(Bloomberg Businessweek) – For an entrepreneur who has turned the “community” into his life mission, Mark Zuckerberg has always seemed strangely focused on managing his own appearance. It was his decision to hire former Barack Obama campaign manager before a bizarre pseudo-political bus tour attended by a herd of drivers and a photographer known for documenting the Obama presidency. There were his highly crafted “personal challenges” (one of which included Morgan Freeman’s voice advertising), birth announcements doubling as corporate restructuring, and a 2021 personal security budget that was nearly 16 times larger than Amazon Inc. . spent to keep Jeff Bezos safe.
All of this may seem excessive, but it can be argued that it makes at least some sense from a business perspective. Meta Platforms Inc., the mother of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is closely identified with its co-founder and supreme leader. The way a CEO is perceived publicly affects the company – so if you’re an Facebook investor, you probably won’t complain if you find out that Zuckerberg has hired a sociologist to go around asking people how they feel. for him personally. For years, this approach seems to have been applied to its chief operating officer, Cheryl Sandberg.
Now it turns out that Facebook is rethinking this logic, at least as it was for Sandberg. On June 10, it was announced that Sandberg’s decision to leave the company, announced earlier this month, coincided with an internal investigation into her “use of corporate resources” for personal expenses, including her foundation, book and planned wedding. The investigation into possible misappropriation, which Sandberg has denied, threatens to undermine what was a well-choreographed departure and could hamper Sandberg’s prospects as a potential chief executive or Senate candidate. In addition, as stated, this could lead to sanctions by the Securities and Exchange Commission if Sandberg’s personal expenses are not properly disclosed.
Still, the focus on supposed wedding planning, if it really played a role in her departure, should feel a little strange to anyone who has paid attention to the company’s well-established policy of spending extreme sums of money to provide comfort. and maintain the reputation of its top leaders. It smells either of a sexist double standard – in which Zuckerberg promoted his own brand while his deputy was sanctioned for such behavior – or of trying to deviate from the real scandals surrounding Facebook, Zuckerberg and Sandberg for years.
If Sandberg used corporate resources to plan her wedding, what of it? For years, her personal life was a crucial asset to the company, as important as the Cult of Zuck, if not more. Sandberg’s bestsellers helped improve Facebook’s reputation as a progressive employer and diverted attention from the destructive aspects of the company’s business. Thanks to what covered Sandberg’s career, marriage and parenting strategy, she became an icon of corporate feminism, as opposed to just the executive branch behind a massive advertising machine. , her follow-up to the death of her husband, David Goldberg, served as an advertisement for the cathartic power of Facebook use during the heavy loss process. As the reviewers noted, it was a deeply personal memoir that simply encouraged people to go online and share like crazy.
It then made sense for Facebook to poll the public about Sandberg’s sympathy, in addition to Zuckerberg’s, and to spend $ 9 million on security for her last year – less than half of what she spent on Zuckerberg, but still more of costs worth five Bezoz. Sandberg’s wedding, when it happens, will be a big media event. It would offer another opportunity to showcase Facebook’s sharing tools and highlight the company’s interest in taking care of its employees’ entire selves in order to borrow Sandbergism. It would be, like books, a greater opportunity for a personal and corporate brand, and it would be strange if Facebook’s lawyers acted differently.
Of course, planning the wedding wasn’t the only thing Sandberg did when he announced his departure. She also faced accusations of a secret agreement known as “Jedi Blue” with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to manipulate online advertising auctions in a way that would benefit both companies, according to an antitrust lawsuit. (Jedi Blue is also being investigated by EU and UK regulators; Google and Meta have denied wrongdoing.) Even more damaging to her situation was the allegation that she used Facebook employees and the company’s power over publishers to pressure The UK to kill a story for a temporary restraining order against ex-boyfriend, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. (Sandberg and Kotik also denied this.) I haven’t even mentioned the simpler aspects of Sandberg’s mandate that deserve to be examined. For example: the way it loads custom data-driven advertising, sometimes at the expense of user privacy; the way she helped carve out the news industry; or the way Facebook has allowed extremists to thrive on their platforms.
Both the Google Pact and the indictment are cases in which Sandberg and her future former employer are potentially abusing market power. They would be much worse than the suggestion that she used assistants to help her take care of some personal matters. Facebook said the investigation into the story was complete, but did not say what it revealed; claims that this investigation was folded into an investigation into her use of corporate resources, which apparently continues.
Facebook, no doubt, would like all of this removed now that Sandberg is about to leave. It will be a pity if this happens. Sandberg’s tenure on Facebook deserves real moral accounting; not worthy of the tabloids scandal about wedding expenses.