Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg asked the company's communications staff to research George Soros' finances after the billionaire investor leveled high-profile criticism toward tech companies, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Sandberg made the request in an email sent to senior communications and policy executives in January, sources told the newspaper. The email was reportedly sent a few days after the financier referred to tech companies such as Facebook and Google as a "menace."
A New York Times investigative report earlier this month concluded that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sandberg "ignored warning signs" of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw a political consultancy use data from millions of Facebook users and hired a firm called Definers Public Affairs to retaliate against or spread inflammatory information about its critics. Definers circulated a research document and tried to press reporters to dig into financial ties between Soros and members of Freedom from Facebook, a coalition of Facebook critics that's urged regulators to break up the social media giant.
Now playing: Watch this: Facebook on defense, Amazon exposes customer email addresses
Facebook said in a statement that the social networking giant had already begun researching Soros when Sandberg made her request.
"Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook," the company said in a statement. "That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook's stock."
The company went on to say that Sandberg didn't direct research on Freedom from Facebook, but said "she takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch."
Soros made his comments critical of Facebook during a speech in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he called for "more stringent regulations" on the tech giants.
"As Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware," he said.
"They claim they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access," he said in his speech.
During his first public appearance since the Times report appeared, Zuckerberg showed his support for Sandberg.
"She has been an important partner for me for 10 years," Zuckerberg told CNN last week. "I am really proud of the work we have done together and hope we work together for decades more to come."
Earlier this month, a group of Democratic senators sent a letter pressing the social network for more details about its relationship with Definers.
CNET's Holiday Gift Guide: The place to find the best tech gifts for 2018.
Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.