The founder of a hedge fund that owns 5.81 percent of Yahoo shares caused quite a stir on Thursday with a letter to Yahoo’s board accusing CEO Scott Thompson of trumping up his résumé. Daniel Loeb of the hedge fund Third Point claimed in the letter that contrary to the credentials listed on Thompson’s official Yahoo biography — that he holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College — Loeb did some pro bono investigative work and determined that there’s just no way that could be true.
“We inquired whether Mr. Thompson had taken a large number of computer science courses, perhaps allowing him to justify to himself that he had ‘earned’ such a degree,” Loeb wrote of his conversation with Stonehill, located near Boston. “Instead, we learned that during Mr. Thompson’s tenure at Stonehill only one such course was even offered – Intro to Computer Science. Presumably, Mr. Thompson took that course.”
Loeb and Third Point are reportedly hell-bent on gaining seats on Yahoo’s board. This is certainly one approach. Yahoo downplayed the charge, writing in a statement, “This, in no way, alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies.” And Yahoo pointed out that Thompson indeed holds an accounting degree. But Loeb wrote that the embellishment both “undermines his credibility as a technology expert” and “reflects poorly on the character of the C.E.O. who has been tasked with leading Yahoo at this critical juncture.”
Yahoo is reviewing the matter and will “make an appropriate disclosure to shareholders when the review is complete.” The Yahoo spokesman also said this in a statement: “There was an inadvertent error that stated Mr. Thompson also holds a degree in computer science.”
We were curious: If actually adding a credential that one could not have earned doesn’t constitute an advertent error, what does? So we searched Yahoo. The top result in the query “what is the difference between advertent and inadvertent error” returned a page discussing the Model Penal Code distinction between advertent (conscious) and inadvertent (unconscious) negligence. In the case of inadvertent, or unconscious negligence, it boils down to this: “the actor because of a lack of care, does not think of the possibility that he may bring about the constitutive facts of the offense.”
Applying this, Thompson, because of a lack of care, didn’t think that awarding a bonus degree on his very public biography would constitute any violation. Pretty damning. Or maybe he just never imagined that someone would research his educational record and call him out for fudging it. Daniel Loeb, you sly fox.