More than once, the chief financial officer of Houston-based Francesca's
Holdings Corp. wondered in a tongue-in-cheek Twitter post whether his days at
the company might be numbered.
Turns out, they were. On Monday, the women's boutique chain announced it was terminating CFO Gene Morphis -- not, the company claims, because of his handling of company finances, but over his use of social media.
The statement from Francesca's did not reveal what specific comment or comments online caused the company to fire Morphis, but it did refer to "improperly communicated company information through social media."
An investigation was launched after Francesca's officials discovered the activity on May 11, according to the statement. The company declined to comment further, and efforts to reach Morphis were not successful.
Morphis links to his Twitter account, personal website and blog from a LinkedIn profile. He also has a Facebook account.
Among his Twitter posts: On March 7, six days before Francesca's announced its quarterly earnings, he wrote: "Board meeting. Good numbersHappy Board."
That is inappropriate for a CFO, said Uptal Dholakia, professor of management at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.
Before an earnings call last December, Morphis posted on Facebook: "Cramming for earnings call like a final. I thought I had outgrown that." In January, he boasted to his friends: "Roadshow completed. Sold $275 million of secondary shares. Earned my pay this week."
When using social media, an executive should be sensitive to the company brand as well as the stature of his or her position, Dholakia said.
Comments made in social media last forever and can be dangerous for any employee, certainly one in a public company, said Matt Eventoff, owner of Princeton, N.J.-based Princeton Public Speaking. For high-ranking executives, he said, the danger increases dramatically.
"Public companies are under intense scrutiny, and any bit of information can affect share price," Eventoff said.
Morphis' total compensation from Francesca's in 2010, when that information was last made available, was more than $1.2 million.
Before working at Francesca's, he was CFO at David's Bridal and, prior to that, at Rowe Cos., a furniture maker and retailer. He was terminated from Rowe in 2006, according to the Washington Post, after a year in which Rowe stock lost almost half its value.
Founded in 1999, Francesca's Collections is a retail boutique chain featuring women's apparel, jewelry, accessories and gifts.
The company, which has more than 280 stores in 41 states, went public last July.
For the company's quarter ending Jan. 28, net income increased to $8.4 million, or 19 cents per share, compared with $4.3 million, or 11 cents, at the same time last year. Revenue was $61.7 million, compared with $39.9 million at the same time last year.
Shares of Francesca's closed Monday at $25.61, up $1.58, or 6.6 percent.
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