clock menu more-arrow no yes

It’s time for Facebook’s board to step up

The spotlight has been on Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. But Facebook’s board is MIA.

Marc Andreessen and Sheryl Sandberg
Marc Andreessen and Sheryl Sandberg
Kimberly White / Getty Images for Fortune

For more than a week, Facebook’s critics have wondered if the company will face any consequences for the dirty tricks and deceptions detailed in a Nov. 14 New York Times story. So far, at least, the answer appears to be a resounding “nope.”

But on the latest episode of Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, Kara and Scott discussed a reasonable proposal from the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan — that CEO Mark Zuckerberg should step down as the chairman of Facebook’s board — with Galloway going a step further: “He needs to relinquish the CEO role.”

“There has been enough going on here, whether it’s fomenting lies, deflect, contamination of elections, people being pulled out of cars and hanged, there’s enough here,” Galloway said. “There are CEOs fired every day for a fraction of the infractions that have taken place here, and I think the board needs to reach down, find these spherical objects called testicles and demand that he give up the CEO role or they all resign en masse.”

“I don’t think the board has come under enough scrutiny here, because clearly they are going on background of the New York Times and giving cover-your-ass quotes,” he added.

Swisher agreed that Facebook’s execs have been “coddled” by the board, which includes several prominent tech figures including Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. But she does not think the board will take Galloway’s advice, and also contrasted Facebook’s timid workers with their more vocal peers at Google.

“I don’t see anybody moving except for reporters and stuff like that,” she said. “I think if more stuff comes out, but this particular company is so not ... The employees are so docile, it’s really quite fascinating. They’re docile. I don’t know how else to put it. Facebook employees, you are the most compromised group of people on the planet, let me just say, and you’ve done it for years. Thing after thing, you never object to anything that I can tell and you’re docile.”

You can listen to Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.

Below, we’ve shared a full transcript of Kara and Scott’s latest episode.


Hi, everyone. This is Pivot from the Vox Media Podcast Network. I’m Kara Swisher.

And I’m Scott Galloway, broadcasting live from Pleasure, California.

Pleasure, California? You’re in California?

That’s my deep, liberal, intellectual joke. You didn’t see the president talking about the tragedy in “Pleasure, California?”

No, Paradise, you mean.

Oh, it was all over the news. Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom staring at their feet as Donald Trump lamented about the tragedy in Pleasure. What he meant to say, I think, was Paradise.

Man, I just don’t pay attention anymore. He says something stupid every 15 minutes.

You’ve just had it.

Yeah, I’ve just had it. I’m busy focusing on Facebook, which we’re gonna focus on as the big story this week. Obviously, the Facebook debacle and the updates on it. We talked about it last week and the story in the New York Times, and it’s just gotten worse.

I hosted a show this week with Marc Benioff on MSNBC and they brought in Alex Stamos who was the CSO, the chief security officer of Facebook, and also Sheera Frenkel, the New York Times reporter who worked on the story. We talked more about it and it seemed to have gotten worse, if possible. What do you think of what’s happened there?

Well, the thing I’ve noticed — and I’d love to get some insight from you on the term “worse” by what has actually come out since we last spoke. The thing I’ve noticed is that the knives have come out for Sheryl.

Mm-hmm. For sure.

Specifically for her. Even Alex was sort of ... He seemed to be, I don’t wanna say making excuses for Mark, but it feels like the worm has turned on Sheryl and everyone’s piling on. But let’s go back. What has gotten worse since the last time we spoke?

I think the reaction by Facebook, especially Mark Zuckerberg, about this. Sort of calling it bullshit ... Just the get-your-backup attitude. Like, “Hey, we didn’t do anything wrong here. What are we getting all ...” It’s just such a typical mentality in that company. I’ve seen it on internal message boards and things like that.

What’s interesting is to have the reaction you got at Google among employees over that sexual harassment story, which was, “That’s enough and we need to change” and 20,000 people stepping out versus an attitude from the top ... Obviously, Google’s said nothing because they just put their heads down as was appropriate for the situation. But in terms of Facebook, instead it’s like, “So what?” It just feels like a, “So what? Screw you!” kind of attitude that is sort of shocking. It’s not that you want someone to put on a hair shirt and cry at you, but it is totally inappropriate, the reaction, as far as I could tell.

