Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, who has been accused of fudging his resume by adding a computer science degree when he had none, told the company’s board yesterday that he never provided Yahoo with a resume, according to a report by Reuters. Instead, the executive search firm that presented him to Yahoo prepared a package that outlined his capabilities and experience, a practice that is consistent with the industry standard.
Thompson’s explanation for the error, according to a report in the Business Insider, was that the search firm that handled his recruitment for his previous employer, PayPal, took incorrect information from the dossier prepared at that time, and put it on his biography on the company’s website. Once it was published online, it spread to Yahoo and other places, including to a Yahoo filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
While this explanation seems possible, it doesn’t reflect well on Thompson that he apparently never asked that the biography be corrected. Also, under federal law, Thompson must personally certify that filings to the SEC are correct, yet a filing that said he had a computer science degree went through with his approval.
The resume issue was raised by Yahoo’s biggest outside shareholder, hedge fund Third Point, which has also demanded that the board fire Thompson and find a new CEO. Thompson has only been on the job since January, and he is the fifth CEO that Yahoo has had in the last five years. CFO Timothy Morse served as interim CEO prior to Thompson. He replaced Carol Bartz, who had served since 2009. Before Bartz, co-founder Jerry Yang had taken up the CEO mantle after the departure of Terry Semel in 2007.
Third Point did get some of its wishes fulfilled, however. Patti Hart, the Yahoo board member that led the search that resulted in Thompson’s hiring, earlier this week said she wouldn’t seek re-election to the board.
The resume issue is distracting Yahoo leadership at a time when the company desperately needs focus. Thompson was hired to turn the company around after years of struggle, and he began by making significant layoffs. In an email to staffers obtained by AllThingsD, Thompson says he’s keeping his eyes on his work:
I am sure you have seen the reports of questions raised regarding my undergraduate degree. As we said yesterday, the board is reviewing the matter and, upon completion of its review, will make an appropriate disclosure to shareholders. In the meantime, I’m doing what I hope all of you are doing — staying focused on our customers, our shareholders, our team and moving Yahoo! forward, fast.
Meanwhile, Third Point’s Dan Loeb continues to push for Thompson’s ouster and for his slate of candidates to join the Yahoo board – and a report indicates that another large investor, Capital Research and Management, is inclined to support that slate. Yahoo staffers are also reportedly pushing for Thompson to be treated like anyone else who was found to have given incorrect information about their education.
Yahoo says a group of board members is investigating why incorrect educational information was listed for Thompson, and has not yet released its conclusions.