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Rule #1: Don't Post About Yourself Anonymously on the Internet
July 12, 2007 10:01 AM   Subscribe

In January 2005, someone using the name "Rahodeb" went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: "No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share." Who was that random fool? Why, none other than John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods. Whole Foods purchased Wild Oats earlier this year for approximately $18.50 a share, but the FTC has an issue with Whole Foods buying out their competitor. Mackey had responded to the FTC's complaint on his blog, but has not posted since some of his other online comments became publicly attached to his name.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (80 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
On the internet nobody knows you're a dog.
posted by caddis at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2007


They should maybe hire AT&Ts lobbyists bribeticians.

And speaking of Whole Foods, what a great place. I've met many smart women at the one at Columbus Circle, typically while buying the seeduction bread.
posted by four panels at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tidbit: 'Rahodeb' is an anagram of Mackey's wife's name, Deborah.
posted by box at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2007


Another one who's violated the Don't Be Stupid rule.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2007


they don't say how they linked "rahodeb" to john mackey
posted by infini at 10:17 AM on July 12, 2007


I used to go to Whole Foods every now and then when I lived in Austin, and I liked it, but isn't their some controversy about just how "organic" their stuff is?
posted by papakwanz at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2007


“I like Mackey’s haircut. I think he looks cute!” Rahodeb wrote on April 28, 2000.
posted by vacapinta at 10:21 AM on July 12, 2007


The urge to be a "regular person" online must be pretty irresistable to celebrities (even minor ones like the CEO of Whole Foods). Make in-jokes is probably the same. I'm pretty sure I'd be unable to resist praising my own haircut (while laughing to myself, but of course no one else would realize it was a joke).

Of course, stock fraud is another matter.
posted by DU at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2007


Oh man, he is so banned.
posted by cortex at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2007 [6 favorites]


"No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share."

yet oddly enough, a ton of people seem to want to buy a tray of lukewarm, mediocre hotplate food for $14.75.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2007


revised joke:

"No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share."


Well, as co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, I suppose he is an expert on things being overpriced.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


am I missing something out in the links? I'm seriously curious to know, I don't know enough about the internet to figure out how they connected random postings on yahoo to him.
posted by infini at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2007


"It's not a tumor!" - Kindegarten Cop

Rahodeb is not an anagram. It's just spelled backwards. They talked about this on NPR this morning. I laughed, cuz they called it an anagram then too.

"The palindrome for Bolton would be Notlob." - Monty Python

I'm really secretly DnimsHcaz and I am the vehicle destroyer.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:41 AM on July 12, 2007


The CEO of whole foods is a huge libertarian and extreemly anti-union, apparently.

Anyone want to explain the controversy to me? A company's value can change a lot in two and a half years. Is it illegal for an "insider" to gossip about a competitor? Is the problem that he was trying to drive down the price to buy it... 30 months later?
posted by delmoi at 10:41 AM on July 12, 2007


"Rahodeb is not an anagram. It's just spelled backwards."

His wife's name is Bedohar?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:44 AM on July 12, 2007 [2 favorites]



Rahodeb is not an anagram. It's just spelled backwards.


He's married to someone named Bedohar?
posted by nasreddin at 10:44 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's just spelled backwards

"Deborah" spelled backwards is "Harobed"
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:44 AM on July 12, 2007


Synchronicity.
posted by nasreddin at 10:45 AM on July 12, 2007


The way this was discovered was that Whole Foods mentioned his posting in their filings to the SEC. Amazingly many corporate scandals arise from companies filing accurate documents. When you look at the Enron scandal, all of the data came out of their public filings. It just took someone (I believe a WSJ reporter) to sift through the data carefully enough to realize the Emperor had no clothes.
posted by bove at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2007


When you spell something backwards (which "rahodeb is not), that's still an anagram.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2007


Even if Rahodeb was backwards of Deborah, that wouldn't make it not an anagram. Reversal is a trivial case of anagramization.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2007


"since some of his other online comments became publicly attached to his name."

So what were those comments?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2007


As long as we're beating this horse to death, I might as well point out that words-spelled-backward are anagrams.
posted by box at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2007


From the WSJ article: "After The Wall Street Journal contacted Whole Foods yesterday, the company said in a statement that among millions of documents it gave the FTC were postings its CEO made from 1999 to 2006 "under an alias to avoid having his comments associated with the Company and to avoid others placing too much emphasis on his remarks." The statement said, "Many of the opinions expressed in these postings now have far less relevance than when they were written." Whole Foods didn't confirm every Rahodeb posting as being from Mr. Mackey."
posted by bove at 11:00 AM on July 12, 2007


thanks bove, I read that but must admit I didn't believe that was as simple as that. Oy vey as they say back in Calcutta. I thought they'd tracked down ISP's or something with IP numbers
posted by infini at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2007


Maybe I'm dumb, but why would he say no one would want to buy WO at $8/share, when his company had already paid $18.50/share?
posted by papakwanz at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2007


24/7 Wall St. has a history of his postings. Here's a thread where someone accuses him of being, er, himself; here's an earlier one in which he's asked if he works for Whole Foods. Here's one where he's putting down an unhappy ex-employee. Here's the haircut one.
posted by taz at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2007


"He also said: 'I posted on Yahoo! MetaFilter under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms.' He said that 'I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.'