What have you heard about the Definers and their denials that they did nothing to foment fake news? Has anything else come out on that?

Well, the head of the guy quoted in this story who said he tried to “muddy the waters,” which I think most PR people do. He was just being honest about PR, I think, of the negative side of PR. He says this was not what he was intending to do. He was just pointing out, why should ... He was defending himself. “I would never push nationalists or antisemitic people, and yet it’s fair to point out that Soros is funding this.”

I don’t think they realize that there’s a difference between pointing out one group of people funding it and another, especially with all the heavy attacks that Soros gets that are much ... The Koch brothers do not get racial or anti-semitic attacks. They just don’t, you know what I mean? They don’t get the same level of it. They’re just rich guys trying to manipulate the election.

I think it’s a powder keg over near Soros and not near the Koch brothers and they were trying to, again, false equivalencies. It just drove me crazy.

It’s sort of this idea that we’re moving into that everything is of equal weight. I think the fact of the matter is Facebook was seen to be just like every other big company, which was they will stop at nothing to get their aims, and they just don’t wanna be seen that way.

I would just be comfortable with them saying, “Yeah, we’re a rapacious, normal company that wants to make profits at all costs and that’s the way we are.” I would just appreciate some honesty instead of this “we’re good people” kind of thing, which has been exhausting. I’ve never believed it, but it’s exhausting, I think.

Yeah. It’s bringing up some really interesting issues around big tech. The first is, I believe that Sheryl Sandberg is a protected class, this inspiring progressive on top of a protected class, and that she would have been fired had this company not been a dual-class stock company, making it impossible to fire Mark.

Because now, the board doesn’t wanna be the board that fires the woman. In a weird way, we have this perverse culture in big tech where women have to navigate this Hunger Games-like environment, trying to figure out a way to navigate all these terrible ... defy death at every turn. It’s not easy, in this bro culture of engineering and programmers, to get to the top. But then once you do, I would argue you become a protected class and I think Sheryl Sandberg is a protected class.

Yesterday, I had Bloomberg, the AP, I forget who else, call me and say, “What can Sheryl do?” And my answer is she can be fired. I think she should’ve been fired several months ago and because they can’t fire Mark, he’s ended up being her heat shield. But I think she should’ve been out several months ago when Cambridge Analytica came along, and I want you to respond to that.

I still put it on Mark. I’m sorry. It’s so typical. I agree, she’s running things, too, but he’s ... He’s like the ... I don’t wanna call him a mutant, but he can’t be killed. He’s like Deadpool. You can’t kill him. You can stick him in the leg and he can do everything.

Interesting, Margaret Sullivan ...

More like Jason. Isn’t Jason from “Friday the 13th” the better analogy?

I don’t know. I don’t watch those movies, Scott. I don’t watch any horror movies. I will do it not to myself since I saw “Halloween” when I was a young girl. That was the end of my horror movie phase.

Yeah, “Exorcist” did it for me.

Oh, really?

That was it. No more scary movies.

No more scary movies.

I think that one of the things Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post, tremendously good columnist, wrote was that he should — I think she’s writing for a larger audience — that he should step down as chairman, having no accountability whatsoever. He’s chairman and CEO, founder and controlling shareholder. He’s got all the cards. That he should give up one of his cards so that at least there’s some level of accountability, even if it’s just a fig leaf of accountability. But, I think he has no accountability.

First step, to me, is to remove him from chairmanship and put a real person in there who’s gonna ... who gives exactly zero fucks. That’s what you want. I could do it. And then go from there and see what happens.

