Sort-of off topic: That guy has nothing on some of the other infamous CEO career lies... take the ex-CEO of Lotus (former makers of 123, Lotus Notes, etc). He lied about being a fighter pilot, having a PhD, and being a black belt in tae kwon do. source: http://www.zdnet.com/news/background-of-lotus-chief-under-fi...
I think people get to a point where they start to believe their made-up mythology. Or perhaps they reach a point where it's too late to turn back. That's what I learned while getting my PhD in Lying Studies at University of Fountainhead, anyway.
Really - she was the Dean of Admissions for a very long time (I think she was at MIT for 28 years overall, something like that) and while I can't remember her personally any more, I know that she had a strong rep both inside the administration and in the related professional community as well. If you're going to be Dean of Admissions, I'd have to think MIT is one of the most prestigious schools in the country for that post, especially when you consider it doesn't allocate large quotas to legacies the way some other top schools do.
Former Ivy Admissions officer who was at Princeton the year before she resigned from MIT. Elite College Admissions is a really strange scene. There are Masters degrees and other credentials that people earn to move up to deanship's, but the actual job itself is completely bureaucratic and mechanical in nature. There were people in my office who'd been there for 20 years and sure, they'd read a lot more applications than me, but they had basically the same exact job as I did. Read applications, visit schools, vote on students twice a year.
So the concept of needing a fancy degree to do the job always seemed pretty funny.
Well, while I do think the idea of giving priority to legacies is pretty stupid and give MIT credit for that, I have other problems with their admissions process (I'm admittedly a bit biased as an MIT reject -- though to be fair it would sound like you are too). I know a decent amount of people at MIT, and while some of them definitely deserve to be there, there are a lot of others that I think don't, and got in for what I think are pretty superficial reasons.
"I am a convicted felon and a former CPA. As the criminal CFO of Crazy Eddie, I helped my cousin Eddie Antar and other members of his family mastermind one of the largest securities frauds uncovered during the 1980's. I committed my crimes in cold-blood for fun and profit, and simply because I could. If it weren't for the heroic efforts of the FBI, SEC, Postal Inspector's Office, US Attorney's Office, and class action plaintiff's lawyers who investigated, prosecuted, and sued me, I would still be the criminal CFO of Crazy Eddie today."
Completely offtopic, and I don't mean anything negative about you when I say this, but I'm always interested in the response when people attribute a director to the success of a movie based on a book.
Did you know that the movie was based on Frank Abagnale's book (also entitled "Catch Me If You Can", or did you just prefer Spielberg's version?
Especially in this case, where the movie is so close to the book, it's questionable. Just like in Sin City, the adaptation is so true to its source material, if you liked one, you're pretty well assured of liking the other.
Hey no problem, a fellow cinephile here. And yes I knew it was on a book but did not read it. I liked the movie for a whole set of reasons (For instance, Christopher Walken's performance) but reading the book would definitely have affected how I value the director's work. I had a similar discussion with my uncle, who is a writer and director, about another movie: The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (The original version, not the American adaptation). My uncle read the books; I didn't. I really liked the movie, and found the plot rather satisfying to some degree, but my uncle hated it, and said the director simplified things to an alarming extent, losing all the interesting details that made the books successful.
So I think reading the books is a good habit if one wants to judge the director's intention, but sometimes I just don't have time.
Update: I reread your question, and I think you want to know if directors are taking too much credit which ought to go to the book writer? I think in this case we might disagree about the director's function, which I think goes far beyond the intricacies of the story.
As for the clarification, I was more concerned with people attributing the derivative work with the credit of the movie moreso than the director on the whole. I probably only phrased it how I did since you used Spielberg's name directly.
The thing I find irritating (on a grander scale, not pertaining to you, specifically) is when cases like this arise where the movie rides the success of the book.
I get that it's probably specific to people who have read the book vs. people who haven't, but I'm usually interested enough to ask, as sometimes there are cases when directors take the movie to a level the source material didn't, just as there are times when a director is unable to take good source material and turn it into a good movie.
I think there is a very fine line between a criminal and a cop per say in mentality. Good cops will know what to look for in criminal behavior and good criminals will know how to look out for cops; not all cops - but I would say its a fine line between the best of both worlds.
Could be the reason double agents are so valuable.
