Agoracom Blog

Whole Foods CEO Gets Busted For Anonymous Posts To Forums

Posted by AGORACOM at 2:30 PM on Monday, July 16th, 2007

Hey, gang. Been on vacation for a couple of weeks but getting back into the swing of things as I prepare for re-entry next week – and this story is a doozy if you haven’t already heard. Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, has apparently been anonymously posting to stock discussion forums for eight years under the alias Rahodeb.

Given the fact AGORACOM runs official message boards for public companies (as opposed to unmonitored & anonymous forums), I believe I can lend some credible thoughts to the discussion when I say that investors should be very concerned about Mackey’s message board fiasco. Why?

1] Ethics. CEO’s already have the broadest possible platform to “talk up” their companies. Going anonymous on unmonitored discussion forums provides an ability/temptation to discuss or hint at material items that have yet to be disclosed in order to steer investors towards a more bullish stance.

2] Identity Crisis. Now that the cat is out of the bag, what prevents any savvy investor from now pretending to be a CFO/CIO or other key member of the company and posting false information to any number of discussion forums around the web?

3] Trust. Why would any CEO need to anonymously post information to stock discussion forums about his company? What is he able to accomplish indirectly that he can’t accomplish directly? Is the company’s message so weak on its merits that a CEO has to resort to such tactics?

If you aren’t concerned because you believe investors don’t take message boards seriously, here is a link to 3 recent responses of more than 750 investors that clearly demonstrates reliance upon them for information:

At the end of the day, we can all agree on one thing – CEO’s posting anonymously to stock discussion forums provides neither the company, nor investors with anything positive.

On the other hand, CEO’s using blogs or official discussion forums for the purposes of broader communications with investors should be applauded and encouraged.


4 Responses to “Whole Foods CEO Gets Busted For Anonymous Posts To Forums”

  1. AGORACOM says:

    Good morning, mama. Though it is too early to tell whether or not Mackey has any more skeletons in the closet, you make a great point about the sincerity of his $1 salary (I haven’t checked this out and assume you are accurate). With all of his compensation tied to stock gains, there is a high probability that he has made other such reckless decisions over the past several years.

    As such, I would bet that stock sleuths everywhere are now looking for the very skeletons you discuss.


  2. AGORACOM says:

    Good morning, Steve and thanks for the post. I’m posting from Athens airport and on my way back today, so sorry for the delay in responding.

    I am certain the very impact you discuss has already taken place with many WF investors who are now asking themselves “what else has Mackey been doing behind closed doors?”.

    What do you think about the idea of an official and monitored discussion forum for companies like WF that want to participate in discussion forums but don’t want to deal with the profanity, bashing, etc.?


  3. mama2 says:

    John Mackey proved that he has been nothing but a pumper for the last eight years. Among the things that Rahodeb posted….how great it was that the CEO only takes a dollar in salary. No kidding?, all the while pumping the company, he got his elsewhere in the form of stock gain. Remember when Enron was the darling of the market? There was a time when no one questioned them either. WFMI has a lot of skeletons and now all this scrutiny will bring ’em right out of the closet!

  4. Steve says:

    Your analysis is well placed. Beyond the investor perspective you articulate, there are serious public relations considerations that could have equal impact on Whole Foods’ bottom line. People buy in to Whole Foods not just because it is a good investment, they buy in to the concept because if feels healthy, wholesome, green and organic. Mackey’s posts reverse that positive affect.