Facebook appoints ex-US Treasury official as lead director

Facebook has appointed Robert Kimmitt, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, as its chief independent director, the key role of the board of directors charged with holding founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg accountable.

The world’s largest social network said on Thursday that it had appointed Kimmitt, a business and public policy heavyweight who is currently the chief international adviser to the WilmerHale law firm, with immediate effect.

The long-awaited decision, announced almost five months after the resignation of former senior independent director Susan Desmond-Hellmann, comes after Facebook’s board of directors has lost a number of directors in the past year and that the company has been faced with growing concerns about harmful content on its platform and user privacy.

In addition to Mrs. Desmond-Hellmann; Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix; Erskine Bowles, democratic political figure; and Kenneth Chenault, former CEO of American Express, have all resigned recently.

Mr. Chenault, currently chairman of the venture capital group General Catalyst, opposed Mr. Zuckerberg over corporate governance and his decision to allow political announcements to remain on the platform without be verified, according to a media report.

Facebook announced on Thursday that another board member – Jeffrey Zients – would not stand for re-election at the next annual meeting. Zients said in a statement that he plans to spend more time in his private equity business.

Mr. Kimmitt’s career includes several positions in government, including as an American ambassador to Germany. He was also the managing director of Lehman Brothers and a member of six boards of directors of public companies around the world.

As lead independent director, he will play a large role on the board of directors as a key control of Mr. Zuckerberg’s power and a vehicle for the concerns of minority shareholders. Mr. Zuckerberg controls the company through a special class of supervisory shares.

At Facebook’s last annual meeting, almost 70% of external shareholders supported a proposal to introduce an independent chairman of the board, which would have even more weight than the independent lead director, although this change did not take effect due to the majority vote of Mr. Zuckerberg Power.

“I am confident that Bob will improve our board and our business,” said Zuckerberg in a statement.

This year, Tracey Travis, chief financial officer of Estée Lauder, has been appointed to the board of directors. Nancy Killefer, longtime executive at McKinsey; and Drew Houston, the general manager of Dropbox and a friend of Mr. Zuckerberg.

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