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Leave Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson Alone! 319

Posted by timothy
from the statute-of-limitations dept.
theodp writes "Over at The Daily Beast, Dan Lyons says Resumegate is overblown and says it's time to stop picking on Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. Even without the circa-1979 CS degree some incorrectly thought he possessed, Lyons argues that Thompson is still perfectly capable, his critics have ulterior motives, and his competitors have all lied before. 'Forgive me for being less than shocked at the idea of a CEO lying,' writes Lyons. 'Steve Jobs [college dropout] used to lie all the time, and he's apparently the greatest CEO who ever lived. Google lied about taking money from Canadian pharmacies to run illegal drug ads, but finally had to come clean and pay $500 million in fines to settle the charges. Mark Zuckerberg [college dropout] last fall settled charges brought by the FTC that his company had made "unfair and deceptive" claims—I think that's like lying—and, what's more, had violated federal laws.' So what makes the fudging of a 30-year old accomplishment on the Yahoo CEO's resume a transgression that the 'highly ethical and honest folks in Silicon Valley' simply cannot bear? 'Facebook is a cool kid,' explains Lyons. 'So is Apple. Yahoo is the loser kid that nobody likes.'"
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Leave Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson Alone!

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  • It's the hypocricy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crow (16139) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:22AM (#39907221) Homepage Journal

    The assumption is that an employee who lied on his resume would likely be fired, but a CEO is too important to fire.

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:45AM (#39907285)

      The assumption is that an employee who lied on his resume would likely be fired, but a CEO is too important to fire.

      The assumption is that an employee who lied on his/her resume would likely lie about other things as well. A CEO can lie about the most important information about their company. Lie to the board, the stockholders, the SEC, etc.

      His CS degree isn't relevant to his current position, but the fact that he lied about it is relevant.

      • by mounthood (993037)

        The assumption is that an employee who lied on his resume would likely be fired, but a CEO is too important to fire.

        The assumption is that an employee who lied on his/her resume would likely lie about other things as well. A CEO can lie about the most important information about their company. Lie to the board, the stockholders, the SEC, etc.

        His CS degree isn't relevant to his current position, but the fact that he lied about it is relevant.

        So you think this is worse because a CEO can tell more important lies, to more important people (than the average worker)? Isn't that why CEOs are often allowed to lie in the first place? The summary gives lots of examples of CEOs lying -- big lies to important people -- but we're all familiar with common CEO lies that are socially accepted: Our earnings are up. We're not going to have layoffs. My outrageous salary is justified by my unique skills. Note that the accepted lies from CEOs include protecting an

    • by V-similitude (2186590) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:06AM (#39907389)

      Honestly, I truly doubt his supposed CS degree from 1979 ever ONCE came up in the board's discussion to hire him. It's entirely irrelevant to the job at hand. In all likelihood it was either taken straight from his bio on e-bay (which may or may not have come from him) or the 5th page of his resume that hadn't been updated in 20 years. It's not about him being CEO, it's about whether a degree even matters for a 50+ year old employee with a strong employment background. It doesn't.

      Yes, a junior programmer who explicitly lied about his degree should get fired, because that would be a critical part of the decision to hire him. But an older employee gets hired based on a solid work history and his degree may never come into question. In that case, CEO or not, the employee would probably not get fired just for having a lie 5 pages deep in his resume.

      Now if there was a background check form that had him write in his education history anew and sign a "this is true to my knowledge" statement, and he still put the degree on there, perhaps there's some basis for termination just for the explicit lie. But it's not at all clear that that exists. Personally, I think it's just as likely that e-bay doctored the bio at some point to make itself feel better about him, and yahoo simply copied that without much thought.

      • by DanZ23 (901353)

        Now if there was a background check form that had him write in his education history anew and sign a "this is true to my knowledge" statement, and he still put the degree on there, perhaps there's some basis for termination just for the explicit lie. But it's not at all clear that that exists.

        I would think all information you provide is _all_ under the assumption of "this is true to my knowledge". What is the point of it if it's not true? Does that really have to be spelled out?

      • by khallow (566160) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:50AM (#39907599)

        Yes, a junior programmer who explicitly lied about his degree should get fired, because that would be a critical part of the decision to hire him.

        Same goes for the CEO. A critical part of the decision to hire him was that he made the best effort to give correct information to the Board of Directors. Even if it were truly irrelevant that the CEO had a technical degree (which I doubt), you still have the issue of lying to your employer which is routinely grounds for dismissal.

