Is Mark Zuckerberg seeking a role in government? The question first arose in December when a lawsuit filed by the company’s investors revealed the secret texts sent by board member Marc Andreessen to the Facebook CEO mentioning the latter’s ambition to go into “government service.”
The class-action lawsuit filed in late April came after Facebook’s board proposed to create a new type of non-voting shares for minority investors that would essentially allow Zuckerberg to maintain control over the company. The Facebook founder would then be free to follow up on his plans to pour more of his wealth into his “philanthrocapitalism” venture with his wife Priscilla Chan, known as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Investors claimed that Andreessen and Zuckerberg meddled in the board’s decision, alleging that their actions represented a “self-interested agglomeration of power.”
When the court filings were covered by the media in December, most of the reports mentioned a proposal that put a two-year cap on Zuckerberg’s ability to serve “in a government position or office” without losing control of the firm. However, that interpretation is now being challenged by TechCrunch, which claims the SEC filings show that Zuckerberg can serve in government indefinitely. For this scenario to take place, all the CEO has to do is own 30 percent or more of his class B voting shares and discuss the move with Facebook’s board. Alternatively, if Zuckerberg is in a position where he owns less than 30 percent of his original shares, he can still receive approval from the board or serve for less than two years. The proposal itself shows that Zuckerberg explicitly asked for the “sunset triggers” during negotiations.
Facebook’s contingency plan would only see Zuckerberg lose his valuable class B stock if he died, became disabled, was fired, or permanently resigned from his position. As a result, his stock would be converted into the less-powerful class A shares, allowing the board to seek a “high-quality” replacement.
Zuckerberg inadvertently increased the speculation surrounding his political ambitions by revealing a statesman-like New Year’s resolution on Tuesday. The Facebook CEO claims his latest “personal challenge” is to visit every American state and talk to local people in what sounds an awful lot like a campaign trail-style road trip.
However, it must be noted that nothing is official as of yet. Thanks to his powerful position as the head of a global social platform (home to 1.79 billion users) Zuckerberg has already established political connections. He has hosted world leaders including outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his Facebook headquarters for town hall-style discussions. Last year, he travelled to China to talk with public officials and also had a private meeting with the Pope.
Even Facebook’s other execs and board members are no strangers to the world of politics. During the most recent election, rumors were rife that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was being courted by Hillary Clinton’s team for a top job in her proposed cabinet. Additionally, board member Peter Thiel is on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
Whether or not Zuckerberg can successfully run for office despite his platform’s divisive nature (especially in light of its highly politicized fake news crisis) remains to be seen. What is becoming increasingly clear is that there is really nothing stopping him if he does decide to do so.