There seems to be a meme doing the rounds with respect to John Mackey’s message
board antics: that what we should really be looking at here, to borrow a
concept from the regulatory world, is rules rather than principles.
Reg FD was imposed in October 2000, a full six years before Mr. Mackey ended
his message board posting career. Did it ever occur to him that maybe, just
maybe, his postings using a pseudonym were in violation of a pretty important
John Harmon, in a comment
on a blog here:
That Mackey’s behavior was irresponsible is without a doubt. Whether it was
also criminal is the issue. Mackey deliberately used his anonymous attacks
to hurt his competitor, and likely to drive down the value of a stock Whole
Foods would try to acquire.
The WSJ, in a story
today about blogging executives:
While many bloggers criticized his actions, legal experts yesterday said
it was unclear whether he had violated securities law by touting Whole Foods’
stock and denigrating that of Wild Oats Markets Inc., a rival that Whole Foods
now wants to buy.
I’m perfectly happy to accept that if Mackey broke the law, then he should
face criminal prosecution. But that’s a matter for the SEC and US attorneys
to decide. As far as Whole Foods’ board shareholders are concerned, it’s Mackey’s
behavior which should be the crucial thing here, not the letter of the law.
If Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher can be fired
after having a legal, consensual affair with a co-worker, then it beggars belief
that Mackey, whose behavior was much more damaging to his company, should retain
his corner office. Yes, I understand that he’s the founder of the company and
that he therefore is harder to fire. But really, he should have resigned already,
making the whole issue moot.