Had Mackey Worked For Wild Oats, Would His “rahodeb” Postings Have Violated Ethics Policy?

Update to the John "rahodeb" Mackey story …

I noted on my previous post that I have tried to contact the media relations people at both Whole Foods and Wild Oats for comment. Wild Oats was first to respond.

Wild Oats still supports the proposed "merger" of the two companies, says Sonja Tuitele, senior director – Corporate Communications & Investor Relations for Wild Oats. She also noted that her company has an ethics policy prohibiting unauthorized statements about the company to external audiences, including the Internet.

(While Mackey clearly was authorized to speak to media and other external audiences about his company, did anyone at Whole Foods know about his thousands of chatroom postings under the psuedonym "rahodeb?" We’ll have to wait to see if we hear from Whole Foods.)

While Tuitele’s responses were quite guarded, as one might expect, I applaud her quick response and include the full text of our e-mail interview below:

  • Does Wild Oats have an ethics policy regarding company officers engaging in conversations with investors on chatrooms using an alias? and specifically regarding posts speculating about future company stock prices as well as denigrating another company that would later become a take-over target?

We have a policy that prohibits any employee from making any statements about the company to external audiences unless otherwise authorized. This policy does include Internet and blog postings.

  • What is Wild Oats’ company position regarding John Mackey’s Yahoo! postings over the past several years denigrating Wild Oats as a company and calling its stock price over-valued?

We don’t respond to individual web postings about our Company or our stock and believe this is one person’s opinion. We, therefore, don’t have a comment here.

  • What was the reaction of Wild Oats’ senior management upon learning of the rahodeb postings?

I can’t speculate what senior management was thinking when they learned of this activity.

  • Does Wild Oats still support the "merger" of the two companies?

Yes, we believe that the merger continues to be in the best interest for Wild Oats and all of our stakeholders.

  • How have you addressed your stockholders’ concerns about this matter since the story broke last week?

We’ve reassured them that we still believe the merger is in the best interest of the company and all our stakeholders if it does go through. We also share our strategies as a stand-alone business and the progress we’ve made toward driving improved business results over the last 9 months.

  • When will Wild Oats address this issue with a statement on its investor website recognizing that it must surely be the hottest topic on your shareholders’ (and employees’) minds lately?

We do not believe it is our place to respond with a statement about another company’s CEO’s web postings.  Therefore, we will not be posting a statement on the IR section of our website.

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