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Political-Style 'Opposition Research' by Investor Brings Down CEO of Yahoo


"Yahoo hired a CEO with a fake college degree on his resume? Didn't they Google him?"

That was my first reaction and my Tweet on learning the controversy surrounding Yahoo's CEO Scott Thompson.  He has since resigned.

Thompson's resignation reinforces the fact that there are no more secrets in a social world.

But the real news here is that a dissident investor used the techniques of political campaigns, so-called "opposition research" to bring down an opponent.

This could be a first. It makes clear that a determined opponent can easily find and exploit false information about CEO's and other business opponents to gain power. Will this be a trend?

Thompson evidently had years ago begun to claim a false college degree on his resume.  Activist investor Dan Loeb of Third Point LLC had been seeking changes in management at Yahoo and discovered the resume discrepancies.  Making this public and pushing his point ultimately gained Loeb membership and other seats on the board.

Thompson first tried a simple defense of indicating he had not presented a resume to the headhunters. He pleaded innocence with the board and his colleagues.  Ultimately, a headhunter presented the longer term evidence and Thompson resigned.

The lesson is that in a socially networked world there are no secrets and, like political candidates, the opposition will find and exploit those secrets.

Perhaps there should be an amnesty period for CEO's to come forward and correct their resumes. Would any of them do so? No, of course not.

Hold tight, there's no doubt more to come.

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