- Mark Zuckerberg’s personal head of security has been accused of misconduct by two former members of the Facebook CEO’s private staff.
- Liam Booth, a former Secret Service agent has been accused of sexual harassment and making racist, homophobic, and transphobic comments.
- The two former staffers have hired high-profile law firm The Bloom Firm to represent them, Business Insider has learned.
- Brian Mosteller, another of Zuckerberg’s key aides, has been accused of failing to act after complaints were raised.
- A spokesperson for Zuckerberg’s family office said it takes “complaints of workplace misconduct very seriously,” it has hired a law firm to investigate, and Booth has been put on “administrative leave” until the matter is resolved.
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Mark Zuckerberg’s personal head of security has been accused of sexual harassment and racist, homophobic comments by two former members of the Facebook CEO’s private staff, Business Insider has learned. They allege, among other things, that the security chief repeatedly made racist remarks about Zuckerberg’s Asian-American wife, Priscilla Chan.
One of the accusers is a former employee of the 34-year-old billionaire’s household staff, who was responsible for preparing Zuckerberg’s various homes for the family’s arrival; the other is a former executive assistant to the security chief, Liam Booth. Both have retained the law firm of California attorney Lisa Bloom, whose legal efforts on behalf of Bill O’Reilly’s victims in 2017 helped get the TV host fired from Fox News, according to legal demand letters reviewed by Business Insider.
The letters, which Bloom sent to a law firm representing the companies that provide security and support for Zuckerberg’s family, recount a litany of allegations against Booth, a former secret service agent responsible for overseeing security for Zuckerberg’s household and his non-Facebook-affiliated enterprises. They describe “pervasive discriminatory conduct,” “horrific levels of sexual harassment and battery,” and an environment in which support staff were repeatedly subjected to racist, homophobic, and transphobic diatribes.
The letters also accuse Brian Mosteller, the managing director of Zuckerberg’s private office and a former special assistant to U.S. president Barack Obama, of failing to take action after the two staffers raised complaints. There is no allegation that Zuckerberg himself was aware of the alleged harassment.
The allegations are startling because they document overt racism and sexual impropriety within the most intimate confines of a notoriously private and unimaginably wealthy family. While Facebook has been rocked by public scandals over the past two years, Zuckerberg has kept his family insulated from the fall-out. But the accusations against Booth and Mosteller have the potential to bring a different crisis to the very center of his domestic affairs, and represent a potentially profound betrayal of trust on the part of the very man that Zuckerberg charges to protect the safety of his children. Facebook spends $20 million annually on his personal protection and travel.
“The family office takes complaints of workplace misconduct very seriously and our human resources team promptly investigates all such matters,” Zuckerberg spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement to Business Insider. “The allegations against Liam Booth were brought to the office’s attention for the first time by The Bloom Firm after both former employees had left employment by the family office and engaged legal counsel. As soon as The Bloom Firm presented these allegations, the family office engaged Munger, Tolles & Olson, an outside law firm, to conduct an investigation of all allegations made by The Bloom Firm to determine whether the claims have merit. The investigation is ongoing. Mr. Booth is on administrative leave pending the completion of this investigation.”
Sally Mitchell, a senior attorney at The Bloom Firm, confirmed to Business Insider that the former employees were the firm’s clients and declined to comment further. One of the individuals referred an inquiry to Mitchell. The other did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Business Insider is not identifying them because they claim to be victims of sexual harassment and have not made their allegations public. Booth referred questions to LaBolt, and Mosteller did not respond to texts and a call. Munger, Tolles & Olson did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment.
Alleged remarks about Priscilla Chan and Black Lives Matter: ‘White lives matter more than Black lives’
Booth heads up the security operations for Zuckerberg’s personal infrastructure, while also working as the chief security officer for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Zuckerberg and Chan’s philanthropic vehicle. He previously worked for the U.S. Secret Service between 2001 and 2017, including a five-year stint working to “supervise the physical protection for the President and the first family of the United States” during the Obama years, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The two individuals accusing Booth of misconduct worked for two different Zuckerberg-affiliated companies, one of which handles security and the other household affairs.
One of the demand letters claims that Booth made racist remarks to the household staffer about Priscilla Chan’s driving ability, including that “she’s a woman and Asian, and Asians have no peripheral vision,” while pulling his eyelids to the side in a racist caricature.
The other letter recounts a series of racist remarks allegedly made by Booth to the security staffer. On one more than one occasion, the letter claims, Booth told the staffer that he “didn’t trust Black people” and that “white lives matter more than Black lives.” The letter also claims that Booth bragged about deliberately attempting to undermine Priscilla Chan’s diversity goals in hiring, and “complain[ed] about the number of Black people who worked at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.” When the security staffer objected to that remark, the letter says, Booth “angrily advocat[ed] against diversity in the workplace and the movement Black Lives Matters, which he called ‘reverse racism.'”
