Whole Foods CEO Caught In Embarrassing Message Board Brouhaha

from the mackey dept

The FTC’s decision to oppose Whole Foods’ acquisition of Wild Oats is the result of a misguided and myopic definition of what constitutes the relevant market. And while many expect Whole Foods to ultimately prevail, the proceedings have been unpleasant for the company’s CEO, John Mackey. First it was revealed that Mackey championed the merger, in part because he believed that by taking Wild Oats out of play, it would prevent another supermarket chain from quickly becoming a Whole Foods rival. That may or may not be damning (from an antitrust perspective), but a new revelation will prove to be far more embarrassing. As part of its latest legal filing, the FTC dropped the bombshell that John Mackey had, for several years, been posting on the the Yahoo Finance message boards under a pseudonym, cheerleading his company’s success and denigrating its rival, Wild Oats. He even made predictions about the company’s stock price, putting out extremely high estimates for its performance. It’s not clear that what he did was necessarily illegal, but his posting seems unethical and highly foolish, at the very least. If nothing else, the company’s stockholders should wonder about what the boss is doing with his time.

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Companies: whole foods

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Comments on “Whole Foods CEO Caught In Embarrassing Message Board Brouhaha”

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39 Comments
Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

Re: Re: free time, work time, anytime

he is still the CEO and cannot give material information to a select audience.

In reality, he owns large block of stock, whether he sells at peaks or does a loan on stock colleteral, he still benefits. His job is directly measured against the stock price.

Duhhh! Company Board holds the CEO directly accountable for Stock Price.

I hear deaf ears.

Overcast says:

How different is it from these “pump ups” you see corporations do on the nightly news?

Just last week I seen something on the news that seemed more like an ‘infomercial’ than real news.

You get some ‘expert’ on there who says how great something is… blah blah blah.

Sounds to me like the CEO was just hyping his company.

Why is it now that people act like the damn internet is some kind of holy ground or something? OMG, someone said something on teh inteRnet that’s not trUe about me!!!! REAWAWRRRRRRR

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

This is clearly a violation of Insider Trading

even if he does not personally gain from the increase in stock price (which he will).

A corporate officer must make all company information public first. No longer can a company give guideance or any other information to a few select. It must be in a public news release.

Posting to a Message board, although a public forum would not be considered by the FTC as a widely distributed public news release.

I smell big problems for Whole Foods CEO in the near future.

SailorRipley says:

Re: This is clearly a violation of Insider Trading

[Disclaimer: I have no stock, but do occasionally shop at a Whole Foods]

I am slightly less quick to judge…

I read the linked article and nowhere does anybody state (or even claim) that he did something illegal…at no point is anybody claiming that he used, or made available, any corporate information that was not already in the public domain.

I totally agree that IF he did, it was illegal to do so and he should be appropriately punished for it, however, based on what I’ve read, there is no proof, not even a real hint, that he actually did that.

Using a pseudonym etc… might seem shifty, but let’s face it, any blog/site he would post on wouldn’t, not for even 5 seconds, result in any real discussion (same would go for Jobs, Gates,…). I don’t know if he did anything illegal, but judging from what I have been able to read on the subject, it looks like he had no illegal agenda and was just arguing (like he would have (been able to) if he hadn’t been the CEO).

I’m not saying with certainty he is innocent, I don’t know, not 100% sure, but (sorry to repeat myself) based on what I’ve been able to read, my statement is much more backed up by facts than yours…either of us can be wrong/right, but based on available information, your confidence is somewhat misplaced in my opinion

Dosquatch says:

Cheerleading

Isn’t part of the CEO’s job to promote public confidence and opinion for his company? As long as he’s just cheerleading, and not disclosing insider information, isn’t this what he IS supposed to be doing, at least in part?

Are pseudonyms bad? Should they change the content of what a person says? I promise that this name is not what appears on my birth certificate, but at least I consistently use the same name. There’s continuity with this name. Would my words somehow carry more weight if I were to post as Thomas instead?

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

Re: Cheerleading

Yes it is a CEOs job to Cheerlead.
But he/she cannot do it in hiding, it must be a public and well-disclosed.

Go look up Pump-n-Dump.
He is the pumper. As CEO he is required BY LAW to disclose this information in clearly defined public channels and with a clear definition of source.

He is doing neither, hiding who he is and limiting the scope of the distribution.

There are different rules for Corporate Officers than for the general employee or outsider. He broke those rules.

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cheerleading

Break given.

If a CEO or any other corporate officer is found to give material information outside the normal stream of public media, then they will have to hire a lawyer to defend themselves.

From the way you couch the discussion (us vs. them, rich vs. poor) I can tell you are on the us/poor side of the equation.

Break given.

UniBoy says:

presumption

Hmmm. A gov’t agency made accusatiuons of postings supposedly made to the Internet by this guy under a pseudonym… Did they have a court order allowing them to wiretap his online communications? How exactly do they know it was him? Did his ISP hand over records related to his web posting activity? Were any privacy laws violated?

