Facebook Names Political and Business Leader Erskine Bowles to Board of Directors

Whether it’s gearing up for an IPO in the next year or two, or just trying to strengthen its ties to other power centers in the United States, Facebook has named Erskine Bowles to its board of directors.

Bowles might not be a familiar face in Silicon Valley, but he is on the Eastern seaboard due to a career that spans investment banking, politics and a stint in higher education.

From a leading political family in North Carolina, he started began his career at Morgan Stanley before cofounding an investment bank, holding key positions in the Clinton administration, founding another investment bank, running for senate a couple times, and holding top positions in the University of North Carolina education system. He recently co-chaired Obama’s debt panel, which produced a politically difficult but intellectually sensible national debt reduction plan that has yet to be acted upon. He’s currently on the board of Morgan Stanley, Cousins Properties Inc., Norfolk Southern Corp. and Belk Inc.

“Erskine has held important roles in government, academia and business which have given him insight into how to build organizations and navigate complex issues,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a press release. “Along with his experience founding companies, this will be very valuable as we continue building new things to help make the world more open and connected.”

He’s the sort of serious figure that Facebook wants to be associated with as it looks to convince the world of its seriousness as a company.

As a consequence of its success, and particularly its plan to make its financial information public next year (possibly ahead of an IPO), Facebook has attracted new scrutiny from the government. Various congresspeople have spoken out against Facebook over privacy and security issues, the Securities and Exchange Commission has looked into its secondary market transactions, the Federal Trade Commission has examined how Facebook collects and applies user data in its products and revenue models. The company has already been building out its public policy team to help convince the political world of its positions.

Meanwhile, Bowles’ legitimacy within the finance community and corporate America can help bolster Facebook’s image as a leading company in the nation, and possibly encourage more investors to take a closer look at Facebook stock if it decides to go public.

Facebook also recently added Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings to the board. Long-time members also include Marc Andreessen, Jim Breyer, Don Graham and Peter Thiel, with David Sze and Paul Madera on as observers. Founder Mark Zuckerberg continues to own a majority of the company and as a result has decision-making power over the other directors.