Should Yahoo fire CEO Scott Thompson?
Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson / Flickr user Yodal Anecdotal
(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Yahoo's (YHOO) at it again. This time, activist investor Dan Loeb and the entire tech world, according to Ben Parr over at CNET, want the head of Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. To be more specific, they want him out. Loeb wants him out by today. The tech industry hasn't been that specific.
But why? I mean, why in the world are all these people after Thompson, a man who everyone seems to think is such a nice guy? Parr says the tech industry is after him for starting a patent war with Facebook. Personally, I think Facebook and its $100 billion valuation can take care of itself. But that's just me.
The real problem is that it appears as if Thompson lied about having a degree in computer science. He doesn't. Unfortunately, Yahoo's SEC filings and website say he does. So does the website of Ignite Venture partners, where Thompson's an advisor. And so did eBay's website when Thompson ran the PayPal division there.
"Oopsy," as Chelsea Handler would say.
But let's get serious here, for a moment. After all, here's a public company with thousands of employees and shareholders trying desperately to turn itself around -- or at least to do something right -- after years and years of mismanagement. Not to mention a guy's job on the line. And I seriously doubt eBay would take him back now. I wouldn't, that's for sure.
First, let's look at the discrepancy in Thompson's bio or what I like to call his "resume malfunction." There are only two possible ways that degree could have ended up in at least four different places over a five or six year period:
Years ago, some mysterious person for some unknown reason added the degree to Thompson's bio and he somehow never noticed or for whatever reason, failed to correct it.
At some point in his career, Thompson made the degree up. He lied.
Now, I happen to subscribe to Occam's Razor which essentially says that, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is the right one. I also happen to live in the real world where monkeys can't fly and, as I find myself saying all-too-often these days, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are you're looking at a duck.
So let's just assume for the sake of argument that the guy lied. Should he be fired?
I think so, and for three very good reasons: It's unethical; it's fraudulent (the SEC filing part); and it destroys the leader of a public company's credibility with employees, shareholders and customers.
That said, this kind of thing has happened before and the outcome hasn't always been the same.
Back in 2009, the board of directors of Microsemi -- also a public technology company -- found that their CEO, James Peterson, lied about having two degrees from Brigham Young University. Not only that, but when the accusation was initially made by a whistle-blower website, Peterson denied it in a company press release.
Peterson is still Microsemi's CEO, earning over $13 million over the three years since the scandal emerged.
In sharp contrast, when Broadcom discovered that senior vice president Vahid Manian had similarly fabricated two degrees from the University of California at Irvine, they fired him. On the other hand, Manian was subsequently hired as a senior VP at Telegent Systems, a startup that since fell apart and was acquired for peanuts.
Just for kicks, I asked two people whose opinions I trust if they thought Thompson should be fired. One said, without hesitation, "I'd fire him in a heartbeat."
The other said, "No. Yahoo's executive management and board have been hopelessly incompetent for years. This is minor compared to their history of screw-ups. They should claim they are obviously incompetent so nobody should expect much."
I could be wrong, but the second guy's response sounds just a little bit sarcastic, don't you think?
So I'm putting the question to you. Assuming he indeed lied about the degree, should Thompson be fired? How about the board directors responsible for hiring him? Better respond soon, Loeb wants his answer today.
Image courtesy Flickr user Yodal Anecdotal
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