Securities Law

Suit: CEO bashed rival on message board

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A document made public yesterday in a government lawsuit reveals that the person posting frequent Internet messages about Whole Foods Market and a major retailing rival was none other than the grocer’s chief executive, John Mackey.

Mackey used the pseudonym Rahodeb to cheer good financial results at Whole Foods and pillory management decisions by rival Wild Oats Markets, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). The Federal Trade Commission sued after Whole Foods announced it would purchase Wild Oats, saying the deal violated antitrust laws.

Mackey’s online name is an anagram of his wife’s name, Deborah. “While I’m not a ‘Mackey groupie,’ ” he wrote in a 2000 post, “I do admire what the man has accomplished.”

The New York Times reports that Mackey posted more than 1,100 entries on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board over a seven-year period.

Harvey Pitt, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Journal it’s not per se illegal for a company executive to praise its stock, “but it’s dicey.”

“It’s clear that he is trying to influence people’s views and the stock price, and if anything is inaccurate or selectively disclosed he would indeed be violating the law,” he said.

A statement released by Whole Foods said Mackey had used an alias “to avoid having his comments associated with the company and to avoid others placing too much emphasis on his remarks.”

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