The Disgrace Of Yahoo

“The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has lied about receiving a computer science degree. Or at any rate he’s never corrected his biographical information that includes that information, and it’s nearly impossible to believe that he simply never noticed it.

The allegation was first raised by Third Point LLC, a Yahoo shareholder, in a letter to the board of directors earlier today (embedded here).

Yahoo confirmed the accuracy of the allegation, calling it an “inadvertent error.”

I’m sure that was a fun conversation.

“Um, hey, Scott, did you just make up that part on your resume where you said you had a computer science degree? I’m only asking because our shareholders and all the press are asking, and this might make us look simultaneously dishonest and stupid if it’s true. There also might be a few lawsuits or something.”

“Oh, you did make that up? Ok. Well, I’ll just issue a statement that it was an inadvertent error for now. I’m sure this will blow over.”

“Oh! It’s nearly 5 pm. Quittin time! Good luck with all this, Scott.”

Business Insider shows how Thompson has been using this fake bio information for years. ReadWriteWeb questions how someone can go a decade without noticing that this on their resume.

They don’t.

Thompson has to go. I wouldn’t even take a phone call from that guy at this point. The kind of people who lie on their resume…those people don’t belong in Silicon Valley.

You can’t PR your way out of this, Yahoo. This is conduct unbecoming of a public company CEO, or anyone else who wants to be taken seriously.

Update: I JUST CALLED YAHOO’S 24-HOUR INTEGRITY HOTLINE

62 thoughts on “The Disgrace Of Yahoo

  1. eluos says:

    It’s difficult to sympathize with a company that resorts to patent suits, as a way to stay solvent just a little longer.

    • TrueSpirit says:

      dear eulos, come up with a novel idea, work to convert that idea into reality, then say what you have just said. patent is a way to safeguard your efforts and hardwork of years. when somebody reaps tons of benefits from your invention without giving you the share of it, its totally unfair. so whats wrong when yahoo, or for that matter, any other company takes its intellectual property seriously. charity is divine. but the one who is using your idea is not doing charity. better fight for your right. earn your pie and then give away to the needy. that makes more sense.

  2. Robin says:

    Either someone else wrote his bio (which he should have done himself) or he wrote it and blatantly lied.

  3. If this is true, Yahoo just got into much bigger problem which is not just performance but ethical dilemma .

  4. David Mobley says:

    Seems to me that people are putting a lot of effort into reading too far into something. The way I’d read it, is that he minored in Computer Science while getting his Accounting degree and if you want to be a douche you fluff it up and hope that if/when you get a verification call the person at the University just confirms that yes those words were on it.

    And the idea that people with fluffed up resumes don’t belong in Silicon Valley is laughable at best, hysterical at worst. If I had a million dollars for everyone who has something fluffy on a resume to get past a computerized HR filter, I’d be able to buy Yahoo myself.

    • The problem is that the college didn’t even have a CompSci program until 4 years after he graduated. This is not an inadvertent error or misreading. He lied. Full stop. worse, he lied on SEC documentation.

    • Laurence Mead says:

      If you had a single dollar for every occasion you’d be able to buy yahoo….

    • Richard says:

      It’s called integrity. Yes, certainly in short supply these days. That doesn’t mean we should just ignore it. I would say liars don’t have any business running companies, but, well….
      If we just keep sliding down the slope, which we will, we will find out what’s at the bottom. That won’t be pretty.

  5. Daniel Sharp says:

    “It’s cool – don’t worry… I can fix this!”
    http://www.buydegree.org/

  6. Hadi Partovi says:

    Just when you think Yahoo! couldn’t sink any lower, they invent a whole new level.

  7. Rob Hoffmann says:

    And when Thompson goes, he can take the “consultants” who are helping him trash Yahoo with him…

  8. Robin Reed says:

    The big question for me is who’s responsible for background checking and credential verification? Education credential verification is 101 stuff, for every kind of hire. As an executive recruiter, and I’m assuming they used a firm to bring Scott there, I’m wondering why they didn’t flag this in the screening process. Outrageous. Just sayin.