The good ones are already doing consulting work for the cops, FBI, military, intelligence, etc. There are countless books and movies and news reports about this, from organized crime informants, document forgers, computer/network hackers, international espionage, heist masterminds... the list goes on and on.
The majority of crooks - the 'ex-cons' you're talking about - are just shitty petty criminals or violent idiots, and get caught and punished. Why would anyone hire a shitty crook to do counter-intel against a job they failed at previously?
Yeah. This is an uninteresting lie relative to the more grandiose ones told by other executives. He added "and Computer Science" but accurately stated the level of his degree and institution. Any evidence that he has added "and Computer Science" in the past? Perhaps this is just sloppiness on the part of whomever prepared the SEC filings? And, the CEO, busy with trying to right the ship, just signed off with only a brief review? Given that I've never heard of the college and that he actually obtained a bachelor's degree, it doesn't seem like a very interesting lie.
Actually, I think this is an interesting lie for a different reason. Look at their no. 1 competitor, Google. They had a PhD in computer science as CEO and now a guy who well on his way to a PhD came up with an algorithm that, as far as I can tell, revolutionized search. Why did this Yahoo guy lie? Maybe he felt pressure to keep up with the Google guys, and thought a modest lie about a B.S. in Comp Sci would do the trick while going undetected. It might be sign of the times--that PhDs and PhD-equivalents are heading large companies. And a funny misread too--their 2nd foremost competitor in search was founded by a dude without a B.S. at all.
Addressing your other points: I feel like a CEO should be aware of how he/she is being perceived and correct any mistakes about his/her record.
"It "gave us confidence," says Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Wilkerson, former commander of the Marine Corps Reserve, who increased purchases of Lotus Notes after meeting Papows. "Jeff was a Phantom driver just like me.""
This is exactly why people lie, because it doesn't matter how well your software works, what matters is that the people buying it feel like you're on the same team. Whether the CEO is a fighter pilot or not should be immaterial to purchasing an MTA.
My pet theory is that some people lie in order to "shield" other people from their own biases. For instance, let's say Indians have a reputation of being sloppy programmers. If I was a great Indian programmer and I knew about this reputation, I'd probably be tempted to lie about my nationality when applying for a remote job.
Female authors have used this strategy for a long time by using male pen names.
As someone in "the media" I often have to get in touch with people at companies to see if they want to speak at things or because I need to do some coverage of them and.. perhaps 9 times out of 10 if there's no address, detailed "About Us" page, or bio pics on the site, the company is very unlikely to be located in the US, while attempting to look like they are. I think it's sad they have to do this, though.
This is why i usually try to use some made up nationality/country in things like this. It's too easy for things to get distracted from your point by things like this. My personal favorite is Elbonia for any possible hypothetical country, [almost] everyone knows it isn't real and is just an example.
Another thing too: what does it matter if you lie about the degree if /you can do the work/ ? Sure, it's unethical and I'm pretty sure it's illegal to lie outright about stuff like that to potential employers / boards, but again, if you come out and say "hey, I lied about this, but judge me on my output and not on my credentials"...that's gotta be worth something. That said, Yahoo isn't doing great, and I'm sure people will point to this as one reason why :\
You shouldn't need to lie about your credentials if you can do the work.
I have a degree in International Relations and a minor in Latin American Studies. I'm a software engineer. I still put my degree and qualifications on my resume but have never felt the need to lie or stretch the truth because I feel my skills speak for themselves. I was hired at my current job because I was able to demonstrate skill regardless of my limited previous experience and lack of C.S. degree.
I too have the most unusual of degrees for a software engineer and UI designer. I majored in Psychology and Textile Technology (with a focus in fashion and apparel management). I'm also a few credits short of a math minor and a physics minor.
It's a very unusual combination of coursework and the depth and breadth of that experience coupled with the unique perspectives I earned as result are more of an asset than a liability, especially when many people I encounter have similar backgrounds in computer science. Intellectual contrast provides value, because it highlights things that are often overlooked.
Take Steve Jobs and Apple for example. Steve enrolled in a liberal arts college, dropped out and then dropped-in on creative writing and calligraphy classes. He later said of the experience, "If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts."
People should own up to things like what they majored in in college. On the other hand, I don't think majoring in accounting is really the kind of person that Yahoo needs right now since it's the bean counters and pencil pushers that completely did that company in. Hopefully this guy has some other relevant experience that Yahoo could use, but something tells me that's unlikely.