Mr. Mackey's post continued: 'The views articulated by rahodeb sometimes represent what I actually believed and sometimes they didn't. Sometimes I simply played "devil's advocate" troll for the sheer fun of arguing. Anyone who knows me realizes that I frequently do this in person, too.'"
posted by ericb at 11:11 AM on July 12, 2007


but why would he say no one would want to buy WO at $8/share, when his company had already paid $18.50/share?

Whole Foods didn't "already" pay $18.50/share. His personal comment about $8 per share dates back to January 2005. The acquisition of Whole Oats at $18.50 a share occured earlier this year (2007). Obviously, his hope of a low share price never materialized in the intervening two-year period.
posted by ericb at 11:15 AM on July 12, 2007


I'm actually Barbara Streisand.
posted by mkultra at 11:21 AM on July 12, 2007


Rahodeb is not an anagram. It's just spelled backwards. They talked about this on NPR this morning. I laughed, cuz they called it an anagram then too.

Aww shucks...I wanted to take a dig at Zachsmind too but looks I'm at the end of a long and popular line...
posted by vacapinta at 11:24 AM on July 12, 2007


His wife's name is Bedohar?

and

"Deborah" spelled backwards is "Harobed"

STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!!!!!!!!

You guys are giving me dyslexia!

Seriously.

Stop.

Thank yuo.
posted by LordSludge at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2007


I'm actually Barbara Streisand.

A likely story, luk tram.
posted by cortex at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2007


Is it illegal for an "insider" to gossip about a competitor?

Not really. But, there can be a "fine line" when an insider is promoting his own stock.
“For an executive to use a pseudonym to praise his company and stock ‘isn't per se unlawful, but it's dicey,’ said Harvey Pitt, a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. Told of the Mackey posts, Mr. Pitt said, ‘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 added that ‘at a minimum, it's bizarre and ill-advised, even if it isn't illegal.’

A spokeswoman for Whole Foods said Mr. Mackey only revealed information about Whole Foods that already was public knowledge. His comments ‘weren't illegal’ and weren't ‘against company policy,’ she said.”
posted by ericb at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2007


I'm actually Barbara Streisand

Ahem, Barbra Streisand.
posted by ericb at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2007


I'm actually Dnasietrs Arbrab!
posted by ericb at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2007


So you're not Eric B, of Eric B and Rakim fame? Man, what a letdown.
posted by box at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2007


As vacapinta points out, it probably was Mackey's wife, at least in part; whether or not he knew exactly what she was doing at every moment and approved it or even strategized it, if they are wiling for her to endure the humiliation involved, he can portray her as a ditzy cheerleader type, blame some of this on her, and get it behind him.
posted by jamjam at 11:38 AM on July 12, 2007


So you're not Eric B, of Eric B and Rakim fame? Man, what a letdown.

He's still never scared!
posted by OmieWise at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2007


Fifty bucks says he's also "poopypeanuts."
posted by The Straightener at 11:51 AM on July 12, 2007


Whole foods is the only supermarket where I've gotten to the front of the "Express - 10 items only" line and been told I couldn't be served because it *looked* like I had more then 10 items. I was too flabbergasted to argue and shuffled off to the end of a normal line feeling the burning hate filled eyes of all the other express lane shoppers fall upon me (I had ten items exactly - the bag of BBQ charcoal and 12 roll pack of toilet paper made it look like I had more).

And they kicked me out for not wearing shoes once. Just saying. And now, finally, a Whole foods related thread to vent in. Huzzah!
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:57 AM on July 12, 2007


To ericb's credit, he was a fiend before he became a teen, melting microphones but staying cool as ice cream.
posted by NationalKato at 11:57 AM on July 12, 2007


I think you're thinking of Rakim. He was music orientated, so that when hip hop was originated, it fitted like pieces of puzzles: complicated.

Or so I've heard.
posted by OmieWise at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2007


No, I'm SUCATRAPS!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2007


Unlike all the other food stores that let you in without shoes? Is this a whole foods-specific complaint, or are you just angry at the Man?
posted by found missing at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2007


What happened to the good old days of CEOs? Where they didn't have the faintest clue what a computer did, spent the afternoons at the club slapping the backs of fellow CEOs and monitoring stock prices on the way to their Hamptons home in the back of their chauffeured Bentley? Should he be cultivating eccentricities such as the first person to climb a mountain on their back? Not posting online under a screen name. Next he's going to post to Metatalk about how he needs money for electricity-and-will-so-get-back-on-his-feet.
posted by geoff. at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2007


The urge to be a "regular person" online must be pretty irresistable to celebrities...