A source who has worked around Booth who wished to remain anonymous told Business Insider they had also heard Booth make claims that “Asians can’t drive,” and disparage Chan because of her ethnicity.
Accusations of sexual harassment and homophobia: ‘I’ll feed you something raw’
Both letters also accuse Booth of sexual harassment and homophobic conduct. At a July 2018 event at the sushi restaurant Nobu, one letter claims, Booth grabbed his own crotch and told the household staffer, who is gay, “I’ll feed you something raw.” Later at the same event, the staffer claims, Booth slapped the staffer’s crotch and groped his buttocks, asking, “Are you still hungry?” Booth also allegedly made other homophobic remarks and joked about the size of the staffer’s penis in front of other employees.
The letters also allege repeated instances of sexual harassment against the security staffer. On one occasion, Booth allegedly decided that a shirt the staffer was wearing was “distracting” and made him “uncomfortable.” Rather than address the issue directly, the letter states, Booth tried to get other employees to tell her, including the household staffer, because “he was a gay.”
The security staffer also accused Booth’s aide, Laura McClain, of requesting that the she bend over so she could see her buttocks.
Both letters claim that Booth repeatedly demeaned a transgender staffer, referring to the person as “it” rather than their preferred pronoun. When the security staffer was tasked with taking the transgender employee’s identification to the local post office so that they would be authorized to pick up Zuckerberg’s mail, Booth allegedly remarked, “Keep ‘it’ away from me.” When the security staffer objected, Booth allegedly laughed and responded, “Just close my door whenever ‘it’ comes in here.”
Both accusers say complaints were ignored: ‘Men are in power here’
Both letters say the employees repeatedly raised objections to Booth’s conduct, but were ignored. One human resources employee allegedly told the security staffer on different occasions that “men are in power here” and that the issues she raised “were not show stoppers.”
The household staffer allegedly complained to his manager, Brian Mosteller, multiple times about Booth’s behaviour, and “reached out to Priscilla Chan to expose to her the damaging, unlawful conduct that was taking place at her family enterprise,” but nothing was done. According to the letters, he was placed on medical leave and offered a severance package on February 22, and ultimately resigned. It’s not clear whether his effort to reach Chan was successful, or whether she was made aware of his concerns.
Booth fired the security staffer on February 20, the letters say, purportedly for telling another staffer about a negative write-up she had received and for “roll[ing] her eyes in a meeting.”
The letters demand compensation for lost wages as well as damages for emotional distress. One source close to the matter told Business Insider that Booth’s conduct had previously been investigated by the human resources department of Iconiq Capital, the wealth management and investment firm that established and manages the sprawling web of entities that manage Zuckerberg’s household affairs.
If the allegations are true, the episode raises questions as to why Iconiq failed to take action sooner. The firm also reportedly handles the affairs of other A-list Silicon Valley figures such as Jack Dorsey, Sheryl Sandberg, and Reid Hoffman, and whose founder Divesh Makan was once described by Forbes as “consigliere to Silicon Valley’s brightest billionaires.”
While the statement from Zuckerberg’s spokesman claims that Booth was placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of an internal investigation, a source familiar with the matter told Business Insider that Booth was present at work today, and that there has been no change in his duties. LaBolt, the spokesman, says that’s “not accurate.”
Iconiq did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Zuckerberg’s secretive network of household companies
Mark Zuckerberg’s household affairs are handled by a discreet web of organisations.
One exists to look after his personal security (Facebook handles some of his security requirements, but other aspects of his protection are handled externally), controlling the $20 million pot of protection and travel money provided by Facebook in 2018. Other entities take care of domestic matters — from housekeeping to managing his various properties — and employ household staffers for Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.
Zuckerberg’s personal security is distinct from Facebook’s security apparatus — and a tiny fraction of the size.
The Silicon Valley social networking firm has an army of 6,000 security workers around the globe, a previous Business Insider investigation found, tasked with everything from protecting the company’s campuses from disgruntled banned users to helping secure employees’ overseas travel in times during international crises. The Facebook CEO himself has an incredibly high public profile, and faces an array of risks, including stalkers and numerous death threats.
There are more than 70 people on the in-house executive protection, which is led by Jill Leavens Jones, a former US secret service special agent. Facebook’s overall security unit is headed up by Nick Lovrien, a former CIA counterterrorism operations officer.
Reached for comment, Facebook’s vice president of executive communications referred Business Insider to the statement provided by LaBolt, and highlighted a blog post written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in 2017 that shared Facebook’s policies on sexual harassment publicly.
“Harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace are unacceptable but have been tolerated for far too long,” Sandberg wrote. “At Facebook, we treat any allegations of such behavior with great seriousness, and we have invested significant time and resources into developing our policies and processes.”
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