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Chat Groups

Any exCEO understands the temptation to participate in Yahoo chat groups which Whole Foods CEO John Mackey now apologizes for giving in to. Despite being cesspools of foul language, misinformation, stock pumping and pummeling, and adolescent fantasies, the chat groups which formed around every public company were an integral and influential part of the last Internet bubble and rubble.

No sane CEO should have spent much time looking at the garbage posted anonymously; almost every one of us CEOs kept a browser window open on the chat group formed around our stock symbol – but this wasn’t a time of sanity. We had two excuses for doing this:

  1. Our stockholders ranging from rank amateurs to sophisticated mutual fund managers were watching the same chat groups (you can tell by their questions). Surely we had to know what they were reading.
  2. The chat groups provide instant feedback. If a press release is unclear, you can tell by the chat group. You can even gauge in real time your performance during a live webcast earnings conference and clarify on the fly (but you lose your concentration so this isn’t really a good idea).

Mary and I resisted the temptation to join in the discussions(?) either anonymously or under our own names; but it was difficult. It was company policy that any employee participating in the ITXC chat group might be fired. The risk was simply too great of running afoul of the Security and Exchange Commissions’ Reg FD regarding non-public disclosure of data about a public company (no one wanted to be the test case for whether a chat group is public enough or not), disclosing data which shouldn’t have been disclosed, or making a misstatement.

On a couple of occasions we corrected a gross error of fact officially as the company when we felt that we had, in some way, contributed to misunderstanding. Lawyers didn’t even like that because it might have implied that we now had a responsibility to correct every bit of incorrect information or analysis which appeared on the chat group. I also remember sending a lawyer letter to Yahoo because a poster was pretending to be my son. Yahoo didn’t reply substantively but that poster disappeared from the board.

If blogs had existed then, I probably would have blogged at least partly as a counterpoint to the chat groups, not that lawyers would have liked that any better.

There is, of course, a chat group in my novel hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble. When you read the excerpt below – carefully keeping it from your children, you’ll have a hard time believing that I actually toned the language down but that’s the case. This chat takes place as the news reaches the market of the death of hackoff.com CEO Larry Lazard by bullet wound to the head and the accession of ex-swimsuit model and CFO Donna Langhorne to the CEOship.

by: thewatcher02 (38/M/New Rochelle, NY)                           04/01/03 9:40 am
Msg: 99020 of 99034
hackoff’s not trading!

Re: Oh-Oh
by: ChorusLine (25/F/Paramus, NJ)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:41 am
Msg: 99021 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99020 by thewatcher02
Got to be an april fools joke:-}

Re: Oh-Oh
by: pooper
Long-Term Sentiment: Sell                                                    04/01/03 9:43 am
Msg: 99022 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99021 by ChorusLine
The real April Fool’s joke is George Bush

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Jumbo10 (46/M/New York, NY)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:45 am
Msg: 99023 of 99034
There is a press advisory out for an announcement expected at 10AM explaining the halt in trading. Whatever it is, you can bet it’ll be good for the crooks on wall street and bad for everyone stupid enough to be holding the stock.

Re: Oh-Oh
by: scooper
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:48 am
Msg: 99024 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99022 by pooper
pooper, your just as much an asshole as your buddy clinton and this is not a political board

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Alaska60-60
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Sell                                       04/01/03 9:52 am
Msg: 99025 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99023 by jumbo10
I’ve been telling you idiots allalong that lizard would have to sell jerkoff to antihack. he probly just didn’t get his own parachute big enuf b4 but I heard from insider that the deal is definitly on now. of coarse they stopped trading so only insiders can benfit but thats how lizards are

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: scooper
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:56 am
Msg: 99026 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99025 by Alaska60-60
alaska, your as much an asshole as your friend pooper and this is not the antihack board. why dont you stay there where you belong so you can pump and dump that and not bother us here on this board

Press Release Out
by: Alaska60-60
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Sell                                       04/01/03 10:01 am
Msg: 99027 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99025 by Alaska60-60
The press release is on Yahoo.  The lizard is out and the cunt is in…  this stock is in the crapper if it ever starts trading again

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Jumbo10 (46/M/New York, NY)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 10:05 am
Msg: 99028 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99023 by jumbo10
This may not be bad for the stock. I’ve changed my sentiment to buy and will buy after it settles down after trading resumes. Donna may be smarter than Larry was about selling the company or making it profitable. She always did a better job than he did at the quarterly webcasts. Often regime change makes a company go up even when it is unexpected.

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: PacPhil (25/M/New York, NY)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 10:07 am
Msg: 99029 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99028 by jumbo10
Jumbo, you always have good analysis. I hope you’ll write more later in the day. Why do you think Larry shot himself?  Does that matter to the stock?  Is the new CFO any good?  What will The Street think?

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Alaska60-60
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Sell                                       04/01/03 10:10 am
Msg: 99030 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99028 by jumbo10
Your an idiot or just getting reddy to dump your stock. The cunt cant run the company. the lizard couldnt run the company. The company sucks. it doesn’t have anything. They should have sold to antihack… now noone will pay a penny for this piece of shit

Whats Happening
by: CLess                                                                                04/01/03 10:15 am
Msg: 99031 of 99034
Does anyone know why the stock isn’t trading???

by: TestTost (35/M/San Francisco, CA)
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Buy                                       04/01/03 10:15 am
Msg: 99032 of 99034
Donna’s a peace of ass.  She was in the SI Swimsuit addition in the early 90s.  She’s still hot.

Re: Oh-Oh
by: ChorusLine (25/F/Paramus, NJ)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 10:16 am
Msg: 99033 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99021 by ChorusLine
It wasn’t an april fools joke.  what will the street think?

Stock Opened
by: thewatcher02 (38/M/New Rochelle, NY)                           04/01/03 10:16 am
Msg: 99034 of 99034
hackoff’s trading again! 1k shares at 1.26 unchanged. bid 1.24; ask 1.26.


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» WSJ is wrong about the impact of Whole Foods CEO John Mackeys 1,100 onlinecomments from Kempton's blog
From the segments quoted by WSJ Law Blog entry Should Whole Foods CEO Be Punished?, looks like the WSJ editorial board is wrong. The WSJ editorial board is entitled to its opinion that “From what we’ve read, we can’t see how any re... [Read More]



Mr. Mackey’s predilection for anonymous rantings is far from unique in the corridors of power. So much so that at least one startup has stepped into the void to assist acronym-challened CEOs. Check it out at: http://sneakybusiness.typepad.com/sneaky/2007/07/ceos-yearn-for-.html


Hi Tom,

Thanks for sharing your own experience re chat room comments. It is nice to read what you did so I can put what the Whole Foods CEO John Mackey did in context. I think the editorial in WSJ wasn't completely convincing when it tried to defend Mr. Mackey in "Should Whole Foods CEO Be Punished?".


Daniel Markham

Hi Tom,

I wish I could say that I was amazed at that exchange, but sadly, that's not the case. I don't know what it is about the internet -- perhaps the anonymity it provides -- but it's not a place to go looking for self-esteem help! It seems that the signal-to-noise ratio on most every popular site is very low.

As a personal example, I used to post on Slashdot quite a bit, especially about technical articles. I would almost always get rated a 4 or 5 for my comments, and they had a lot of responses. But I never read the responses. One day, just out of curiosity, I started reading some of the responses. It was like listening to a bunch of Junior High-School kids pick on the unpopular guy: the tired of negatives, personal attacks, and just cheap shots was amazing.

So I stopped posting that much on Slashdot.

Thanks for the good article.


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