Yahoo! launches probe in CEO credentials flap

Agence France-Presse
Yahoo! bows to pressure and creates a committee to further review its new CEO's background

SAN FRANCISCO, United States of America – Yahoo! said Tuesday, May 8, it would create a special committee with the help of an outside lawyer to review the controversy over chief executive Scott Thompson’s misstated academic credentials.

Amid stepped up pressure from an activist hedge fund, the Yahoo! board announced that the committee would review Thompson’s academic background as well as how much was known by those who hired him.

Yahoo! last week acknowledged an “inadvertent error” in the CEO’s online bio, which wrongly indicated that he had a degree in computer science.

The news of the special committee came a day after a hedge fund battling the management of Yahoo! called for the release of documents about the recruitment of Thompson in a scathing filing with regulators.

The filing by Third Point with Securities and Exchange Commission came after the hedge fund’s deadline passed on its demand for the ouster of Thompson for misrepresenting his educational background.

Proxy battle

Third Point, which owns 5.8% of the struggling tech giant, filed its slate of candidates for the Yahoo! board, ensuring a proxy battle, as it stepped up its attack on management.

The special committee is chaired by Alfred Amoroso, an independent director of Yahoo!, and has retained as its independent counsel Terry Bird, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in litigation and internal investigations.

“The special committee and the entire board appreciate the urgency of the situation and the special committee will therefore conduct the review in an independent, thorough and expeditious manner,” Yahoo! said in a release.

“The board intends to make the appropriate disclosures to shareholders promptly upon completion of the review.”

On Monday, Third Point escalated its attack on the firm, saying it “has not explained how its Search Committee could hire a CEO without doing a rudimentary check on the applicant’s credentials — a check that would have quickly revealed that Mr. Thompson did not have a computer science degree.”

Third Point, led by activist investor Daniel Loeb, said that “Yahoo!’s failure of process is especially damning” and will force “a wasteful proxy contest at the 2012 annual meeting.”

Meanwhile the Dow Jones tech news site All Things Digital reported that Patti Hart, the Yahoo! director in charge of the search that resulted in the hiring of Scott Thompson, would not stand for reelection to the board at the next annual meeting. – Agence France-Presse