Do CEO’s deserve less legal rights than the typical online music pirate? Or are TechDirt readers just full of hypocrisy?

Dave says:

Greed

I used to date someone that worked for Whole Foods. She said that Whole Foods doesn’t care about employees, so they are probably a good company to invest in.

But I was shocked when I found out the Whole Foods accepts food stamps and government aid. I had no idea that poverty-stricken people were so into health food.

Shalkar says:

Re: Greed

Food stamps are supposed to be used for purchasing food—Everyone points fingers at the “Welfare Mom” who is buying chips and cookies for her kids as being too lazy to even bother cooking a meal. Now criticism for buying healthy food! Cheapest price for most nutients! Poor kids deserve to be healthy too…otherwise America may start to have a problem with obesity, oops…

Beth says:

Re: Greed

I hope you’re not being serious. Anyone who shops at Whole Foods knows the value of eating healthy. Eating healthy is a right for everyone, whether they’re in a bad spot financially or not.

As a single parent and college student I’m not able to fully support myself and my daughter without the help of government aid (which by the way is exactly what it’s there for). If we had a Whole Foods near I would of course love to check out what they offer.

It’s about making smart choices and if that means I go to Whole Foods for this or that I hope I don’t run into someone who thinks less of me for using my EBT card there.

Beth says:

Re: Greed

I hope you’re not being serious. Anyone who shops at Whole Foods knows the value of eating healthy. Eating healthy is a right for everyone, whether they’re in a bad spot financially or not.

As a single parent and college student I’m not able to fully support myself and my daughter without the help of government aid (which by the way is exactly what it’s there for). If we had a Whole Foods near I would of course love to check out what they offer.

It’s about making smart choices and if that means I go to Whole Foods for this or that I hope I don’t run into someone who thinks less of me for using my EBT card there.

Shun says:

Was the real crime that he was caught?

A CEO’s job, by definition is to praise the company and give it a lot of publicity. He kept the shareholders happy by (covertly) pumping up the share price. He probably “earned” himself nice big bonus checks, to boot. Now, given the incentive, is it not in a CEO’s best interest to lie, cheat, and steal in order to maintain a high share price for his company?

Just how many CEO’s of huge companies can claim that they are perfectly honest, all the time? And the down side to doing naughty things? You get caught, possibly fired, and you have to use 1% of the money you earned to hire a lawyer and pay whatever measly fine the government can come up with to “punish” you.

Maybe the share price goes down, maybe not. Either way, the system continues to exist.

Jenny says:

reduce the cost in the right way

A CEO should help the company to reduce the cost and increase the profit in the right way, legal and acceptable.I am a member of acb2b.com dealing with trades between America and China. The aim for me to be a member of this site is just to find a cheaper provider for my business. And I do find! Try to explore, it is worthwhile.

tcurranmortgage (user link) says:

A Web Reputation Follows You

In its simplest form, this tale describes how a CEO violates one of the most fundamental tenets of a public corporation: transparency.

By creating online “alter egos” and attempting to hide his true IRL “self” this CEO demonstrated a telling quality of his chairmanship. If he can’t be transparent on the internet—bearing in mind that your web reputation follows you wherever you go—how can he possibly be transparent in his other CEO activities?

Too, this story proves that many people still don’t get it about the internet: the ‘net doesn’t provide the anonymity they all think it does!

I post a lot on the ‘net and I follow a simple rule: whatever I “say” online is a direct reflection on my business. This allows me to keep my ire in check when attacked by a troll or when I want to fire off something silly and negative in response to something that gets me angry.

I’ve found this basic rule has saved me from embarrassing myself when I wanted to let my emotions speak instead of keeping my cool and thinking “long term” about my business and its online reputation.

Sometimes simple is very, very hard to do, but it’s well worth the effort.

John says:

I don't see what this fuss is all about...

Ok, I am not a relative of Mr. Mackey nor Mackey himeself under a psuedo name.
Now that I have gotten that out of my chest, i feel very relieved so that I can say whatever I have to say… right?
What is the big deal that this man has done? Everyone uses different psuedo names in message boards. There monkeys with keyboard on Message boards. Who the heck cares about what they say, there are always insiders taking sides of their companies and talking good things about their pay-checkin paying companies.
Albeit this guy happen to be the CEO, what rights did he violate? what did he really do? There is nothing wrong in his actions, he could cry out wolf or sweet talk his whole life and no one would have given hoots about that.
Media is having a ball like those star magazines who trive on Paris hilton stories. IMo, He did not violate nothin. Waste of SEC time, and everyone’s time…
who care of what he thinks of his competitors, you have to be reading the message boards to have an idea of what goes on there, before you start a issue out there… and whoever invests with the message board info is a fool anyway.
BTW, did I mention monkey with keyboard, I wouldn’t have done nothin with his comments.

Peace,

John (of course a pseudo name, what do you think!)

