According to a report, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is investigating whether outgoing COO Sheryl Sandberg misused company employees and resources on her personal projects, including writing a book and promoting her foundation.
Sandberg, 52, who announced last week that she was stepping down from her position as Mark Zuckerberg’s No. 2, said she is leaving the company after 14 years to focus on women’s issues.
Her announced departure coincided with a Wall Street Journal report that she was being investigated by meta-lawyers for using company resources to help plan her upcoming wedding to her fiancé, marketing executive Tom Bernthal.
But the Journal reported Friday that the wedding is just a small part of a much broader investigation into Sandberg’s behavior that stretches back years.
Meta-lawyers are reportedly investigating whether Sandberg’s subordinates expended energy and resources on company time to support her women’s empowerment initiative, Lean In, named after her 2013 bestseller.
Sandberg is also under investigation by company lawyers for allegedly having had employees help her write her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
The book was written by Sandberg in 2017. It describes the grief she felt after the sudden death of her first husband, Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, in 2015.
If the investigation finds that Sandberg behaved inappropriately, she could be asked to reimburse Meta for time employees spent working on their personal projects.
There are also reportedly some concerns within the company that Sandberg has failed to adequately disclose the use of professional resources for personal gain to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Post reached out to Meta and Sandberg for comment.
Sources close to Sandberg told the Journal that the investigation played no part in her decision to step down.
“Sheryl did not use improper company resources in connection with the planning of her wedding,” a Sandberg spokeswoman said last week.
A Meta representative, Caroline Nolan, echoed that sentiment, telling Post Week, “None of this has anything to do with her personal decision to leave.”
Sandberg is also under investigation for allegedly pressuring the Daily Mail to publish a critical story about her then-boyfriend, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
In a lengthy Facebook post explaining her decision to leave in the fall, Sandberg noted her upcoming wedding to Bernthal.
“I’m not exactly sure what the future will hold — I’ve learned that nobody ever is,” Sandberg said.
“But I know I will be more focused on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women. And as Tom and I get married this summer, we will be parents to our extended family of five children.”
Sandberg’s personal and professional challenges emerged as Meta attempted to rebrand itself as the Metaverse company following a series of scandals — including damning reports of the damaging effects Instagram and other corporate-owned platforms are having on the mental health of teenage girls.
Sources told the Journal that Sandberg feels he’s become a “punch bag” for the company’s woes. They added that Sandberg was not heavily involved in the company’s efforts to build their Metaverse.
“She sees herself as someone who has been targeted and tarred as a female leader in a way that wouldn’t happen to a man. Gendered or not, she’s fed up,” said a person who has worked with Sandberg for many years.
During her tenure, Sandberg led the development of the Facebook advertising juggernaut that accounts for the bulk of Meta’s revenue.
Zuckerberg was effusive in his praise of Sandberg in a post reacting to her exit.
“Looking forward, I have no plans to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure. I’m not sure that would be possible as she is a superstar who has defined the role of COO in her own unique way,” Zuckerberg said.
Additional reporting by Thomas Barrabi