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Don't Hide Behind Screen Names

A few months ago, Whole Food Markets CEO John Mackey was exposed for posting anonymous comments on the Yahoo message board dedicated to discussions of his stock. Amazingly, he kept his job and mostly got away with just a wrist-slap, as well as having to endure a few weeks of some ugly PR. Let's face it, it was a pretty dumb thing to do.

Now, Whole Foods has come out with a strict new rule about such activities, in a classic case of closing the barn door after the horse has run out. To wit:

No member of Company Leadership may make any posting to any non-Company-sponsored internet chat room, message board, web log (blog), or similar forum, concerning any matter involving the Company, its competitors or vendors, either under their name, anonymously, under a screen name, or communicating through another person.
This is the right policy, one that really shouldn't have to be articulated in print. But now that a high-profile exec has been caught violating it, this company has written it down -- and so should you. Cut-and-paste this into your company's ethics policy, whether or not you are a publicly traded company.

If you are posting on the Internet about your company, your competitors or your industry, don't hide behind screen names. Ethically, it's the wrong thing to do, and it doesn't make business sense, either. If you've got something to say, you should be willing to sign your name to it. If not, that's a clear sign that you probably shouldn't post it in the first place.

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