Meta is reportedly investigating whether Sheryl Sandberg broke company rules in her dealings with a publication that was reporting on Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who she was dating at the time. According to a new report in The Wall Street Journal, the Meta COO used company resources to help kill negative reporting about Kotick. Meta is now reportedly conducting a "review" of her actions and “whether she violated the company’s rules.”
According to the report, the British tabloid MailOnline was pursuing a story based on allegations made by a former girlfriend of Kotick’s, and a temporary restraining order she had received against him. But Sandberg and Kotick worked together on two separate occasions, in 2016 and in 2019, to strategize on how to “persuade the Daily Mail not to report on the restraining order.”
The report states that Facebook and Activision staff were both directly involved in the effort, and that there was concern internally at Facebook that the story would “reflect negatively on her reputation as an advocate for women.”
The Wall Street Journal report also questions whether Sandberg inappropriately wielded her influence as Facebook COO in her dealings with the MailOnline management. One of the paper’s unnamed sources states that Kotick “told people that Ms. Sandberg threatened the Mail in 2016 by saying that such an article, if published, could damage the news organization’s business relationship with Facebook.”
In a statement, a Meta spokesperson denied Sandberg had “threatened” MailOnline. “Sheryl Sandberg never threatened the MailOnline’s business relationship with Facebook in order to influence an editorial decision,” the spokesperson said. “This story attempts to make connections that don’t exist.” Kotick told The Journal he “never said anything like that.”
The MailOnline never published its story on Kotick, who has recently faced scrutiny over his handling of allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct at Activision. The company was acquired by Microsoft for $68.7 billion in January.
In a statement, Activision's board of directors said that it had done a "thorough investigation" into "an incident in 2014," and that they have "full confidence in Mr. Kotick's leadership."
"The Board has been aware of the circumstances reported involving an incident in 2014. Around the time of the incident in 2014 , Mr. Kotick notified the senior Independent Director of the Board, has subsequently updated the full Board and has been fully transparent with the Board. The Board, through its counsel Skadden Arps, has done a thorough examination of the facts and circumstances of the events, satisfied itself that there was no merit to the allegations, and notes that they concern a personal relationship that has nothing to do with the business of the Company. The Board continues to have full confidence in Mr. Kotick's leadership and his ability to run the Company.”