Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, JD 2022
On February 8, 2021, Henry Moniz joined Facebook as their first Chief Compliance Officer. Moniz previously held the position of Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Audit Executive of Viacom after the company merged with CBS. A Chief Compliance Officer is the officer responsible for managing regulatory compliance problems in a company or organization. Facebook already has a compliance group but has never appointed a Chief Compliance Officer. The appointment came after the Federal Trade Commission approved a five billion dollar settlement with Facebook in July of 2019. Facebook has been at the other end of many antitrust lawsuits in connection with their acquisition of potential competitors such as Instagram and WhatsApp. These conflicts likely brought them to hire a Chief Compliance Officer in order to solve issues arising around compliance.
What has happened in the past to make Facebook appoint a Chief Compliance Officer?
Facebook has been involved in a number of antitrust lawsuits recently. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with 46 states, have accused the social media site of eliminating competition through their acquisition of other social media startups. The FTC specifically alleges that the social media giant has maintained a monopoly in personal social networking and therefore denying consumers the possible benefits of competition. The FTC has stated that their goal is to “[…] roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.” The company has acquired around 90 companies over the last fifteen years. However, high acquisition rates are not unique to Facebook. Other large companies are in the habit of doing this as well. The FTC has formed a task force in February of 2019 to examine potential antitrust violations within the tech industry in response to Facebook and other companies’ buying sprees of other companies.
Facebook has so far acquired multiple well known social media sites, such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat. Snapchat’s legal team has accused Facebook of using a number of tactics to remove competition. The tactics used to undermine Snapchat’s profitability or business include discouraging popular influencers from referring to Snapchat on their Instagram accounts and preventing content from trending that would promote Snapchat. Additionally, another acquisition that has brought Facebook a high amount of scrutiny is that of Onavo Mobile Ltd.
Onavo Mobile is an Israeli mobile-analytics startup Facebook purchased. Facebook has used the behavior-tracking technology of Onavo Mobile to find companies that are growing quickly that could be potential competitors. The tracking technology also allowed Facebook to scope out new product categories. Facebook used the technology they received from Onavo Mobile in deciding to buy WhatsApp and Snapchat. Onavo Mobile was able to see the data on the Snapchat app, including how much time those who owned Snapchat accounts would be on the app and how often users of Snapchat would send messages back and forth.
How will the new Chief Compliance Officer help Facebook?
Facebook’s general counsel, Jennifer Newstead, said in a statement, “[…] Henry will play a key role in driving our ongoing commitment to continually strengthen our global compliance and risk management functions.” Moniz will report to Newstead and additionally to a board committee overseeing audit and risk. A Chief Compliance Officer is tasked with reporting to the board all content related to the company’s compliance. His appointment is intended to enhance the company’s risk management and enhance global compliance. Other responsibilities of a Chief Compliance Officer include creating corporate policies and procedures needed by the company for compliance, communicating these policies to employees, monitoring the company’s compliance with these polices, and finally to investigate any incidents or violations. Moniz not only has experience as Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Audit Executive of ViacomCBS, but he also worked as a partner at multiple law firms. In addition, Moniz worked as an assistant US attorney in Florida and Massachusetts. Moniz’s former compliance roles and experiences are likely the reason Facebook was interested in hiring him. In hiring a Chief Compliance Officer, Facebook is making an important step towards their compliance goals and the regulations encouraged by the FTC. Hiring a Chief Compliance Officer will help streamline communication on compliance related content, identify potential problems more quickly and therefore help to solve them.