    • anon says:

      I work at one of those exec recruiting places and no way we even present a person to a client before we’ve vetted them including all of their education vitals. Someone was either asleep at the wheel or in on it to start.

  9. jason says:

    Should I short the stock?

  10. Viktor Uspaskich says:

    What’s the big problem? Just buy the degree!

  11. geoffwolfe says:

    Something about his mustache said he was shifty.

  12. Jason Carr says:

    Wow. Yep he’s been lying about this for years so this is definitely not something Yahoo can let go. I read an interesting study on the importance of CEO ethics earlier today: http://www.livescience.com/20071-ceo-reputation-effects.html This study shows clearly that customers care a great deal about the actions of CEO’s. This is even more pronounced in public companies. My guess is that this will all end very badly for Mr. Thompson. What a shame.

  13. Andrew embury says:

    Since when does anyone in the valley care about a college degree?

    • Richard says:

      When someone says they have one and they don’t. Lots of geeks, most of the geekiest, don’t have degrees. But don’t say they do.

  14. M. Gordon says:

    I lied on my resume while employed as the “nasty gram” guy with a credit company in my 20’s and was summarily fired. (This whole “Internet” thing happened afterward, so it was actually a good thing.) However; I learned my lesson.

    Based on my own experience… amazing it’s taken this long to flush this out. An honorary degree should be awarded for keeping it a secret this long, if it is true.

    It is not the deed, it is the lie that gets you fucked. But, without the lie, would he be where he is? And if he is where he is, isn’t the whole notion of what is in your academic trophy case insignificant?

    I’ve known plenty of people who have degrees who have no flipping clue, who fail upward and jack up companies. I’ve hired 19-yeard-old kids who turn themselves inside out to be better because the love what they do.

    I’m not saying Thompson’s lie is forgivable behavior for the CEO of Yahoo. But, in the end, who deserves to succeed more? If you are truly awesome do you deserve to have a life of mediocrity because the trophy of College Education is so important?

    • Richard says:

      If you are truly awesome:
      a. you will not live a life of mediocrity.
      b. you will not lie on your resume because
      1. truly awesome people have integrity
      2. lying will likely lead to career-ending exposure and world-wide embarrassment.
      And frankly, he just doesn’t look truly awesome. As most contemporary CEOs don’t and aren’t.

  15. IDC says:

    And how many candidates we fired at Paypal over the years when we found out they have boosted their resumes! Guess HR did not check the CTO/President resume!

  16. Tony Camilli says:

    Resumes don’t matter anymore anyway. What’s his Klout score? ;)

  17. DP says:

    I don’t always patent troll, but when I do, I do it with fake credentials.

  18. Spot on. They really could use you back at TechCrunch.

  19. While you’re at it, go over the resumes of all the politicians in the country with a fine tooth comb, I’m sure they could bear some scrutiny.

  20. Let’s be clear, this type of conduct doesn’t have a place anywhere. There are people that worked damn hard to actually have said credentials, his actions are an affront to all of them. You’re harsh assessment of the situation is apt imo.

    • Just because we got suckered into wasting our time and money on a college degree doesnt mean we should force everyone else into it. If you can already do the job well, but HR has some silly meaningless requirement, why not lie? What do you have to gain by making someone go to college to waste their time and money? Why would you do that to someone?

  21. Who cares? He was obviously good enough to get hired, and college degrees are pretty meaningless these days. If you are good at the job, but a silly piece of paper is holding you back, then I dont see a problem with lying about it.

    • abcd says:

      Yes , you are absolutely right
      these kind of abysmal news should only be avoided , with proverbs marking the header of the page .

    • Ben Noble says:

      That says more about your moral and ethical standards than any percieved values of a degree.

      The issue here isn’t the subject of the degree – it’s the blatant willingness to lie on the record to anyone and everyone. And Yahoo’s (and PayPal’s) incompetency at catching this lie should also be investigated.

    • Richard says:

      Clearly you have no integrity either.

