Yahoo’s Board Will “Review” Resume Discrepancy of CEO
Yahoo just released a statement that its board will “review” today’s revelation that the bio of its CEO Scott Thompson contained an error related to his educational achievements and will make “appropriate disclosure” about what happened.
On both the Web site and in the regulatory filings of the Silicon Valley Internet giant, Thompson is described as having a degree in both computer science and accounting from Stonehill College.
He does not have a degree in computer science from the Boston-based school, but does have a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration (Accounting).
Yahoo said in full in its statement:
“In connection with the statement the company made earlier today about Scott Thompson, the Yahoo! board will be reviewing this matter, and upon completion of its review, will make an appropriate disclosure to shareholders.”
“Many members of the board are deeply concerned,” said one person with knowledge of its thinking. “This is a problem on a lot of levels, especially related to the trust of shareholders.”
Indeed, especially since the news came to light via activist shareholder Dan Loeb of Third Point, who is agitating for board seats via a proxy fight.
Loeb’s efforts to impugn Thompson appear to have caused some level of damage, at least in terms of perception about the level of vetting that was done when the former president of eBay’s PayPal unit was hired earlier this year.
In fact, the error has been around for a half-dozen years, which begs the question of why Thompson never noticed it.
While his bio on filings made by eBay to the Securities and Exchange Commission were accurate, the one on the online commerce site’s Web site incorrectly said he had a computer science degree.
It is not known who introduced the error there.
But the inaccuracy moved inexplicably to both Yahoo’s corporate Web site and also its SEC filings, and the company declined to provide any details earlier today as to how that happened.
It’s not clear what happens next, or if there are any legal implications, beyond a needed correction by Yahoo with the SEC — which already took the entire line about Thompson’s education off his Web bio today.
As I wrote earlier today:
Thompson himself is probably not at risk unless it can be definitely proved he was the one who misrepresented having the degree in the first place. He can simply say he had no idea who added it to the eBay Web site and that he did not notice it there on the Yahoo Web site and SEC filings.
While that makes him look careless, how big a deal it becomes with shareholders, as well as Yahoo employees, is also an unknown. While a computer science degree is not a requirement for a CEO of a tech company — both Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates dropped out of college and did pretty well in computer science anyway — tech resume padding, even inadvertent, is not a characteristic that is going endear Thompson to anyone.
The controversy could not have come at a worse time — Thompson was actually in meetings all day yesterday and today with senior staff, following recent layoffs of 2,000 and a massive restructuring, to discuss plans for moving the long-troubled company forward.
And besides the proxy fight, he is also dealing with selling off Yahoo’s Asian assets, renegotiating a new search deal with Microsoft, and also trying to figure out what parts of Yahoo to keep and what parts to jettison to improve its prospects.
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