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CEO of Whole Foods: Sketchy Negative Commentor

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Rarely does anything good come from the keyboard of an anonymous negative commentor. Despite the fact that one could hide from the bushes and snipe at people from the bushes doesn't mean that one should. Likewise, when commentors refuse to put their real name next to their criticism, the validity of the statement should be seriously questioned, as should its motives.

Case in point this week comes from the CEO of one of the trendiest grocery store fads, John Mackey of Whole Foods, who was exposed Tuesday of anonymously posting disses on in a Yahoo message board in an attempt to smear competitor Wild Oats, a company that he was poised to buy out.

"Would Whole Foods buy OATS?" [Mackey posting as] Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats' stock symbol. "Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small." Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management "clearly doesn't know what it is doing .... OATS has no value and no future." - Wall Street Journal
While not illegal, it's certainly lacking of class, as well as transparency, a foundation of Web 2.0. However if Mackey used his cover to spread lies, he could be in deep organic manure.
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It doesn't appear as though Mackey violated any rules about the disclosure of non-public information with his Yahoo musings, but the Securities and Exchange Commission will probably look into the matter further, one expert says. "Although odd, as long as the CEO who is speaking anonymously also is speaking accurately, he is unlikely to violate the securities laws," says Paul Leder, a partner at Richards Kibbe & Orbe in Washington, D.C. "Whether the statements are in fact accurate is something the SEC is likely to explore." - USA Today, 7/11

Odd, crazy, or destructive - it all depends on who you ask.
"This evidence raises more doubts about his sanity than his criminality," says Jack Coffee, a securities law expert at Columbia Law School. "The merger is a major business strategy, and he's undercut it with reckless, self-destructive behavior. It's a little weird, like catching him as a Peeping Tom." "It's more of an embarrassment than an issue of profound ethical and legal consequence," says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis communications consultant. "It shows a degree of obsessiveness that's a little disturbing." USA Today, 7/12

At LAist, our general rule of thumb is, if you don't believe in your comment to stand behind it with your full name, you probably have no business writing it down in a public forum.

photo by That Other Paper