I think holding them to account is really important so that there’s someone who doesn’t care if there’s repercussions and then people could judge it from there, rather than this coddling board that coddles. Just coddles and coddles and coddles. I know there are members of the board, I suspect, Reed Hastings and obviously Erskine Bowles and, I’m guessing, Susan Desmond-Hellmann are tougher behind the scenes. I can’t imagine Peter Thiel or Marc Andreessen are ... I think they’re probably highly supportive of this behavior. Nobody wants to pay. Nobody wants to pay. This very suggestion of payment is a problem, that you suggest that people pay.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I love corporate governance. I’ve served on a bunch of boards and I like to remind you and everybody else of that because I’m deeply insecure.

Tell me, I haven’t been on any.

But I have served on a ton of public and private company boards. You do find situations where basically there’s a controlling shareholder and the board turns into not a board of directors, but an advisory board, as is the case at Facebook.

But I think something needs to be done here and I would agree with you that he needs to give up the title, but that’s the wrong title. He needs to relinquish the CEO role. What has gotten Facebook here to this point isn’t going to get them where they need to be and there has been such egregious errors. Carlos Ghosn was summarily removed from office, incarcerated ...

Arrested, yeah.

For what looks like abusing expenses.

This is the Nissan chairman.

The Nissan guy. Arguably, the Mark Zuckerberg of the automobile industry. I would argue the most respected operator in the world of manufacturing or at least automobiles for the last 20 years. Sounds like an expense impropriety. I think he’s in jail as we speak. Jim Brett, CEO of J.Crew, grew same-store sales, navigated a nearly impossible environment in retail, I think the merchandise looks great. Disagreement regarding the future of the company with the board, he has been fired.

There has been enough going on here, whether it’s fomenting lies, deflect, contamination of elections, people being pulled out of cars and hanged. There’s enough here. There are CEOs fired every day for a fraction of the infractions that have taken place here, and I think the board needs to reach down, find these spherical objects called testicles and demand that he give up the CEO role or they all resign en masse.

If the CEO was to say, “Look, boss. We realize you’re in charge, but that doesn’t mean we have to take it.” They are fiduciaries. They are not only fiduciaries for shareholders, they’re fiduciaries for teams, for the commonwealth, and they need to all hold hands around the campfire and say, “This guy needs to give up the CEO role or we’re outta here.”

If Mark Zuckerberg is left alone without a board, that is gonna make life very difficult for him. The board needs to act as fiduciaries for the country, they need to act as fiduciaries for teens, they need to act as fiduciaries for people who are being injured in other countries. They need to start acting like it. I don’t think the board has come under enough scrutiny here, because clearly they are going on background of the New York Times and giving cover-your-ass quotes.

Right, right.

They do have some power here. They should fire Sheryl Sandberg immediately. People are fired for much less egregious activity than Ms. Sandberg. She’s done really well, she’s gonna have a fantastic future. She’s made a billion dollars. I think she deserves all of it. But it is time for her to go and it is time for him to relinquish the CEO role and it is time for the board of Facebook to do their damn jobs.

Well, that’s not gonna happen Scott.

Boom!

Boom, says Scott!

Boom, Kara!

None of which is gonna happen. Thank you for playing a game of fantasy world of internet.

I’m beating my chest.

I’m sorry, you lose!

Da plane, da plane!

It’s not happening. Something has to happen, at least some sort of come-to-Jesus sort of thing has gotta happen in some way. I just don’t know who’s gonna ...

A long time ago, when they were like, “This has to happen at Uber,” I’m like, “Who’s gonna do it? Which of these board members is gonna throw Travis under the bus? Which one? Which one?” Same thing happened when Marissa Mayer was badly managing Yahoo, it was like, “Which one is gonna do it?” Because I don’t see anybody moving except for reporters and stuff like that.

I think if more stuff comes out, but this particular company is so not ... The employees are so docile, it’s really quite fascinating. They’re docile. I don’t know how else to put it. Facebook employees, you are the most compromised group of people on the planet, let me just say, and you’ve done it for years. Thing after thing, you never object to anything that I can tell and you’re docile. Thank you very much. That is my speech to them.

