Just when things seemed to be calming down for Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), the social networking giant is back under fire following a bombshell New York Times investigation into how CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were slow to react to the company's unfolding scandals since 2016. The overarching theme is that management was not just slow to act, but in some cases sought to discredit criticisms of the company. (Facebook has naturally denied or otherwise pushed back against many aspects of the report.)
The report is renewing calls that Facebook is in dire need of some type of management shake-up.
If Zuck isn't going anywhere, here's the next best thing
Stifel analyst Scott Devitt has put out a research note to investors today, arguing that some fresh blood at the highest echelons of the company could do some good in restoring trust in the world's largest social networking company. Devitt is still overall bullish on Facebook shares, maintaining a buy rating and $186 price target, but notes that the company's credibility problems are now manifesting internally, pointing to a recent Wall Street Journal article regarding employee morale.
The percentage of employees who felt optimistic about the company's direction plunged by an astonishing 32 percentage points, with just over half of 29,000 respondents responding positively, according to the report. The percentage of employees who believe Facebook is making the world a better place fell 19 percentage points to 53% of respondents.
Keep in mind that "shake-up" doesn't mean CEO Mark Zuckerberg is going anywhere. On a conference call with reporters this week, His Zuckness made it abundantly clear that he (still) has no intention of stepping down either as CEO or chairman. "I don't particularly think that [stepping down as chairman] is the right way to go," Zuck said. "But I am quite focused on ways to get more independence around our systems in different ways."
The topic of getting a new chairman has been brought up numerous times recently by activist investors, but Zuck still wields 60% voting power, making such a prospect untenable without his support. It's also clear that Zuck is unconcerned about rising investor unrest among independent investors.
"The probability of change at the top of Facebook is low," Devitt wrote in the research note. "We, however, would view change as a positive catalyst for the stock and accretive to long-term shareholder value." Instead, Devitt believes that bringing a "well-respected external executive" onboard could help Facebook regain trust.
While Facebook is planning on putting together an independent oversight committee for content moderation, that's a drop in the bucket of Facebook's woes. Seeing as how there's virtually no chance that Zuckerberg or Sandberg will step down, hiring a qualified executive to catalyze change is probably the next best thing. Hopefully, Facebook brings on the help that it desperately needs, and gives them the autonomy to actually address the company's weaknesses.