That being said, it's still inexcusable for any company and any executive to push such egregious lies into corporate filings that are used by others to make investment decisions. If a company wants to lie about the background of their executives on the About Us page that is one thing, but to knowingly misrepresent information in legal documents is beyond the realm of megalomania and into the realm of legally fraudulent.
I agree - and I'd say you also do a disservice to the industry and your peers when you lie about credentials.
Businesses should know that people with degrees in humanities who put in the work can become competent programmers. It might also make them more willing to interview and hire people with this kind of academic background who have put in the work.
If he never claimed the credential then I would be more than willing to judge him on his accomplishments.
Lying about the credential wipes out his accomplishments, at least as a C level steward of shareholder value and employee well being. He is demonstrably unethical and I would not feel safe working for him. I would never give him my money, because while he may be able to demonstrate past success, that does not imply that he won't fabricate a ponzi scheme in the future to prop up stock prices and options.
I think it's just next level in the game: when you lie and get caught, how easily can you shrug it off and carry on. Not everyone can do this with a straight face. Politicians can. They're good at that.
All humans lie, whether intentionally or not. Eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable simply because our brains do so much data compression when recording events and then unreliable, subconscious extrapolation techniques to play it back. That's before we even get to intentional manipulation. There are five lights and all.
I could see how being more consciously aware of the distortions would make one better at manipulating media narratives and organizing complex groups of people. It would seem to have less to do with being a psychopath and more to do with being smart enough about how people work to recognize your own flaws.
"eyewitness testimony" being wrong is vastly different from someone intentionally fabricating credentials. "That's before we even get to intentional manipulation." I know you're aware of the difference, but the terminology is, to me, pretty clear.
'Lying' implies some intentional deception. While saying something that is not factually true is part of that, the intention, motivation and awareness of the person would constitute whether it was a 'lie' or not. At least, to me, it's always been that clear.
Yes, that's quintessentially the problem, Yahoo is looking for legitimacy while the company fails.
Our system of governance places a huge value on these sorts of papers as it self fulfils the prophecy that the governance tells us. Our leaders cling to legitimacy by pieces of papers to excuse the poor results.
I mean if the guy who could name all the shadows on the cave couldn't run the company, then obviously the crazy guy who keeps talking about the sun should never be allowed to run it, especially since he lied about being able name all the shadows. Let's put him in jail and find someone who really can name all the shadows and prove once and for all that naming the shadows is really really important.
i think the General was making a joke here (which is actually quite funny). The joke is based on a double entendre of Phantom--one meaning is of course imaginary and the other refers to the nickname of the famous USMC and USN fighter plane, the F-4, in service from circa 1975 to about 1990.
In other words, the General is saying "jeff was an imaginary pilot" and "i was an F-4 Phantom pilot"--which he (Gen. Wilkerson) actually was.
Bruno Sorrentino was briefly Telstra's head of Research (a very prestigious position in the day) but claimed a PhD in physics. However, his staff wanted to read his thesis, and couldn't find it. That's the problem with faking a PhD, I guess.
We had a nice one in France. A small criminal (convicted for fraud, theft, setting fire...) was hired as the director of a small airport. He pretended to be a aviation engineer, a former army pilot and to have taken part in many wars. Everyone was completely satisfied with his work during 3 months, when he was finally caught.
The issue here is not whether or not he's qualified for the CEO spot. It's whether he has been signing off on SEC filings that he knows contain falsehoods. In particular, there's information in the proxy statements that shareholders are supposed to use as the basis of their voting and their support for executive compensation. If he's lying about this, how are shareholders supposed to trust the rest of the SEC filings he signs off on as CEO?
(Also, if it's ok for him to lie on his resume and keep his job, does that mean anyone applying to Yahoo should feel free to do so?)
From the proxy statement:
"Mr. Thompson has served as our Chief Executive Officer and President and as a member of our Board since January 2012. Mr. Thompson served as President of PayPal, a division of eBay, Inc., an internet auction and shopping company, from January 2008 until January 2012. [clipped prior jobs out] Mr. Thompson holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. Mr. Thompson was selected as a director nominee principally because, as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and President, he has in-depth knowledge of the Company’s operations, strategy, financial condition and competitive position. In addition, Mr. Thompson has a deep understanding of global online businesses, experience in transforming business models to deliver growth and increased value, and experience in integrating customer experience with innovative technology. Mr. Thompson also possesses strong organizational and operational skills."