Then, they also ... The company tends to twist things. There’s a really funny tweet by Corey Ciorciari. He said, it was a thing about “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells Norah O’Donnell, we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news.” This guy goes, “Cool. Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook didn’t do the one thing no one has accused them of doing.” They’re changing the tune. They didn’t accuse them of cover-up.

That was a great line.

I think Sheera Frenkel noticed really clearly that they keep addressing things in her article that she didn’t write. It creates a false narrative around what was said in the Times piece. We’ll see where it goes from here. I’m not as ... I don’t think anything’s gonna happen. I think it’ll blow over.

To your point, my suggestion is ...

Hurricane Facebook will continue to ravage the countryside and we’ll say that there’s no climate change going on. Thank you.

What you might find, though, I do think this is gonna happen in the next 30 days. I think Facebook has made itself such an incredibly ripe target, one or two things may happen, and that is I do think you’re gonna see a group of senators or congresspeople decide to propose legislation or threaten legislation.

Okay.

It’s just become too ripe a target. The other interesting wildcard here is some sort of activist play. I’ve had some conversations with activist investors. Facebook is now so cheap, there may be a shareholder reason ...

That’s what’s gonna get them, right? That’s what’s gonna get them, the decline in stock. I was saying the stock will get them. You’re right. Shareholder lawsuit. Calling Dan Loeb, kinda thing.

Well, there may be a cap on the shareholder reason to break them up, that this company actually might be worth as separate entities than it’s trading at right now. It’s actually, by most, I’ve said this all along and full disclosure, I own all of big tech because I love owning monopolies and growing economies, but ...

I own none.

Good for you. Makes it easier for you.

I’m ethical. Jesus, I hate myself for that.

Yeah. I think you could see an activist step in. I don’t know what leverage they have, where’s the soft tissue here, but at some point, there’s a capitalist argument to break them up, which would solve I think a lot of it. But you’re gonna see, somebody’s gonna pop up. I don’t know if it’s Warren, I don’t know if it’s Bennett, I don’t know if it’s Greg Walden from Oregon.

I’ve gotten a lot of press releases and I’ve gotten a lot of congressional people call me. That’s absolutely ... But we’ll see if they have any ability to do anything. I do not think they do. I am not ... I am concerned that they have no power to do anything.

We’re gonna talk about the fails and the wins of the week. We’ve been talking about a lot of failure. We are. We’re such an unpleasant pair, I think. Is there a win?

We’re more unpleasant together.

Yes, definitely. Double the lack of pleasure.

One plus one equals zero.

Any wins that you see, anything that you think is a good thing?

You know, I love Thanksgiving. Do you love Thanksgiving?

Yeah, we’re not supposed to talk about Thanksgiving, this appears on Friday. But go ahead. Go right ahead.

I can’t help it.

I do.

As I get older and I realize the finite nature of my life, I’m an atheist ...

Oh no.

I think this is it. I know, I’m about to get sappy, I’m trying to have a moment with our dozens and dozens of fans, Kara.

Okay.

It’s Thanksgiving and there’s a lot of great research on happiness and the No. 1 source of happiness is the number of deep, meaningful relationships you have. But tied for second are physical fitness and then gratitude and being grateful.

Oh my God.

I’m trying to be more grateful and I’m thinking about all the wonderful things I’m thankful for. The government gets a lot of grief because the individual heading the government is very controversial. But if you look at what’s happened to government employees, the sector that’s lost the most employees over the last 10 years has been retail but a close second is actual government employees.

State tax coffers are really low, so you’ve seen a lot of layoffs at the municipal, local and federal level. I have on my Twitter handle that I’m the product of big government and that the generosity and the vision of the University of California gave me an incredible opportunity. When my kid was speech delayed, the state of New York stepped in and gave him occupational therapy and he’s thriving now. Even more recently, I think about all the folks out on the west coast doing a great job, the first responders.

Yes.

And I think about the brave men and women who put a bullet in the eye of Osama bin Laden.

Scott. You got me.

I am thankful. Most of my income comes from capital gains. The 23 cents on the dollar, I give to municipal, federal and local government officials. I am thankful for them.

Oh god, Scott.

