The Yahoo! Mess

Yahoo’s CEO, Scott Thompson, just “resigned” from his post after it was clear that he was going to be sacked. He had been on the job just four months. Why the sudden exit? A simple Google search by a Yahoo! board member revealed that Thompson had lied on his résumé, claiming to have a degree in computer science. This opened a can of worm, Pandora’s box, and an ethics cornucopia, all wrapped in one:

  • Thompson’s initial response was that the mistake was “inadvertent,” and that he regretted not having caught the error. This attempt t0 brass his way out of deception of his own making should probably ensure that he never leads another company. If he had taken 20 seconds to think about it, Thompson would have realized that using a second lie to try to cover the first would only make it clear that his curriculum vitae fabrication was not an aberration. Naturally, it was quickly discovered that he had the same fabrication on his résumé when he had applied for his previous job.
  • But Thompson wasn’t done. His next attempt was to duck accountability, suggesting that the search firm that recruited him for that previous job (in charge of technology at eBay’s PayPal unit) must have inserted the fake credential in his bio without his knowledge, and that he had never checked it in the ensuing seven years. Desperate, and dumb: 1) He’s still accountable for his own résumé.  Claiming that he didn’t know what was in the materials he allowed to be submitted on his behalf just substitutes incompetence and lack of due diligence for dishonesty, along with the per se failure of accountability. 2) The search firm, Heidrick and Struggles International, had files, as industry giants are wont to do. They showed that Thompson submitted the false credentials to them. It’s not nice to try to blame your search firm for your own sliminess.
  • Which is not to say that Heidrick and Struggles covered themselves in glory. It’s their job to check the credentials of the hot shot executives it recruits for major companies at obscene fees, and not let their clients get stuck hiring a turkey. That is literally all they are paid for. Lucky for them, eBay had shed Thompson before his deception could bite them.
  • Meanwhile, it turns out that the Yahoo! board member charged with vetting Thompson, Patti Hart, 1) did a lousy job, obviously and 2) had a false credential on her own résumé. Maybe she thought Thompson using a fantasy qualification was no big deal, since she had one too. She has also resigned.
  • Say what you will about big corporations, the current public and media scrutiny of transparency and and corporate ethics means that a clear example of dishonesty like Thompson’s will guarantee any executive’s demise. By all accounts, Thompson was doing a good job at Yahoo!, but that doesn’t matter: no company can afford the risk of having a proven liar at the top of the organizational chart.
  • I’m sure that eminent watchdog of corporate conduct and renowned Native American Elizabeth Warren supports the emerging corporate culture that refuses to tolerate deceptive biographical claims, aren’t you?

Some would say that as scams go, his worked out rather well for him.


Facts: Wall Street Journal


Graphic: Three guesses.

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

4 thoughts on “The Yahoo! Mess

  1. Despite getting his job by dishonesty and precipitating a corporate crisis for a corporation that needs anything but, Thompson still will collect a package of stock and cash worth $6.5 million.

    That is because he had been promised this amount prior to the incident. The only way for Yahoo to get it back is to sue him for fraud.

  2. “INADVERTANT” indeed.

    It reminds me of those malefactors about whom we so frequently read — the ones who, when caught, claim “I made a mistake,”

    They didn’t make a mistake, they commited a CRIME.

  3. $6.5 million, you say? And all he had to do was submit a false resume. A lot of people would sell their family into slavery, their country to an enemy and their souls to the Devil for less. The Walkers case springs to mind! They, however, went to jail. This guy walks away a rich man. Indeed, crime does pay. And here I sit; poor, but honest! (sigh)

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