Skip to comments.The Hand That Controls the Sock Puppet Could Get Slapped
Posted on 07/24/2007 3:07:01 PM PDT by siunevada
SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 On the Internet nobody knows youre a dog or the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.
Or so thought John Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods Market, who used a fictional identity on the Yahoo message boards for nearly eight years to assail competition and promote his supermarket chains stock, according to documents released last week by the Federal Trade Commission.
In one Internet posting sure to enter the annals of chief-executive vanity, Mr. Mackey wrote as Rahodeb, I like Mackeys haircut. I think he looks cute!
Successful executives like Mr. Mackey, whose companys share price has risen fourfold since 2000, are apparently seduced by the Internets promise of anonymity and the temptation of joining heated rhetorical battles about the issues closest to their hearts even when the law requires them to stay on the sidelines.
This digital-age deception has a name, sock-puppeting, and a precise definition the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for ones self, allies or company.
At the criminal fraud trial of Hollinger Internationals chief executive, Conrad M. Black, prosecutors introduced evidence that the former press baron had once proposed joining a Yahoo Finance chat room to blame short sellers for his companys stock performance.
When his chief of investor relations declined to post the message because of securities rules, Mr. Black wrote in an e-mail message, dont be so strait-laced ... Get our story out. Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Black then posted the message himself, using the name nspector.
Mr. Black was found guilty Friday of mail fraud and obstruction of justice, and he faces a maximum of 35 years in prison.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Unless the SEC can show that his postings moved the stock and he was buying and selling in concert with the action, I don’t see how there is anything here but a grandstanding agency rushing into the spotlight. It will close the file as soon as the publicity quiets down.
Since he is an executive -- an insider if you will -- if his actions can be shown as an attempt to influence the stock price (whether it actually moved or not and whether he then took advantage by buying or selling or not) then he was in violation of the law.
But that alone doesnt make for a good case. They want to be able to show that he reaped financial benefits from his wrongdoing. You know the saying—the law is not concerned with trifles. Mere technical violations with no illicit benefits to the wrongdoer are a good example of trifles.
So the US-Brit-Canadian Mob brought Conrad down from the shadows, because he’s a pro-American, pro-family, pro-defense conservative.
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