> If he's lying about this, how are shareholders supposed to trust the rest of the SEC filings he signs off on as CEO?
I'm not sure how I feel about statements like this. On the one hand, yes, you probably do not want such a brazen liar leading your company. But on the other hand, we as a society tend to believe in a dangerously inaccurate theory of character. Namely, that people are either inherently moral or they aren't. Liars or truth-tellers. Good or evil.
In reality, life isn't so simple. Studies have shown that when people are faced with moral dilemmas, situational factors play a larger role than "character". Obviously we all know people who are relatively upstanding. But when it comes down to it, it's not that difficult to put them into a situation where they'll be willing to lie, cheat, or steal. You just need the right combination environmental factors, and they don't even have to be that extreme. It's basic stuff like incentives (which in the CEO world includes million dollar bonuses), chances of getting caught, harshness of punishment, etc.
Long-story short, if we really care about improving behavior, we should stop looking for signals of "trustworthiness". Instead, we should just assume that everyone is capable of lying, whether they've been caught lying before or not. And we should engineer a system that removes incentives for cheating + makes it more difficult to do so.
Most good leaders are liars. Some are blatant, like this guy. Others are on hazier "grey area" things, things that will be true if the leader and those below him are indeed successful.
That said, lying on something this simple should be a fire-able offense. It is a misrepresentation of the facts of what investors are paying for. It isn't an promise that was not kept or an area that is grey and up for interpretation.
Perhaps if no one in the history of Yahoo has been fired for lying about credentials, then he could get a pass. Does that sound like a likely reality?
I find this whole thing personally interesting, because I had my own in and out experience with owning some Yahoo shares. I thought long and hard about their CEOs. It was clear to me that Carol Bartz was incompetent. When she left and there was no instant replacement, I realized the board had no idea what they were doing either and I sold all of my shares. At the same time I thought, what type of person would agree to become the CEO of Yahoo? Certainly, all the deep talent capable of working there are smart enough to have a job at Google, Facebook, or any number of very promising start ups. Now I have my answer: a blatant lair.
I think you're reading more into this than I meant. I don't think this necessarily means he lies perpetually in life, etc, or has poor moral character. But it's hard to ague that it doesn't raise the issue of "you know he was willing to lie on this document that you're trying to use to make investment decisions -- which calls into question the entire document since he's to some degree its 'author'".
There is, a system that removes incentives for lying - as CEO he has to certify the contents of these documents, with specific penalties. Obviously, those penalties aren't sufficient motivation for him, so you can't expect they were more effective elsewhere in the doc in spots that that have even more incentive for him to lie than his college degree.
This costs me a lot of money, and I don't want to give free money to people just because they are dishonest. Ban the guy from being the CEO or a board member of a publicly traded company for 10 years. Inexpensive and an appropriate punishment for the crime.
Let's reserve prison for people that absolutely cannot integrate with normal society.
Just fine the equivalent of their combined earnings(salary, bonus, and any stock options) for the years that they lied on SEC forms. The people don't have to spend money in taxes imprisoning them, and it provides enough deterrence to just not do it.
All you'll be doing then is turning him into a high-priced industry consultant or public speaker. Not that prison always prevents that (See: Michael Milken) but it at least puts the brakes on it for a few years.
Haven't there been studies proving that a prison sentence is a poor deterrent? I mean, on the face of it, the fact that there are still prisons full of criminals sort of points in that general direction. (At the very least, it shows that people do a poor job of comparing risk of prison vs. reward of wrongdoing.)
Milken is an interesting case. He literally created the market for high yield ("junk") bonds, and a lot of the charges the feds threw at him were because creating a new market meant breaking stupid regulations about yields and such.
I'm not anti-Milken by any means, but based on Connie Bruck's "The Predator's Ball", Drexel Burnham Lambert was scurting a lot of regulations when it came to appropriately labeling the types of deals and securities in which they were engaging. Milken might not have been running any blatant frauds or insider trading rings, but he was at the very least misrepresenting DBL's activities and or avoiding proper filings altogether.
Regardless of whether they're stupid or not, they're still regulations. Unless he was breaking the laws as a form of civil disobedience, he was still basically a guy breaking the rules to make more money.
