Five questions answered on Netflix's Facebook "violation"

Digested.

Netflix Inc’s chief executive Reed Hastings is in trouble with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) because of something he posted on Facebook. We answer five questions on his controversial post.

What did Hastings say?

On 3 July Hastings announced on a public Netflicks Facebook page accessible to 244,000 subscribers that one billion hours of video was being viewed a month by members of the video streaming website. 

He said exactly: "Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June."

So, what’s the problem with this post exactly?

The way the information was disclosed is the problem. The SEC believes that this particular figure is material information and therefore should have been disclosed in a press release or regulatory filing.

SEC's Regulation FD, adopted in 2000, requires public companies to make full and fair public disclosure of material non-public information.

What kind of action is the SEC taking?

The "Wells notice," as it is known as, that was received by Netflicks and filed by the company as regulations dictate, states that the SEC is planning on bringing civil action against the company because of the post made by Hastings.

The SEC staff will recommend the full commission pursue either a cease-and-desist action and/ or civil injunction against Netflix and Hastings.

What has Hasting said about his contentious Facebook posting?

According to The Telegraph, Hasting said yesterday that his posting was public enough: "First, we think posting to over 200,000 people is very public, especially because many of my subscribers are reporters and bloggers," 

In a letter posted alongside the regulatory filing he added "We remain optimistic this can be cleared up quickly through the SEC's review process." 

What are other people saying?

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Reuters: "It's totally disingenuous to say that his statement wasn't material when the stock went from under $70 a share to more than $80 and the only data point was that post."

While, Joseph Grundfest, former SEC commissioner and Stanford Law School professor also told Reuters: "The evolution of social media presents the SEC with some very interesting regulatory challenges. But if they're worried about social media, there are ways for them to address that without threatening to sue Reed Hastings. They should have a rulemaking where they can ventilate these issues. "

Netflix is in trouble. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.