The year 2012 has been an eventful and unpleasant one for Scott Thompson. In January […]
Considering he’s now a Yahoo! board member, Dan Loeb presumably approves of the hire but […]
Book excerpt: Adam Baldwin’s “Heroes and Villains of Finance” is a fascinating dive into the history of money as an institution, highlighting the fifty most significant figures that, rightly or wrongly, are responsible for the financial landscape we live in today.
Last Thursday afternoon, hedge fund manager Daniel S. Loeb, who is waging a proxy battle against Yahoo, made a simple request: that the board of directors fire CEO Scott Thompson, who had lied about having a computer science degree from Stonehill College, when in fact the academic fraud only graduated with a degree in accounting. Loeb wanted the job done by Monday at 12 noon, EST and as the deadline passed, it was clear the request was would not be honored. As a result, Loeb was forced to demand every single document related to Thompson’s hiring at the company. Emails, heading hunting referrals, thoughts, feelings, the works. Most importantly, the résumé Thomspon submitted when applying for the gig. Did Loeb enjoy dragging this out? No. Did he take pleasure in watching the “carnage” unfold? Certainly not, and he’s shocked and offended anyone would ever think that. Nevertheless, a computer science degree had been fabricated out of thin air and Loeb felt he owed it to shareholders to get some answers. And while Yahoo! has presumably not yet faxed over the documents he asked for, they did offer this:
Apparently the Yahoo chief says he’s being honest when he tells us no fake résumés were submitted to Yahoo because they never got any résumés, period.
Yahoo‘s embattled chief executive, Scott Thompson, told the company’s senior management on Thursday that he never submitted a résumé or falsified his academic credentials, a person briefed on the matter said.
In fact, Dan Loeb and Co. find this “embarrassing episode” painful to watch.
Dear Board of Directors:
Six days have passed since Yahoo! acknowledged the fabrications in Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson and Director Patti Hart’s resumes. Since then, the following has occurred: (i) shareholders have been told that Mr. Thompson’s errors were “inadvertent”, (ii) Mr. Thompson made a classic “I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apology without actually accepting responsibility, (iii) Ms. Hart announced she will not seek re-election to the Board presumably due to her leadership of the botched CEO hiring process but intends to serve out her term, and (iv) the Board has formed a special committee to conduct a “thorough review” into Mr. Thompson’s academic credentials.
It appears very clear to us – and to many corporate governance experts, Yahoo! employees, and fellow Yahoo! shareholders – that Mr. Thompson’s fantasy degree was in no way an “inadvertent error”. The evidence shows he had been using false credentials for years. Mr. Thompson’s “apology” was clearly insufficient and it seems that the only thing he actually regrets is that he has been caught in a lie and publicly exposed. Without any explanation or accountability, Yahoo! has been left to flounder under a discredited leader for an undefined period. So, after six days, we must ask – what is this Board waiting for?
It seems farcical to us that the Board will most likely spend more time deliberating over whether Mr. Thompson should be fired than it did properly vetting whether he should have been hired. The necessary investigation into whether certain senior executives and Board Members knew of Mr. Thompson’s deceptions before hiring him should not delay decisive action over his ethical breaches.
Third Point has over $1 billion invested in Yahoo! and we take no joy in witnessing this carnage. This Board’s unchecked value destruction must stop once and for all. Therefore, we once again call upon the Board to immediately (i) place Third Point’s entire slate on the Board replacing Mr. Thompson and Ms. Hart, (ii) appoint an interim CEO—we would suggest CFO Tim Morse or Head of Global Media Ross Levinsohn (assuming neither had any knowledge of Mr. Thompson’s fabrications) and (iii) allow Third Point nominee Michael Wolf to Chair the Search Committee for a new permanent CEO (Mr. Wolf will waive the $15,000 fee that Ms. Hart received for her work as Head of the Search Committee last year, which we expect she will promptly disgorge).
This is the only way for Yahoo! to move past this embarrassing episode.
Daniel S. Loeb
Chief Executive Officer
Third Point LLC
Patti S. Hart, the Yahoo director who headed the board search committee that picked Scott Thompson as the company’s chief executive, will not stand for re-election, a person briefed on the matter told DealBook on Tuesday. Ms. Hart’s departure, which could be announced as soon as Tuesday afternoon, is the first significant response by Yahoo amid the growing controversy over Mr. Thompson’s academic record. The company is also expected to formally announce later on Tuesday the formation of a three-member board committee to investigate Mr. Thompson’s hiring and how erroneous academic information appeared in official company documents. [Dealbook, earlier]
Do you know what time it is? Nearly 1PM, EDT. The significance? That it is […]
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 rest 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. His first-place finish in his 3rd grade spelling bee (do you really think a future Stonehill grad would know how to spell ‘abhinaya’?)
2. That he bought Apple stock at $76/share (RIGHT)
3. That he can bench 285 (sure)
4. That he graduated high school (just don’t know)
5. His circumcision (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)
Third Point Demands Yahoo C.E.O. Be Fired by Monday [Dealbook]
Loeb Asks Yahoo To Fire CEO By Monday [MarketWatch]