Facebook stock closed sharply up on Tuesday, as Congressional testimony by CEO Mark Zuckerberg hadn't caused any major Maalox moments by the time the bell rang — giving at least 28 lawmakers a financial reason to celebrate.
Largely faced with scripted questions from lawmakers who could seem hesitant about follow-ups, Zuckerberg avoided major gaffes before the market close, expressing contrition and pledging to protect user privacy.
Although Facebook stock dipped sharply when the CEO began his testimony, his performance ultimately inspired a rebound. Share prices closed at their highest level in 11 days, up 4.5% overall, their best day in two years. After hours, the stock gained nearly another half a percent.
At the Senate hearing, which began around 2pm Eastern, Zuckerberg said he welcomed the right kind of regulation from Congress and that the company was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
The company's stock had been on a slide since Mar. 17, when the "New York Times," the "Guardian" and UK's Channel 4 reported that Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users, then utilized it to target pro-Trump, anti-Clinton messages during the 2016 election. Cambridge Analytica has several ties to the Trump campaign.
Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were criticized for waiting too long to respond to the scandal and offering fuzzy solutions. But investors reviewed Zuckerberg's performance today more positively.
There were some contentious exchanges during the hearing. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held Zuckerberg to account about its monopoly status, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was unimpressed with the CEO's "apology tour," which he said was a repeat event. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Facebook of harboring an institutional bias against conservatives. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told Zuckerberg, "Your user agreement sucks."
But on social media, some lawmakers were criticized for seeming too unfamiliar with technology to elicit specific answers from Zuckerberg, while others were dinged for lobbing softballs. It made clear that many senators were walking an awkward line: They are facing calls to regulate a social-media behemoth they need to keep their jobs.
Additionally, 28 members of Congress own stock in Facebook, and CNBC reports that Facebook donated $604,000 to members of the two Senate committees that held Tuesday's hearing.