    • The problem “lies” (pun intended) with the fact that he is the CEO of a large company… a high visibility position. He is supposed to set the example for the rest of Yahoo!. If they allow him to get away with “fluffing” the resume… then unfortunately, that speaks for the rest of the company as well.

  22. Lars says:

    Love your Linkedin profile, Mike.

  23. I guess that’s the only reason today Yahoo! is no where, it was at peak few years ago, but if your management is corrupt, lier, uneducated, out dated, then you can’t survive, he should have to step down from Yahoo!

  24. rose says:

    wow, so much energy against yahoo
    what do you have to say about obama´s birth certificate?

  25. At least now he’ll be able to list “CEO of Yahoo!” on his resume in the future!

  26. Georg says:

    Should I short the stock?

  27. I’m reminded of the Notre Dame Football Coach, one George O’Leary, who had the job for about three days…until the school learned that he had fabricated a Master’s Degree on his resume. This was unbecoming of a school of higher learning, so they fired him. After three days. Smart move.

  28. Alexia Tsotsis says:

    Great Nietzsche quote.

  29. One time, just ONCE, I would love to see a company admit “yeah, he lied; yeah, it’s scummy behavior, but we’re choosing to not fire him for it; we’re sorry it happened” as opposed to this “inadvertently” nonsense.

  30. James says:

    Can we also fire the PR person who tried the “inadvertent error” damage control? Why do we fire the CEO who knowingly lies yet not the underling who lets themselves be directed to lie?

  31. Ferdoss Dadi says:

    My employer verifies all the information put in resume. This includes prior work experience and designation there, degrees received, grades obtained and number of years of experience. Yahoo is such a 6ucked up culture that even for CEO’s post, they don’t make obvious background checks.Such a disgrace for investors and shame for a company.

  32. Current says:

    Love the quote on the top.

    The “inadvertant error” meant he missed taking it out long time ago, when it became useless (who cares if the guy has a comp sc degree when hiring for a CTO+, that is only meaningful until the first few years in your programmer job, if that).

    The thing he should really be docked is for thinking that a completed Comp Sc (or any) degree is good credentials for leading a tech company. Quite the opposite. Hasn’t he learnt from Microsoft, Apple, Facebook…

  33. Mark Sigal says:

    I think that there are two sides to this one. One, is the axiom that if you want to see how it ends, look at how it begins. The fact that the guy fudged his resume is a character tell. Tigers don’t generally change their stripes, so know what you’re getting on that front.

    That stated, presumably he was hired based upon his deeds in his ACTUAL CAREER, not based upon a piece of paper on his academia (or lack of). In other words, if he was the right guy then, I am not sure why he’s not the right guy now.

    Silicon Valley is full of lots of glass houses when it comes to casting rocks about truthiness, whether it’s metrics, outcomes, friends and who did what when. Personally, I wish that weren’t the case, but that’s life.

  34. Ilgaz says:

    I don’t think he can get away just by resigning. Public company papers are very very serious stuff. Don’t know the US law but here you directly go to prison.

  35. JV says:

    When is he launching his bid for: President, Governer, Mayor, US House, US Senate – pick one.

  36. carhughes says:

    It’s a shame that he must have at some point over the past half dozen or so years reviewed his posted exec bio, whether at one of his several exec mgmt positions, or any of the arguably dozens of times he was a panelist or presenter and his bio was read outloud to the audience or shared, he knew there was a blatant error. On the radio interview where he agrees that his dual degrees are in both accounting and computer science, he had and should have made every opportunity to clear up the festering “inadvertent error”. Whether that was an ‘inadvertent error’ or a ‘convenient lie’ now has come home to roost for him. As a CEO and the other roles he plays, integrity should matter, and at his age and in position, it is not okay to lie and it is not okay that rules should apply to some (lying on your resume results in firing) but not to him. This is a good lesson that lying is a stupid move and once a professional decides to incorporate lying into their modus operandi they lose credibility period. I agree that he has got to go particularly in the tenuous situation Yahoo finds itself financially and otherwise.