Rkeane (user link) says:

Goldman Sachs scandal with secret software

Rick Aristottle Munariz of the Motley Fools is paid to mislead investors about Sirius XM Radio. He is part of a news media collusion lead by CNBC and their own Jim Cramer. Jim Cramer’s street.com web site is also hip deep into the collusion. Jim Cramer and his writers, especially Scott Moritz are all part of the scandal and it leads upward to CNBC/GE executives and Goldman Sachs. Thank god their is now an investigation taking place with Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs was investigated and 10 firms, including Goldman Sachs were fined $1.4 Billion dollars in 2003. Now the full blown investigation by Boston’s Chief Financial Regulator William Galvin will reveal the corruption of Goldman Sachs again and I can only hope that William Galvin will follow the money trail and check the bank accounts of Rick Aristottle Munariz of the Motley Fools along with Scott Moritz of the Street.com Just check these 2 writers banking accounts and the investigation will reveal that they are being paid off to write mis-leading stories about Sirius XM Radio. The money trail from these 2 writers will lead to >>> Motley Fools >>> Street.com >>> Jim Cramer >>> CNBC >>> GE / CNBC executives >>> NAB >>> Goldman Sachs.
It has all been a news media collusion along with the combination of Wall Street corruption by Goldman Sachs to destroy Sirius XM Radio inc. by naked short selling, flash trading, superfast computers, using secret software to manipulate the Sirius XM Stock price in decimal places the past few years since the Siri /XM merger was announce in Jan 2007. It was a pact agreed to by the news media and Goldman Sachs, which is why CNBC keeps reporting positive story after positive story about Goldman Sachs. All are into this collusion knee deep and this is why they will not report Goldman Sachs and their biggest scandal in the history of Wall Street.
Goldman Sachs got greedy. The scandal with Sirius XM Radio, worked so well with their secret software that was making them millions of dollars a day. Well, their Greed expanded into not just naked shorting & decimal place trading Sirius XM radio, but Goldman Sachs, next said , heck this secret software works so well, along with CNBC’s cover up lets do it to our competition the banking industry. Goldman Sachs next used these tactics on the banking industry in 2008 – 2009. They have been protected by CNBC by paying CNBC millions of dollars a month in advertising or shall we say paid protection.
Goldman Sachs greed almost ruined this country when they began using naked shorting and their secret software to attack the banks. It was their Greed of making millions using this software attacking Sirius XM Radio and when they expanded their scandal to the banking industry, they were now making over $100 million dollars a day. This is a fact, as Goldman Sachs made over $100 million dollars a day in 46 of 64 trading days last Quarter 2009 ( April , May, June 2009 ).
CNBC is part of the scandal, taking in million a months from Goldman Sachs for their silence. Why wouldn’t Goldman Sachs pay CNBC millions of month, that was nothing to them, since they are making over $100 million dollars a day. They helped CNBC try to ruin the competition ( Siri ) and now CNBC will help them ruin the other Banks. A true partnership by Goldman Sachs & CNBC.
The scandal lives on today, but thankfully the investigation by William Galvin will be expanded into the news media collusion of CNBC, Motley Fools & Street.com along with many other news media types.
Their Greed and goals have cost the average investors of the World hundreds of billions of dollars the past few years. In the end the truth is going to come out, but how does the people of the World hear the truth when the news media is part of the Scandal.
Well, a few years ago, CNBC & Goldman Sachs would have gotten away with it, but thank you http://www.Satwaves.com , http://www.twitter.com/stockshockmovie and the many social media outlets and bloggers out there. Thank you for helping bring the truth to the World. Each day we get closer and closer to the biggest scandal in the history of the United States. ( Written by Richard Keane – August 30th, 2009 )

Nonthawat (user link) says:

Thai Food & Thai Recipes

Thank you very much. The information was very nice and the service was excellent.

If you enjoy Thai foods or you want to learn more about them, try visiting the website, http://www.thai-food.in.th.  It is only just beginning but I think you will eventually find it to be a great resource.  It also explores a variety of Thai food facts in general.

Nonthawat (user link) says:

Thai Food & Thai Recipes

Thank you very much. The information was very nice and the service was excellent.

If you enjoy Thai foods or you want to learn more about them, try visiting the website, http://www.thai-food.in.th.  It is only just beginning but I think you will eventually find it to be a great resource.  It also explores a variety of Thai food facts in general.

best restaurant (user link) says:

add restaurant

When visiting Thailand, H. never once was asked how spicy the food should be when served. In my own experience in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Korea, or anywhere in Europe, you could possibly make certain reasonable requests, but it was not so common unless you had unusual needs, and you were certainly almost never asked how spicy you wanted the food; it would just come with a reasonable default.so you can add restaurant .thanks……………………………..

best restaurant (user link) says:

add restaurant

When visiting Thailand, H. never once was asked how spicy the food should be when served. In my own experience in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Korea, or anywhere in Europe, you could possibly make certain reasonable requests, but it was not so common unless you had unusual needs, and you were certainly almost never asked how spicy you wanted the food; it would just come with a reasonable default.so you can add restaurant .thanks……………………………..

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