When your CEO decides to be a cowboy

What do you do when it is uncovered by the WSJ that in the recent past your CEO went into chat rooms under an alias and talked favorably about your company while attacking competitors (especially competitors your company is now attempting to acquire)? This is exactly the scenario Whole Foods finds itself in presently as founder and CEO John Mackey decided to do some online outreach of his own.

Wholefoods

This may not be huge deal (since the posts stopped months before acquisition talks of Wild Oats began) except for Mackey has been attacking the SEC on his personal blog. Likely this has irked the SEC, which is why it is reported that the SEC has launched an informal probe of Mackey’s postings. For those not into Wall Street…this is not desirable.

How might this have been prevented? Disclosure. This is precisely why my firm has a policy that we must use our true identity with all message board posts as well as always mention the client you represent. Cumbersome…very much so. Limit the places that will accept your participation…definitely. However, this strategy is highly useful when the SEC comes calling.

Personally I think much of this crisis is a lot to do about nothing, but it has the potential of derailing a major acquisition. Never attack the SEC…

For disclosure purposes…I am probably the biggest Whole Foods supporter you are likely to meet (just a bit below John Mackey), so this post may have some bias.

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