Monday, 30 July 2007

Whole Foods CEO forum postings

I was facinated to read about Whole Foods' recent monumental cock up over posting to financial forums....

"Whole Foods Market boss John Mackey has apologised for the renegade online PR campaign he conducted to boost his company’s image on financial messageboards.
In a statement, Mackey asked for shareholders’ forgiveness over his anonymous postings, which were uncovered last week and are now being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission: "I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards. I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me." All in all, it doesn’t look good for the businessman."
(extract from Click here to read the Whole Story)

According to a number of sites, Mackey had registered on Yahoo and was happily talking his own (listed) company up, and dissing his biggest competitor, Wild Oats. Apparently he happily went about this for 8 years. And then proceeded to try to buy Wild Oats, also a listed company.

If this is true, apart from it being ethically suspect (the digital equivalent of anonymously fly-posting your neighbourhood bitching about a neighbour you don't like) it would appear to be on very ropey legal grounds. He should have clearly identified who he was when he posted about his own company, as a person who was clearly in receipt of confidential information - here in the UK he would have been an "insider" and his comments on the company's performance now or in the future are very heavily regulated.

Well, the US regulators and judicial system have now started their own investigations. This does make for interesting reading on Mackey's own blog on the Whole Foods website and the company's response to the FTC's investigations.

More interesting however is the company's share price, today trading at the US$36 mark, down from a high of $68 or so in October 2006, and from a price of mid $40s when the story broke.

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