Much of Wall Street thinks the Facebook data scandal is overblown

Key Points
  • The Cambridge Analytica scandal knocked roughly $50 billion off Facebook's market value this week.
  • A number of Wall Street analysts still think the company is a buy.
Altimeter Capital's Brad Gerstner on buying the dip in Facebook
Altimeter Capital's Brad Gerstner on buying the dip in Facebook

Altimeter Capital Management CEO and founder Brad Gerstner is one of many on Wall Street who thinks Facebook's latest scandal is no big deal. He called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg "one of the best management teams in global technology" and recommends buying the stock.

"I take issue with this idea of some big scandal," he said Wednesday on CNBC's "Halftime Report."

"Buying great companies at a fair price, particularly when they're on sale, is a good recipe for long-term investing," he added.

And he's not the only one. Famed investor Bill Miller, portfolio manager of the Legg Mason Opportunity Trust, agrees Facebook stock is "too cheap."

"This too shall pass," Miller wrote in an email to CNBC's Scott Wapner on Wednesday.

RBC Capital senior tech analyst Mark Mahaney also agreed, saying he is "largely not worried" when he appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Monday. He argued fears over regulation were likely already priced in to the stock and that advertisers would likely increase their ad spend on Facebook in the year ahead.

Facebook came under fire this week after reports emerged that political data analytics company Cambridge Analytica accessed the data of more than 50 million users of the social media network without their permission. Facebook has known about the situation since 2015 but didn't publicly acknowledge it until The New York Times and the Guardian's Observer reported it on Saturday.

Facebook executives did release statements on Wednesday addressing the Cambridge Analytica situation.

"We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," Zuckerberg said in the statement.

Still, the scandal has taken a serious toll on Facebook's stock, which has lost nearly $50 billion of market capitalization since Monday.

"We don't think fundamentals have changed, but in order to know that with certainty, you've got to know where the money is coming from," Mahaney said. "We've seen 66 percent of Facebook advertisers in our most recent survey say they plan to increase their spend with Facebook in the next 12 months. I don't think this issue today will affect that sentiment."

Facebook’s data issue won’t affect sentiment: Analyst
Facebook’s data issue won’t affect sentiment: Analyst

Gerstner acknowledges everything is not perfect at the social media company, especially considering engagement is down on its core platform. But like Mahaney, he sees tremendous potential for advertising monetization on emerging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

"Facebook hasn't even scratched that surface. There are tremendous pools of advertising dollars that will flow to Facebook in the years ahead," he said.

Altimeter Capital Management is a technology-focused investment firm with $2.7 billion in assets under management. Altimeter was an early investor in Facebook and Google.