So you're not Eric B, of Eric B and Rakim fame? Man, what a letdown.

Damn, foiled again!
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2007


I am W. Bush George and I see no problem with anonygrams or any other stuff.

Aside from that, there's a fine line between "doing nothing wrong" and being a jackass. Now every employee of his that can afford an internets connection will be sifting through the posts and discovering what a dork their boss is.

Why they stopped selling the unbranded, fresh caper berries at the Symphony store is anyone's guess, but my chicken piccatta hasn't been the same the same since. Basterts.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:13 PM on July 12, 2007


I changed my screen name for metafilter from my usual nom de guerre: ytregof
posted by maxwelton at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Unlike all the other food stores that let you in without shoes? Is this a whole foods-specific complaint, or are you just angry at the Man?

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that there are many perfectly good reasons that could be dreamed up for requiring shoes (although my local Zanottos, Walgreens and liquor store don't seem to care for whats it worth). It was the part were I was escorted to the out of the store that I found a little strange.

But hey, I still shop there occasionally (with shoes) - my secret shame :-)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:20 PM on July 12, 2007


inflatablekiwi: that's odd. My roommate used to go into one of the Austin Whole Foods without shoes all the time in the early 90's. They *never* stopped him. it was the trashy tiny grocery store ever. I imagine it no longer is
posted by crush-onastick at 12:29 PM on July 12, 2007


I have had the experience of buying a pair of flip-flops so it was possible for me to continue shopping in the beach-town grocery store. No sympathy!
posted by Miko at 12:41 PM on July 12, 2007


it was the trashy tiny grocery store ever. I imagine it no longer is

Man, you have no idea.
posted by spiderwire at 12:49 PM on July 12, 2007


MetaFilter: at a minimum, it's bizarre and ill-advised, even if it isn't illegal.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2007


it was the trashy tiny grocery store ever. I imagine it no longer is

Man, you have no idea.


there's a moral here, but fuck it, give me more utub links...
posted by geos at 1:03 PM on July 12, 2007


there's a moral here, but fuck it, give me more utub links...

How about links to the Whole Foods Austin flagship store?

For comparison, the old WF store.
posted by spiderwire at 1:35 PM on July 12, 2007


So this is why my ears are burning.
posted by deborah at 1:48 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought anagrams had to be words that meant something. Rahodeb is just a rearranged deborah, wouldn't an anagram be "had bore" or something?
posted by pantsrobot at 2:11 PM on July 12, 2007


I thought anagrams had to be words that meant something. Rahodeb is just a rearranged deborah, wouldn't an anagram be "had bore" or something?

Arguably, yes, but technically, proper nouns are essentially arbitrary anyway -- particularly internet user handles -- so that's just hair-splitting.
posted by spiderwire at 2:16 PM on July 12, 2007


I really don't understand what the big deal is. So what if some anonymous yutz talks trash about a company on an internet message board? It happens all the time. The stock market doesn't quiver when DoMe334 makes some comment. That it ends up being a person of note, still, so what? I mean, it's a little bit embarrassing for him, but its not like any laws were broken.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:51 PM on July 12, 2007


but its not like any laws were broken.

The SEC might beg to differ with you on that point.
posted by spiderwire at 3:02 PM on July 12, 2007


The FTC is more concerned about the possibility that Whole Foods would have too much control over the organic food market and the deal would stifle competition. The revelation about the internet messages are just a distraction.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:08 PM on July 12, 2007


So what if some anonymous yutz talks trash about a company on an internet message board? It happens all the time. The stock market doesn't quiver when DoMe334 makes some comment.

Perhaps not, but they used to quiver at the appearance of Mr. Pink. When he would roll into a message board and announce that the stock was t3/f you could just watch it sink, like magic.
posted by caddis at 3:37 PM on July 12, 2007


Reversal is a trivial case of anagramization.

A truly trivial case of anagramization would be simply the word itself.

"Sometimes I simply played "devil's advocate" troll for the sheer fun of arguing."

Do I even have do remind everyone that Mr. Mackey is a vocal libertarian?
posted by deanc at 3:55 PM on July 12, 2007


The revelation about the internet messages are just a distraction.

Even if that were true, what you said was that it wasn't illegal, which is wrong.
posted by spiderwire at 3:59 PM on July 12, 2007


Which laws, then?
posted by Dave Faris at 4:01 PM on July 12, 2007


Which laws, then?