I think they are doing a great job.

All right, you’re gonna go there. I was gonna say Jeff Bezos, Steve Carell playing Jeff Bezos on “Saturday Night Live” was win of the week.

I win.

Trolling Trump.

That was pretty good though.

Actually, I’m gonna go in your ... I thought Gavin Newsom, who’s the incoming governor of California, literally held it together. I know him very well and he was holding it as tight as possibly. I think he couldn’t stand being there and he was a leader.

The tour? You mean the tour of the fire scene?

Yes, he was a leader.

Where they were staring at their feet, where Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom were staring at their feet?

You know what, they were leaders. I know they wanted to toss him in the Pacific Ocean. When he kept saying the wrong things and the fire, the raking, they just sat there and they took it for the betterment of the people there, to focus on the people of California who are suffering. I thought that was a great thing. I’m very excited about the leadership of Gavin Newsom as governor of California. I thought Jerry Brown’s been a great governor also.

Yeah, I think so too.

But, I think Gavin is ... Let me say this about Gavin Newsom. When he did the gay marriage thing way back when and I got married during that period, it took a leader to do that and he suffered politically really badly at the time for what he did, for the stance he made on gay marriage and opening it up.

He suffered and it was a setback to his political career. That to me is leadership. I’m very excited to see if he can really step up in leadership, and not saying something snarking at Trump right when Trump was misbehaving in a terrible tragedy, was ... I wouldn’t have been able to hold it together. I tell you that. I am looking forward to ... I thought that was a win for Gavin Newsom.

What do you think about a Brown-Newsom ticket?

He’s gonna be a big deal in this tech stuff, I think he’s gonna be a big deal in this tech stuff. Yep, I do.

Do you think he’s a big deal for 2020?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

What about Brown-Newsom? What do you think of that as a ticket? Brown-Newsom?

No, it’s too much California. I do think he’s really interesting, I think people always discount Gavin Newsom, maybe because he has fantastic hair and skin. I don’t know what they do. They always discount him and all the time I spend with him, I know he has the thing about what happened personally, that drinking problem and his friend. I get that. He’s got controversy.

But I do think he’s got a lot of thoughtfulness. I’m a big fan of his. I’m hoping for great things from him as governor. I’m hoping ... and I think, again, Brown deserves an enormous amount of respect and thanks, kudos for his running of California. That is who I’m gonna praise this week and I think they’re, I think he’s gonna matter on tech and I’m gonna make him matter, in any case. I’m gonna write about him soon.

So, predictions. We need to wrap it up here. What were some of the predictions you had before we finish up this week? What do you think is gonna happen? You had a good one last week about Amazon, everyone becoming a subscription service of some sort or a loyalty program.

Clearly resonated with you.

You know, a lot of people agreed with you.

Did they?

Yeah.

I think that’s just because they feel sorry for me because you beat me up every week.

Yeah.

They’re coming to my defense.

Oh please, you big baby. Wah, wah, wah.

Poor me. I think you’re gonna see two to three private company CEOs announce that they’re exploring a run for president. I think the most likely one, obviously Bloomberg, but that’s not really private sector. But I think Bob Iger from Disney and Howard Schultz from Starbucks.

You’re going for Iger, I see. I say no on Iger. I’ve asked him directly, he said “absolutely not.”

Really? He said no way?

Yeah, I think his wife doesn’t like the idea. I just get the sense. I think no way for ...

Willow Bay, Stern grad.

I love Willow Bay. She’s wonderful, journalism. She’s great. USC. I love Willow Bay. She’s fantastic. Also, Gavin Newsom’s wife is amazing. She does these astonishing documentaries on all kinds of things.

Are you talking about Kimberly Guilfoyle?

No, not her. That’s a bad one. That’s his bad first wife.

Come on.

Oh no, she’s a naughty girl. No, years ago when she was married to him, she replaced him at an event I was at, a gay dinner. A big, one of those things in a ballroom. Literally, she was so filthy. She was so potty mouthed that even the gay guys were like, “Okay, that’s enough.” In San Francisco.