Let's reserve prison for people that absolutely cannot integrate with normal society
Are you really making the case that no white-collar criminals should go to prison? I guess I can see where you're coming from, but I personally think that we need more financial fraudsters behind bars. You know, the whole "rule of law" and "deterrence" business.
Personally, I think "deterrence" has an incredibly awful success rate. I also think that, if prisons should even exist, they should only be for physically dangerous people. Never for "money" crimes. Being locked away from society for years, your life destroyed and likely abused or even raped seems beyond "cruel and unusual" to me.
Personally I think the whole concept of prison is primitive and should be done away with. If someone is violent then they have something wrong in their head and should be treated. I know that currently asylums can be worse places than even prisons, but once we move away from this draconian "people must suffer so I can feel better about wrong in the world" strategy we can move much more focus on getting treatment and detection right.
Being locked away from society for years, your life destroyed and likely abused or even raped seems beyond "cruel and unusual" to me
You know that politically-correct killjoy who always speaks up about how distasteful and offensive prison rape jokes are? I'm that guy.
That seems like a compelling case for reforming the prisons into a place where you're punished for your infractions against society, but not abused or raped. Prison shouldn't completely destroy someone's life, either. We need to have meaningful ways for prisoners to re-enter society as productive citizens. Otherwise, things never get better.
As someone looking in to USA society from outside - it certainly seems that at least investigating non-incarceration methods for dealing with most of your "prison population" would be worthwhile. There's a gigantic industry entirely funded by taxpayers - there's no doubt at least some of the "military industrial complex $1000 hammer" type behavior going on. That industry is legally required to "increase shareholder value", rather than minimize the cost-to-the-taxpayer.
The prison system shouldn't be about either "increasing shareholder value" or "minimizing cost-to-taxpayer". It should be about rehabilitation, justice, and public safety.
Part of the problem is that it's really hard to win an election against someone who has positioned themselves as "harder on crime" than yourself. As a result, we have legislators pushing for tougher and tougher prison sentences, mandatory sentencing, etc. I don't know how other countries deal with this pressure, but I would be eager to see the United States do better.
Your counterpoint is way off topic… What you're saying about the business of prisons here is 100% true, but you could increase prosecution (and imprisonment) of white collar fraud by 10X and the effect on the overall US prison population would be small.
This is probably more about our overcrowded jail system sucking up huge amounts of taxpayer money. The point is likely supposed to be that its one more person in jail, which is bad, but because that person happens to be a CEO, suddenly its about how he shouldn't go to jail because he's a CEO. It's a matter of unfortunate implications.
"Let's reserve prison for people that absolutely cannot integrate with normal society."
To do that, we'd have to find an effective alternative to prison. Financial / professional penalties are clearly not enough - if the penalty for getting caught in a crime that makes you millions of dollars is just paying some penalties, why not take that gamble? From a purely rational standpoint, it would be the logical thing to do - if you win, you make millions, if you get caught you just cough up the money.
It's such a stupid lie as well. He already has a degree in accounting and has loads of relevant experience. Why lie about an additional degree?
What's happening here is liar's debt. Early in his career he must have made a decision to lie about his education, when no one was looking and when the chances of someone verifying the claim were low. He reused the lie on every subsequent job and it's stuck with him. It became encoded in the DNA of his professional reputation and he could not disabuse himself of it without making himself look the fool.
Now if the lie is recent and was used to get the head job at Yahoo - well then it's an even stupider lie. Why risk your professional reputation over something so trivial?
Cutting him some slack, its possible that his accounting degree had a significant computing component and he decided to bring this significant aspect out. My degree is in Biological Sciences, but in my third year I specialised almost entirely in molecular biology. Informally I'm sure I've said 'I did molecular biology at university' - although on my CV I've always listed Biological Sciences.
My case is similar but different. My M.A. diploma says Geological Sciences. But it would be misleading to think I know anything at all about rocks. I studied geophysics and I put M.A. Geophysics on my resume. That is more accurate, and people in the field know geophysicists from my university by reputation, without caring about the trivial detail that our degrees are in "geological sciences".
While Computer Science degrees are common these days, they were rather rare among people who graduated in the '70s. So it does make him stand out among those with the same level of seniority (for a CEO position he's not competing with recent college graduates, you know).