Facebook Board Backs Sheryl Sandberg's Handling of Research Into George Soros -- Update

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12/05/2018 | 09:42 pm
George Soros

By Deepa Seetharaman

Facebook Inc.'s board of directors said it was "entirely appropriate" for Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer, to ask if George Soros had shorted the company's stock after the billionaire investor called the social-media giant a "menace."

The board's letter was sent by Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch to Patrick Gaspard, president of Mr. Soros's Open Society Foundations, earlier Wednesday.

"To be clear, Ms. Sandberg's question was entirely appropriate given her role as COO," Mr. Stretch wrote. "When a well-known and outspoken investor attacks your company publicly, it is fair and appropriate to do this level of diligence."

Mr. Gaspard has been among those who have been critical of or questioned Ms. Sandberg's handling of the matter.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gaspard published a letter to Facebook's board on Twitter, saying that Ms. Sandberg misled him in a private phone call, during which she said she didn't know about company-commissioned opposition research into Mr. Soros by Definers Public Affairs, a consulting firm that Facebook tasked with scrutinizing detractors.

Facebook has confirmed that Ms. Sandberg sent an email to her staff in January asking whether Mr. Soros has shorted the company's stock after the liberal philanthropist called internet "monopolies" a "menace" in a speech at the World Economic Forum.

On Wednesday, Mr. Stretch said Ms. Sandberg was being truthful about her knowledge of Definers' work into Soros.

"She told you, truthfully, that she had not known about the work done by the Definers public relations firm related to Mr. Soros," Mr. Stretch wrote.

Facebook officials had already asked Definers to look into Mr. Soros before Ms. Sandberg sent her email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted the stock, according to a Facebook spokesman.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com

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