Mixed Reaction to Whole Foods' Message Board Fiasco

| About: Whole Foods (WFM)

One of the astounding parts of the Whole Foods (WFMI) story is the lack of outrage about CEO John Mackey's postings on a message boards. A scroll through the comments on my blog regarding Mackey shows a decidedly mixed reaction on something that legal or otherwise was clearly wrong. And just because he was running a successful company doesn't mean he should be let off the hook.

Even more astounding is the arrogance of Whole Foods, which hasn't yet addressed the fiasco in a formal, public statement. In the very least, the board of directors should issue a release saying that it has appointed a special committee to investigate the matter. (Would've been good if they beat the SEC to the punch -- or at least the announcement of the SEC's informal probe.) But so far, Whole Foods hasn't said anything.

The beat goes on...

In the wake of John Mackey's message board fiasco at Whole Foods a regular critic of mine, who goes by the name of Fran wondered:

If Mackey's poor judgment might be read...as an attempt to manipulate the share price of a stock, can't the words of a shortseller...be read as a similar attempt to manipulate.

That got me to thinking about how it's okay to say anything as long as it's positive. As I wrote on the blog:

Fran, I find it interesting that you believe a shortseller, or those associated with shortsellers, shouldn't be able to post anonymously on a message board. But you say nothing about people who are long stocks.

In other words, you're saying that as long as the information supports what you believe, and is helping pump up a stock, it doesn't matter who it comes from, even if it's biased hedge funds or others....The minute a poster disagrees with you, or posts possible contrary evidence, you believe it is tainted.

Stock message boards, my dear Fran, are really open to posts from anybody, but should be avoided by executives and others from public companies. Wise investors troll them looking for information from disgruntled insiders or others with insightful analysis. The trick, of course, is figuring out what is real and what is Memorex. CEOs, anonymously or identified, should know better.

Other than that, as the judge said in his ruling against the Rocker Partners' suit vs. anonymous message board posters: Anonymous information on message boards isn't really much different than the handwriting the wall of a public restroom. Use it at your own risk! That's why, in general, I regard them as cesspools.

Haven't heard back from Fran, yet. Wonder who she really is.