Yahoo CEO accused of lying about degree

Most of us can remember whether we have a degree in computer science or not – but then we’re not all busy CEOs. And Yahoo’s been forced to admit that its new chief, Scott Thompson, said he had one when he didn’t.

And he’s in good company: Patti Hart, who chaired the Board of Directors Search Committee that hired Thompson, has also been accused of having a poor memory of her college days.

Thompson’s resume, it seems, lists a degree in ‘accounting and computer science’ from Stonehill College – and has done for many years. Unfortunately, though, Stonehill didn’t start offering computer science degrees until four years after he graduated.

Instead, Thompson took a degree in accounting, along with, possibly, a single course unit called Intro to Computer Science.

This discovery has angered Yahoo shareholder Daniel Loeb, of activist hedge fund Third Point, who’s written to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to complain.

“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,” reads the letter. “Now more than ever Yahoo! investors need a trustworthy CEO.” 

In the letter, Loeb says that Hart has overstated her qualifications too. While various corporate documents claim she has a degree in Marketing and Economics from Illinois State University, he says, she actually read Business Administration.

“Unless there are satisfactory explanations for these apparent discrepancies, the Board will need to decide whether these two individuals should remain at the helm of Yahoo!,” writes Loeb. “in the event that there is no good explanation, we expect the Board to take immediate action.”

The discovery of the discrepancies is fuel for Loeb’s campaign to get the Yahoo board ousted and replaced with new members – including himself.

Yahoo, though, has reportedly responded by saying that it’s really not worth the bother. Hart’s degree involved specialties in marketing and economics, it says. As for Thompson, well, he’s still the best man for the job, apparently; anyone can make mistakes.

But, much as Yahoo might wish it, the controversy’s unlikely to go away. And this could serve as a salutary reminder to anyone tempted to embellish their resume – decades down the line, it could come back to haunt you.