As you may have heard, Third Point Management is currently waging a proxy battle against Yahoo, of which it owns 5.81 percent. Last September, the hedge fund and its founder, Dan Loeb, wrote a letter to the company’s board of directors entitled “The Failures of Yahoo’s Board of Directors Necessitate a Significant Infusion of Fresh Board Talent,” in November it demanded two board seats in order to wrest the ship from a bunch of bumbling incompetents, and in February, it said actually, make that four seats. Unfortunately, Yahoo resisted. Which is why yesterday, Loeb and Third Point were forced to enter into the record some damning evidence showing current YHOO CEO Scott Thompson to be a dangerous, dangerous liar, the likes of which the search engine would be wise to sever ties.
Specifically, Third Point revealed that contrary to statements made on SEC filings, Thompson? Did not graduate from Stonehill College with degrees in both computer science and accounting but only the latter. The reason Third Point knew this to be true was because it Googled Stonehill College and found that the school did not even start offering computer science degrees until 1983, well after the time Thompson graduated. So, a liar and a liar who can’t even be bothered to cover his tracks to boot. Oh, but the résumé chicanery did not stop there. Yahoo director Patti Hart, Third Point, went on to reveal, also had her own little C.V. “error” to speak of. Whereas Ms. Hart claimed to have graduated from Illinois State University with degrees in marketing and economics, in fact, merely earned a bachelors in business administration and specialized in marketing and econ.
Yahoo, which yesterday confirmed the résumé duplicity, clearly needed no further substantiation that these two were academic frauds. Third Point and Loeb knew this much to be true. AND YET. As of 2PM today, a whopping twenty-four hours after their lies caught up to them, they remain employed by the company. So now this is happening because apparently some people need to be put on a deadline:
Dear Board of Directors:
Yahoo!’s initial response yesterday to Third Point’s identification of material inaccuracies in both CEO Scott Thompson’s and Director Patti Hart’s educational record was insulting to shareholders. We assume that these initial statements were attributable to Mr. Thompson and were not made with the Board’s approval. While we appreciate the Board’s statement late last night that it would conduct an investigation, unfortunately, for this Board and this Company, it is too little and months too late.
To assert that years of inaccurate SEC filings, website biographies and, most likely, D&O questionnaires and curriculum vitae (including, presumably, the CV provided to Yahoo! when Mr. Thompson reached out for the job) were “inadvertent” is, in our view, the height of arrogance. Mr. Thompson and the Board should make no mistake: this is a big deal. CEO’s have been terminated for less at other companies. The Company’s Preliminary Proxy Statement filed on April 27, 2012 (at page 22) states that the “minimum qualification for service as a director of the Company are that a nominee possess…an impeccable reputation of integrity and competence in his or her personal and professional activities.”
Furthermore, Yahoo!’s response “confirming” that Ms. Hart “specialized” in Marketing and Economics, rather than having earned her degree in such subjects (as Ms. Hart has asserted in filings for years) is a similar canard. A “specialty” is not a major. It is not a “minor”. We don’t know what it is, but we do know that like Mr. Thompson, Ms. Hart has been misrepresenting her actual degree to the investing public for years. Again, we hope that the Board does not accept this feeble attempt at “spin” as a justification for Ms. Hart’s misrepresentations.
Irreparable damage to Yahoo!’s culture will continue every day that the Board allows Mr. Thompson and Ms. Hart to remain at the helm of the Company after having clearly demonstrated that they lack even the “minimum qualifications for service as a director of the Company.” Mr. Thompson, in particular, cannot possibly have any credibility remaining with the all-important Yahoo! engineers, many of which earned real – not invented – degrees in computer science. Moreover, permitting Mr. Thompson and Ms. Hart to stay with the Company after apparently violating the Code of Ethics sends a message to all Yahoo! employees that a different set of rules applies at the top.
Third Point, Yahoo!’s largest outside shareholder with over $1 billion invested, called yesterday for an immediate investigation if our assertions were true. The Board appears to have acceded to this demand. Its response must be swift and decisive. In that regard, Third Point will consider it grounds for further action if the Board does not take the following steps by Noon EDT on Monday, May 7th:
1) Publicly reveal the process by which it vetted Mr. Thompson as a potential CEO candidate. This disclosure should include the release of all minutes of any meeting at which Mr. Thompson’s candidacy was discussed and any reports or other materials upon which directors relied to evaluate Mr. Thompson’s candidacy.
2) Disclose whether any Board member, including Maynard Webb, who has long-standing ties to Mr. Thompson, and Ms. Hart, who headed the Search Committee, was aware of Mr. Thompson’s deception prior to receipt of Third Point’s letter yesterday.
3) Provide shareholders with all information regarding the director nomination process, including the so-called “skills matrix” referred to in the Company’s preliminary proxy statement, which the Board purportedly used to determine the qualifications of various candidates, including Third Point’s nominees.
4) Terminate Mr. Thompson for cause immediately given his demonstrable unsuitability to remain Chief Executive Officer and a director of Yahoo! and accept the resignation of Ms. Hart for similar reasons.
Finally, we urge the Board to stop wasting valuable company resources and drop its resistance to placing the Third Point nominees on the Board. We are prepared to join immediately. Once on the Board, our first tasks will be to work with the remaining Board members to find Yahoo! a new leader with the qualifications and integrity to lead the Company and install best practices of corporate governance. The Company can ill afford to continue this misguided fight with its largest outside shareholder while it has so many other fires to put out. There has been enough damage already.
Daniel S. Loeb
Chief Executive Officer
Third Point LLC
So, take the weekend to mull it over and while you’re at it, consider gathering documentation of other potentially false claims such as:
1. Thompson’s alleged first-place finish in his 3rd grade spelling bee (do you really think a future Stonehill grad would know ‘abhinaya’?)
2. That he even graduated from Stonehill, or high school for that matter (we just don’t know, do we?)
3. That he’s circumcised (look, do you want to get to the bottom of this guy or not? If he lied about comp sci, who knows what else he’d lie about)
4. That his name is really Scott (or if he’s pulled yet another fast one over all our eyes)
Third Point Demands Yahoo C.E.O. Be Fired by Monday [Dealbook]
Loeb Asks Yahoo To Fire CEO By Monday [MarketWatch]