Really?

If you can shock a room full of gay people in San Francisco, you are way on top of that, I have to say. It was dirty. It was a dirty, dirty bird.

Just decided I like her. Good for her.

It was interesting. I was sorta like, “Whoa! Hold on!” I live in the Castro, San Francisco. There’s very little that can shock Kara Swisher. But no, Jennifer Newsom is amazing.

I don’t think Bob is gonna run. I do think Howard is gonna run, I do think Bloomberg is gonna run for sure.

Yeah, who do you think has a better shot? Bloomberg, well, they’re both billionaires, right?

Bloomberg.

I think you’re probably right.

I think he missed the boat last time, he should’ve done it. He just choked.

That was his moment.

Yeah.

I agree with you. It’s a shame. I thought he was a great mayor.

Yeah.

Have you seen the movie “Queen”?

No, I have not.

It’s fantastic. Oh wait, is it called “Queen” or is it called “Bohemian Rhapsody”? What’s it called?

“Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Is it called “Bohemian Rhapsody”? It’s fantastic. That kid who plays, I’m blanking on his name [Freddie Mercury], is fantastic. It’s really a wonderful movie and it’s an inspiring movie about how creativity is just being fearless. It’s really a wonderful film.

Yeah. I did not see it.

I don’t know what made me think of that, Kara, but go see it. It’s fantastic.

I shall. I’m gonna go see something else, probably the one with Viola Davis. I’m gonna go to a lot of movies because I’m doing Friendsgiving. My children are in Cuba.

Your children are in Cuba? What are they doing?

My ex took them there. They’re in Cuba. Whatever.

They’re in Cuba?

My kids have the friggin’ life of Riley, they go everywhere. My kids have met the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. My kids have a good time.

And all the flowing robes?

Whatever. They’re in Cuba. I’m here having a Friendsgiving.

That’ll be nice.

Anyway, yeah. I have no predictions but I like your ... My predictions is that I’m gonna have a lovely, a quiet weekend without my kids, but I miss them terribly.

You deserve it, Kara. You deserve it.

Actually, my son actually wrote me and I put it up on Twitter, he goes, “You have to pick up the phone ‘cause you’re our emergency contact when we’re in Cuba.” He goes, “No ‘I’m in a podcast’ excuse.” I was like, oh my God. He has my number completely.

I had a wonderful, and I know you hate the soft stuff and by the way, I’m convinced ...

Oh my god.

Someone asked me about you, I said you’re an igloo. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Oh my god.

I think you’re a lot nicer than you portray.

Don’t, Scott. You’re killing me.

My kid screamed in the middle of the night last night, “I lost a tooth!” I ran up there and of course he looks like a boxer who just got hit in the face. We say okay, put your tooth under and write a letter and he wrote this hilarious letter asking all these questions. Where do you live? What’s your name? Do you have a pet? How old are you? We of course wrote a letter back and he came running into bed this morning and read all the answers. It was just one of those where-are-the-cameras moment, like a Hallmark Channel.

I hope he doesn’t listen to this.

It was wonderful. No, he’s 8.

Okay.

Are you kidding? My wife doesn’t even listen to this. My family has absolutely no interest in what I do.

Okay. All right.

None whatsoever.

I miss those days of those letters I wrote as Santa. I was an excellent Santa, I have to say. I had a lot of advice for the children. I typed everything, obviously, because my handwriting is easy to understand, not to understand, that they’d figure it out. I miss those days. But they’re over now, Scott. All right.

They’re gone forever?

Gone forever. Yep.

Where has the time gone?

Just like the prospect of Mark Zuckerberg stepping down, anything Facebook ...

It’s slipping by.

It’s going by, day by day. He has Thanksgiving break to have everyone forget and have Trump say something dumb and then we move on to the next news cycle.

All right, Kara. We need to wrap it up here. Any last words?

No, I have no last words. No last words.

Well, looking forward to speaking next week.

Yes, we’ll have lots more to talk about, I’m sure, as we move into the Christmas season, especially on Amazon and all kinds of things.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.