"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." So proclaimed a famous New Yorker cartoon featuring a golden retriever surfing the net. The 2007 version of that cartoon might say, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're the CEO of Whole Foods."
As the Wall Street Journal reported last night, John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, has admitted in court papers that he posted on the Yahoo Finance message boards for years, extolling the virtues of Whole Foods as a business and an investment, while throwing stones at Wild Oats. Whole Foods is in the process of buying Wild Oats, which the Federal Trade Commission opposes based on its reading of antitrust law.
Harvey Pitt, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Journal that Mackey's anonymous web posting habit was "bizarre and ill-advised, even if it isn't illegal." Then again, Pitt thought that some of Mackey's comments— including off-the-cuff predictions about the company's future stock price—might have run right up to the line of legality. (To read the Journal's report, click here.)
What do you think? Are you surprised Mackey posted on Yahoo Finance? Do you think what he did was unethical or illegal? And if you were a crisis PR advisor to Whole Foods, how would you handle the controversy?
Last updated: Jul 12, 2007
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman