minimum purchase of only five shares, and 28 separate underwriters, was designed to open the IPO to a new level of public participation. But as Martinez points out, stock, and especially risky IPOs, aren’t for everyone.