        But let's suppose your view of things is correct, that the CEO didn't lie to the Board, and that this person merely uses a fraudulent biography for their public face at the company. It's still a remarkable lack of professionalism and display of poor judgment.

      • by xevioso (598654) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:57AM (#39907641)

        The issue I have with this is that he likely has had that degree listed on his resume for a very long time. From the very beginning, when he first placed it there, he was using that lie to help him get to where he is today. While he currently does not need the degree to do his job adequately (unlike, say, a degree in engineering), there probably was a time in one of his prior jobs where that degree was required or highly useful for him to be considered for a position.

        In other words, he used this lie to get to this point in his career. This is not a one-time thing.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Any other employee would be fired for lying on a resume. It's not about the fraudulent answer -- it's about the fact of the lie. It's about them being untrustworthy. It's about you having to question everything they say. It's about the deeper question of whether you can count on them at all.

        Only once did I encounter this situation in my career. Out of fear of a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, the lier was allowed to work the remainder of their contract and terminated at the end of their 3 month term. B

        • by msobkow (48369)

          Make that added "#include <stdio.h>" before each and every IO function call, as in:

          int im_in_my_function_now() {
          #include <stdio.h>
          printf( "I've entered my function!\n" );
          ...

      • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @10:48AM (#39908245) Homepage Journal

        Honestly, I truly doubt his supposed CS degree from 1979 ever ONCE came up in the board's discussion to hire him.

        I bet it did, albeit in passing: "oh, look: he has a degree in CompSci. That'd give us a little cred with other tech companies."

        It's not about him being CEO, it's about whether a degree even matters for a 50+ year old employee with a strong employment background.

        It doesn't. Therefore, he shouldn't have included it as a reason why they should hire him.

        But on a practical level, I despise that I'm competing for jobs with liars. My resume is probably a lot shorter than his, but it's completely accurate. I did the things I listed. I earned the degree I put on there. I'd hate to think that my resume - my summary description of why a company would want to hire me - is competing with another guy's which is sprinkled with lies that make him look like a better candidate.

        I guess I see it the same way as professional athlete who doesn't want to compete with steroid-fueled monstrosities. I want to get ahead by my own merits, but how am I supposed to go up against people who don't play by the rules? Given the choice between outing them to level the playing field or having to stoop to their level, I'd much rather start enforcing those rules.

        So fire him. He lied to get to where he is. Maybe that particular lie wasn't the make-or-break that got him the job over someone else who wanted it, but it was important enough to him that he included it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Now if there was a background check form that had him write in his education history anew and sign a "this is true to my knowledge" statement, and he still put the degree on there, perhaps there's some basis for termination just for the explicit lie. But it's not at all clear that that exists. Personally, I think it's just as likely that e-bay doctored the bio at some point to make itself feel better about him, and yahoo simply copied that without much thought.

        Some business law history. Prior to about 200

    • College should not be used as part of hiring. Even more so in the tech field.

      So what some who is doing a IT job lied about College?? (may to just get past HR) who cares if they can do the job? You know not all people are not college material but they can take tech classes / go to tech schools. So what if they when as a non-matriculated student or took classes non degree?

      That is why at least for TECH there needs to be some kind of badges system.

      • by vlm (69642)

        This is a nice idea, but it flies directly into the extremely strongly held cultural / sociological belief that there is no difference between education and training and they're just synonyms for the same thing. You'd have better luck convincing people God does not exist thru logical argument. "College is training for a good job" is as closely held a belief as "god exists" In some ways, more closely held.

        We have badges, they're called certifications, and decades of handing them out like crackerjack prize

    • Exactly the point isn't that he is unqualified to lead a company without the CS degree. But the fact that he said he had one when he doesn't. While someone doesn't need a CS degree to lead a company. When hiring it could be considered a bit of a Plus that this person at least has an inkling on what goes on in a company. The fact that he does or doesn't have a CS degree once you get to those levels doesn't count for much. But the fact that he continued the lie does. The CEO for a public traded company is
    • by Surt (22457)

      Most companies I know of will not fire employees for resume lies. They will seek to fire employees for other reasons, and discover resume lies as one ironclad reason to do so. But a competent employee whose resume lie came to light for another reason? They'd get a formal admonishment in their record for doing so, which would create a window of about a year where a justified dismissal could be done if needed, but assuming they continued to be competent? Hardly anyone would let them go.

    • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:08PM (#39909335) Journal

      So what makes the fudging of a 30-year old accomplishment on the Yahoo CEO's resume a transgression...?

