Last year I published a post about a former accountant at Dutch retailer Ahold, on how he posted news on his weblog. At that point I argued that he should not have posted a newsworthy fact on his weblog, because they are not considered public places. As Ahold is a listed company, it would potentially breach the Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure). This regulation reads “when an issuer, or person acting on its behalf, discloses material nonpublic information to certain enumerated persons (…) it must make public disclosure of that information.”
Now Chris Gidez, a colleague from Hill & Knowlton in the USA, wrote his first post (welcome Chris) on the posting behavior of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and whether he has broken any securities laws or regulations.
What’s the case?
Under a nickname Mackey has made more than 1,200 posts on the Whole Foods (Yahoo finance) message board and a competitor’s message board, between 1999 and 2006. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to look into whether the postings violated fair disclosure rules or securities laws.
In his post Chris ask why Mackey posted messages in the first place and whether he has considered the potential risks of doing so. Fair questions, but what strikes me about this issue is the SEC’s research. One of the things the SEC has to determine is whether message boards are considered public places. I am very eager to hear the outcome.
I doubt it will be, but if the message board is considered public, the Whole Foods CEO might be out of trouble (though it’s not that simple, more issues must be researched by the SEC). But it would also mean something else: one of the most serious and influential financial authorities recognizing the reach and impact of social media… now THAT would be something!