15 USC § 78(j)(b), smartass.
posted by spiderwire at 4:16 PM on July 12, 2007


Well, if they can prove that his messages manipulated the market, then you may be right. In the meantime, we all better be careful not to bash Apple or Microsoft or any other company when we post messages on Metafilter or elsewhere on the net.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:18 PM on July 12, 2007


He could pump and dump all the drivel he wanted, because his opinions held no weight as an anonymous person on the net.

He may lose his job because of it, but good luck to anyone prosecuting him on it.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:37 PM on July 12, 2007


He could pump and dump all the drivel he wanted, because his opinions held no weight as an anonymous person on the net.

Um, what? Pump-and-dump schemes are illegal, full stop, precisely because of 15 USC 78 -- and being the CEO of the company only makes it worse. You cannot make public statements about stocks you own or companies you might be interested in buying in order to manipulate share prices up or down, regardless of whether it's anonymous. The fact that it is or isn't traceable to you doesn't reflect at all on its legality, just whether or not you'll get caught. Surely that distinction isn't difficult to grasp.
posted by spiderwire at 4:46 PM on July 12, 2007


Just for kicks, this Fortune article gives a decent rundown of some of the legal issues:
I called some securities law experts, but they all seemed to think that the problem was a bit broader than that. It’s a control issue, they explained. The CEO is disseminating information that hasn’t been reviewed by either the general counsel or the board. If his comments move the market, he could be engaging in stock manipulation. If anything he says is materially misleading, he’s violating Section 10B of the Securities Exchange Act. If any material nonpublic information slips out, he’s violating Regulation FD, which forbids selective disclosures. If he’s ragging on a competitor’s CEO, he could inadvertently say something defamatory. If there are confidentiality agreements in place, he could be violating them.
I suppose I only pointed out one of potentially five or six illegal moves the guy made, but that's what I get for being a junior counselor.
posted by spiderwire at 5:39 PM on July 12, 2007


spiderwire, I think you're not getting the point that a pump and dump would be extremely difficult to pull off by some random dude on a chat forum, and since Mackey was anonymous on the forums he would have had just as much influence as any other person on the boards.

In order to prove anything, the FTC would have to be able to prove that his postings led to a change in share price, which is what they're looking to do. If Mackey had been posting anonymously while also claiming to have insider knowledge then yeah, that would be a problem and his postings would have been more likely to affect share prices. But anonymous people who bitch on the internet don't have much impact in the real world, and since at the time, and to anybody reading, his words were those of a regular guy, I doubt he made a difference.

I could be wrong, of course, and it's good that the FTC is looking into it, but anonymously posting common knowledge or opinion about your company isn't really "market manipulation".
posted by stefanie at 5:52 PM on July 12, 2007


Fair point, stefanie, but the legality of a pump and dump scheme doesn't hinge on its success. It only requires that you "deploy a manipulative device" -- it's purely a mens rea crime.

The other important variable is that generally anonymous internet posters aren't also senior executives of the company (I assume). The crucial difference is that Mackey has a fiduciary responsibility as the senior officer of a publicly traded company. You're simply not allowed to do stuff like this for very obvious reasons.

But the thing that makes this especially egregious isn't that he was pushing WF's stock price, it's that he was riding the stock price of a competitor who they were looking to purchase -- it's a reverse pump and dump scheme. (Not to mention that he specifically said the WF wouldn't purchase the stock at $8 when they did at $18.50 -- that's pretty much facially false, isn't it?)

I don't doubt that the guy's intentions were fairly benign (although a little vindictive and clearly nuts), but that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee and big fat lawsuit from the SEC. (Or, you know, a fiver if you get the coffee from Whole Foods. No, no, I kid.)
posted by spiderwire at 6:04 PM on July 12, 2007


[a few comments removed. if you can't comment in this thread without calling peopele assholes, take it to metatalk or email]
posted by jessamyn at 6:10 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed. if you can't comment in this thread without calling people assholes, take it to metatalk or email]

You can't do that! You're a senior executive officer of MetaFilter defaming -- wait, nevermind. You can't insult Jason Calacanis, though! ...Not that anyone would mind.

posted by spiderwire at 6:30 PM on July 12, 2007


Squares are also rectangles. And Bedohar Harobed = sockpuppet gold.
posted by Eideteker at 4:37 AM on July 13, 2007


I'm Barbara Streisand...

Finally my chance! You're a pompous, self-righteous bitch.
posted by mattholomew at 5:59 AM on July 13, 2007


metafilter: Late Term If
posted by delmoi at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2007


Meatlifter.
posted by spiderwire at 4:26 PM on July 13, 2007


Follow-up from the NY Times, with a slightly broader discussion of business-related sockpuppetry.
posted by djgh at 10:18 PM on July 15, 2007


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