      2 wrongs don't make a right? The continuing saga of US CEOs ripping off the public? The fact that a senior executive might be good, but that doesn't excuse immorality and in fact makes it much more likely that they'll screw 'consumers/customers/stakeholders' along the way. There's many reasons, they should all be called on it unless you like more ENRON style failures.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:26AM (#39907231)
    Ah, the "everyone else is doing it" excuse. How quaint.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:28AM (#39907235)
    I guess this means that it's fine to lie to Yahoo when applying for a job. They've established a precedent that they won't fire someone who was caught doing so.

    They've just moved to the top of my list of potential employers! Did I mention that I created the Internet, the World Wide Web, and all the programming languages they use?
    • by shentino (1139071)

      I'm sorry, but lying on your resume and getting away with it is a privilege reserved for the elite.

    • I guess this means that it's fine to lie to Yahoo when applying for a job.

      Yahoo is a dying shell of a company with nothing innovative or interesting to work on. So in a way you have to lie - unless you put down "nobody else will hire me" as your reason for applying.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      I was wondering if I can get bonus points adding previous experience as Yahoo CEO on my resume when applying.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:28AM (#39907237)
    Some people are missing the point. While the line isn't always clear, in general it's NOT OK to lie on resume to obtain a job or gain advancement. You need to think about this from the standpoint of you being the boss, and having people apply for a job on your team and finding out one of the applicants is being dishonest on his/her resume about qualifications or certifications they may have. Those people would usually be removed from consideration immediately. That's not to say you necessarily need a college degree to be a good, productive employee. I would give full consideration to an applicant who was forthright about their lack of paper qualifications as long as they could demonstrate that they have acquired the ability to do or learn the job through other means.

    When it comes to the people who are leading a division or organization, this becomes even more important. What kind of shady deals would these people be willing to make, what kind of precarious situations would they be willing to put the company in? If you lie to get into the company on the bottom rung, it becomes more and more difficult to correct those lies as you progress in your career and climb the corporate ladder. If you choose to go that route, you'd better switch companies once you've acquired some experience and start your new job without lies.
    • by Kergan (780543)

      Don't politicians lie all the time? A political promise only commits those who receive it...

    • by sphealey (2855)

      - - - - you need to think about this from the standpoint of you being the boss, [...] When it comes to the people who are leading a division or organization, this becomes even more important. What kind of shady deals would these people be willing to make, what kind of precarious situations would they be willing to put the company in? - - - -

      A boss whose company is being acquired is often given a bribe ("retention bonus") to lie to his employees about what he knows and what is going to happen for a long per

    • by vlm (69642)

      While the line isn't always clear, in general it's NOT OK to lie on resume to obtain a job or gain advancement

      I cry bogus. When the economy results in 100 fully qualified applicants for each job, the only way to rise to the top of the resume pile is to lie. Therefore most hired by resume and resume filtration are liars, or at least the percentage of liars is spectacularly high, or honest people are dramatically underemployed. I've gotten all my jobs since 1995 thru "knowing people" and "having heard about me" so I haven't had to lie, I've got no dog in the fight so I can be honest about the situation.

      A good resu

      • by Jaime2 (824950)
        I hire a lot in IT. I started out by disregarding any resume with a provable lie on it. I quickly learned that 95% of the resumes that made it through pre-screening had blatant lies on them. Most of those weren't even the candidates fault, the employment agency they worked with put the lies on there to ensure that the resume made it to my desk (and it worked!!).

        Now, I trust references from trusted sources first, things I learn from an interview second, and never trust a resume. It's a huge pain in the ass
  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:28AM (#39907241)

    Yes, we can be a bit literal minded. But we depend on knowing the straight dope to do our jobs ; our core competencies are founded on the ability to employ facts that we know to be, well, factual.

    Hence it's not really a surprise to find that we don't like people lying. It unsettles us. It's like some ghastly evil magic, the ability to blithely say things that aren't true without suffering any kind of stress reaction at all. Even that thing that management do where they misunderstand what you are saying about the capabilities of a technology and misrepresent it in a meeting brings us out in hives. Discovering that they are doing it on purpose really offends us.

    • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:56AM (#39907337)

      It also offends us greatly when somebody is claiming to be an engineer that really is not. It demeans us and means our skills are arbitrary and that anybody can claim them without verification and consequences. This cannot be allowed to stand.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        It also offends us greatly when somebody is claiming to be an engineer that really is not. It demeans us and means our skills are arbitrary and that anybody can claim them without verification and consequences.

