Calls for Mark Zuckerberg to relinquish his dual role as CEO and Chairman have intensified following an article in The New York Times about how Facebook tried to cover up the Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. This follows a string of executive departures related to Facebook’s use of personal data. Will Zuckerberg step down as Chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board?
See Facebook’s updated org chart here.
According to The New York Times, Facebook executives systematically tried to cover up the Russian meddling story and employed a controversial PR firm to smear the company’s critics. In October 2017, Facebook expanded its work with a Washington-based consultant, Definers Public Affairs, that had originally been hired to monitor press coverage of the company. Definers specializes in applying political campaign tactics to corporate public relations and started to spread disparaging information about the social network’s critics and competitors.
"A company with Facebook's massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership," said Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies at Yale University, recently joined the calls for a leadership shake up at Facebook, slamming COO Sheryl Sandberg for denying the New York Times report that she ignored Russian activity on the social network.
The criticism comes simultaneously with a mass exodus of executives at Facebook. Most recently, Brendan Iribe, the former CEO and co-founder of Oculus, announced his exit following reported tension with Zuckerberg. Here are some of the other recent executive departures:
- Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp (April 2018)
- Elliot Schrage, VP Communications and Public Policy (June 2018)
- Colin Stretch, General Counsel (July 2018)
- Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer (August 2018)
- Dan Rose, VP Partnerships (August 2018)
- Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, co-founders of Instagram (September 2018)
- Brendan Iribe, CEO and co-founder of Oculus (October 2018)
The pressure on Zuckerberg is mounting but he would have to resign the Chairman position voluntarily. Zuckerberg owns 16% of Facebook shares but 60% of the voting authority because his Class B shares holds ten times normal voting rights. In a recent call with journalists Zuckerberg addressed the calls for him to resign saying "I don't think that that specific proposal is the right way to go.”
So, will Mark Zuckerberg step down as Chairman? Definitely not.