  37. IanJKnox says:

    The issue of integrity is paramount here. Think of the best managers and CEOs you’ve known (who are rare) – they all have great integrity. I find it hard to believe he’s never checked his bio over the years and the audio KaraS highlighted shows he’s chosen not to correct obvious factual mistakes. Anyone who’s completed a CompSci major knows this is not a small undertaking (although no predictor of future success). I can’t see how he can serve as CEO unless here is a remarkable story for this ‘inadvetant’ error.

  38. Maddogg says:

    Loeb will probably get his wish and Thompson will be removed from his position as CEO and Chairman of the Board. This will not be because he does not have a degree in Computer Science, but rather because he exaggerated his prowess about his knowledge of computer science. Shame, because to be the chairman of Yahoo, one really doesn’t need that much in the way of a knowledge of Computer Science.

    http://connectingthecircles.blogspot.com/2012/05/nothing-really-matters-anyone-can-see.html

  39. MichaelEdits says:

    Is there something on my website about my degree? I can’t remember. :-)

  40. spark says:

    Whether or not he lied on his resume, at this point, is petty bickering. At this point, an evaluation of his success with Yahoo should be based on the success of Yahoo, not anything on his resume. Those who brand him a “liar” are just looking for excuses to villify or fire him. Many people lie on their resumes but become valuable employees, WHICH ONLY DEMONSTRATES THE FUTILITY OF THE HIRING PROCESS IF IT’S BASED SOLELY ON AN “HONEST” RESUME. Thompson should be evaluated on his performance, not his resume. This should be the only rule of thumb once a person is hired and performance metrics are available.

  41. spark says:

    How is a degree in Comp Sci even relevant to heading Yahoo? I have a degree in Comp Sci and it’s given me no job skills whatsoever, and I work in IT. If his life and educational experiences were equivalent to a degree in Comp Sci, then it would be a lie to NOT claim a degree in Comp Sci. Perhaps a resume does not always truly represent one’s skills and abilities.

  42. spark says:

    Some positions, in particular CEO, CFO, etc., are not hired based on the resume. Thompson may have dashed off a quick pro forma resume, which was as quickly filed away. I don’t think such personnel are “processed” as are mere “rank and file”. Let’s not be naive: Yahoo may even have advised him to add the degree to his resume knowing full well he didn’t have one. It’s one of those “boardroom” decisions.

  43. spark says:

    Some positions, in particular CEO, CFO, etc., are not hired based on the resume. Thompson may have dashed off a quick pro forma resume, which was as quickly filed away. I don’t think such personnel are “processed” as are mere “rank and file”. Let’s not be naive: Yahoo may even have advised him to add the degree to his resume knowing full well he didn’t have one. It’s one of those “boardroom” decisions.

  44. How is a degree in Comp Sci even relevant to heading Yahoo? I have a degree in Comp Sci and it’s given me no job skills whatsoever, and I work in IT. If his life and educational experiences were equivalent to a degree in Comp Sci, then it would be a lie to NOT claim a degree in Comp Sci. Perhaps a resume does not always truly represent one’s skills and abilities.

  45. Whether or not he lied on his resume, at this point, is petty bickering. At this point, an evaluation of his success with Yahoo should be based on the success of Yahoo, not anything on his resume. Those who brand him a “liar” are just looking for excuses to villify or fire him. Many people lie on their resumes but become valuable employees, WHICH ONLY DEMONSTRATES THE FUTILITY OF THE HIRING PROCESS IF IT’S BASED SOLELY ON AN “HONEST” RESUME. Thompson should be evaluated on his performance, not his resume. This should be the only rule of thumb once a person is hired and performance metrics are available.

    Some positions, in particular CEO, CFO, etc., are not hired based on the resume. Thompson may have dashed off a quick pro forma resume, which was as quickly filed away. I don’t think such personnel are “processed” as are mere “rank and file”. Let’s not be naive: Yahoo may even have advised him to add the degree to his resume knowing full well he didn’t have one. It’s one of those “boardroom” decisions.

  46. tomnora says:

    never trust a guy with a mustache. Now it’s time to bring in Guy Kawasaki, suddenly Yahoo will be cool again.

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