Securities Law

Anonymous Poster Is CEO's Wife

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Whole Foods CEO John Mackey isn’t the only corporate insider using a screen name to post anonymously on a message board.

In the case of Silicon Valley company Rambus Inc., the person who posted messages defending the CEO was his wife, the Recorder reports.

Nancy Hughes, married to CEO Harold Hughes, wrote as “clarissamehitable” when she defended her husband’s decisions and criticized the company’s general counsel. After the board of directors learned of the postings from a company manager, it hired an outside lawyer to investigate.

James Lyons, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, confirmed that he led the investigation, which was completed about two weeks ago.

Rambus holds and licenses patents for semiconductor technologies, and it has sued several companies for patent infringement. Nancy Hughes had criticized the company’s general counsel in the posts, saying he raised expectations about possible monetary awards from the litigation.

Rambus spokeswoman Linda Ashmore says the board found no wrongdoing, and Nancy Hughes has agreed to stop posting. “The board has determined that Harold had no involvement or knowledge of posting to any message board,” Ashmore told the legal newspaper in an e-mail. No trades took place in connection with the posts, she said.

A lawyer for Nancy Hughes said she acted out of loyalty to her husband. Hughes “is a sophisticated business person who sought to base her opinion on publicly available information,” Jessica Grant, a lawyer at Taylor & Co., told the legal newspaper. “She did not profit or help anyone profit.”

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