Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is only four months into his big job running one of the world's largest tech companies, and he's already found himself in a scandal—and it's a sort of funny scandal at that.
On Thursday morning, activist shareholder Dan Loeb of Third Point wrote a letter to Yahoo's board alleging Thompson has falsely claimed to have a computer science degree from Stonehill College. The allegation is half-true, Yahoo told AllThingsD's Kara Swisher after news of the letter broke. Thompson did go to Stonehill College from 1975 to 1979, however contrary to Yahoo's April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he did not actually major in computer science. He majored in accounting. In fact, Stonehill College didn't even offer a computer science major when Thompson graduated -- in fact, they only offered one computer science class.
Loeb didn't mince words pointing out the gravity of such a breach of trust. "If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo! at this critical juncture," he wrote. "Now more than ever Yahoo! investors need a trustworthy CEO." And this isn't just a Yahoo issue. When he served as president of eBay's PayPal division, Thompson's bio also claimed a computer science degree.
This looks really bad, but Yahoo's trying hard to brush it off. As Swisher points out, if "Thompson burnished his resume to add educational expertise to lend him more tech credibility, it could become a serious issue for Yahoo." Well, Yahoo doesn't think so. "There was an inadvertent error that stated Mr. Thompson also holds a degree in computer science," the company said 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."
However, this is the same company that had to fire CEO Carol Bartz in a drawn out, very public and expletive-laced exchange at the end of last year. Then in January, founder Jerry Yang retired in the face of widespread skepticism over whether or not Yahoo could turn itself around. The chairman of the board and three other members also resigned in February. Then the company laid off 2,000 employees. And now that Yahoo's investors know that the board hired a guy who padded his resume. We'd pity the aging web company, if we didn't realize they were still the fourth most popular website in the world. They're allowed a silly little scandal every now and then, we guess.