I strongly believe in the First Amendment of our Constitution and our right as citizens to express our opinions to each other. I believe I was exercising this right.
When a CEO has to fall back on the First Amendment to defend his actions, you know his case is pretty weak. The fundamental fact of what happened here is simple: a senior officer of the company – the senior officer of the company, the founder and CEO – lied about who he was in public.
If the CEO of a company makes a public statement about his company, let alone 1,400 such statements, then simple common sense – not to mention the basic underpinnings of corporate governance – demands that he do so in a transparent manner.
Mackey seems to think that it was his status as a public figure which made what he did wrong:
Perhaps part of the problem here is that when I first started participating in these Yahoo! online communities back in 1998, Whole Foods Market was only 15 percent as large as we are today. We had yet to open any stores in New York City and we weren’t taken particularly seriously by most of our competitors or the media. Whole Foods Market’s tremendous growth over the past 10 years hadn’t yet occurred. As the CEO of Whole Foods Market I was seldom interviewed and few people knew or cared who I was. I wasn’t a public figure and had no desire to become one. However, as Whole Foods Market continued to grow and as we opened large and exciting new stores around the United States, both the company and I became better and better known. At some point in the past 10 years I went from being a relatively unknown person to becoming a public figure. I regret not having the wisdom to recognize this fact until very recently.
No! This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Mackey is a public figure, and everything to do with the fact that he’s a senior executive of a public company. When a senior executive of a public company makes statements – especially forward-looking statements – about that company and its stock, it is unforgivable for him to do so without disclosing who he is and what his position is in the company.
Mackey can talk till he’s blue in the face about his dialectical predilections and his competitive spirit, but none of that alters the fact that he shouldn’t even have his job any more. Whole Foods should be run by a grown-up, and the board should have fired him the minute it became obvious he wasn’t going to resign.