        Isn't it actually illegal in the US to claim to be an engineer and practice engineering without a degree or certification?

  • by Lando (9348) <lando2+slash@gm a i l .com> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:45AM (#39907287) Homepage Journal

    So it's acceptable for people to lie if they are important? I suppose paying a small fine for doing unethical actions purify the actions somehow. Society seems to accept this and society is always correct so those that don't agree are big dodo heads and totally unreasonable.

  • by Broofa (541944) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:48AM (#39907297) Homepage

    Paraphrasing the article:

    "Google lied ... and paid $500M when they got caught"
    "Facebook lied ... and settled with the FTC when they got caught"
    "Scott Thompson lied ... so just leave him alone, people!"

    • The difference though is in the target of the lie.
      - Good: When you lie to the SEC or another company, that's just being a good businessman and valued member of your own corporation.
      - Bad: However lying to your boss and your shareholders means you're not to be trusted with the position you hold.

    • You do all understand, I hope, that Lyons is himself hardly the picture of virtue. This is a guy who gave SCO a free ride for years and even when he finally forced to admit he'd been wrong, still managed to blame Linux supporters for the whole thing.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:50AM (#39907313)

    There are a few things that lying about is completely unacceptable and disqualifies you as a member of civilized society. Education is the most important. All those that now protect Thompson do not seem to get it. My guess would be quite often due to a lack of education and in some cases certainly because they have done the same. If lying about degrees suddenly becomes acceptable, everybody will do it and degrees become meaningless. As degrees do not only provide the degree itself, but specific skills, knowledge and insights, if degrees become meaningless, incompetence in critical positions will raise.

    The second thing is that lying about a degree speaks volumes about the personality and character of the person doing it. It speaks of somebody that claims to be something he is not. It speaks of ambition without skill. It makes it highly likely he lied and continues to lie in other regards and that he is a generally dishonest person, at least whenever he thinks he can get away with it.

    As to the matter in detail, yes, even an old CS degree matters very much. It gives a different perspective on a number of things that have not changed at all. Details may have changed, but the fundamental issues are still the same, and this person does not have the skills to assess them. You cannot go from nothing to master just watching these things from the outside. You have to have hands-on experience and a CS degree provides that.

    For these reasons, Thompson must step down and his career must be over. Otherwise we will get even more dishonest and incompetent (but power-hungry) people in comparable positions.

    • by tunapez (1161697)

      Otherwise we will get even more dishonest and incompetent (but power-hungry) people in comparable positions.

      Too late. The psychopaths have been driving the bus for most of the latter 20th century. The 21st version is all about 'coming out' and eliminating the legal obstacles for corp gluttony and fascism, it seems.

  • Summary hole (Score:5, Informative)

    by FrootLoops (1817694) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:51AM (#39907319)

    The summary missed perhaps the most interesting part of the article:

    The guy who broke the news about the phony degree is Dan Loeb, a hedge-fund manager and activist shareholder whose company owns a 5 percent stake in Yahoo, making it the largest outside shareholder. He’s been pushing Yahoo to get rid of some board members and put him and three other nominees on the board instead. Yahoo won’t do it. So now Loeb creates a public-relations nightmare for them, and maybe this will help his chances of getting his board seats.

    The point being that everyone is dishonest, and while this guy got caught in a particularly clear-cut case of dishonesty, it's not very important, and it's not at all as bad as what the guy who accused him is doing. I agree with him there. The only thing I wonder about is the intelligence of a guy who felt the need to lie about his degree when it matters so little given his work experience and which can easily be checked. Sadly I question the competence of a CEO who can't lie well. Maybe that's what the board is really investigating.

    • Re:Summary hole (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:21AM (#39907435) Homepage

      A little reality check I occasionally give to students: Outside of academia, the only people who will ever sincerely care what your major was in college (and especially your minor) are the people who hire you for your first job. At that point in your career, your major and the grades you got in those classes are all you have going for you, so it's the only basis they have for judging you. But when you apply for your second job, all they will care about was your performance at your current/previous job, and maybe what kind of grades you got in college. "You've got a BA in English Literature, but you've spent the last two years writing binary control code for moisture vaporators? Welcome to Hutt Engineering." Third job and onward: it's 100% about your work experience. So it isn't worth lying about, and it isn't worth the petty outrage over it.

    • The only thing I wonder about is the intelligence of a guy who felt the need to lie about his degree when it matters so little given his work experience and which can easily be checked.

      That's the problem with lies - you get caught in them. It would certainly have mattered a lot when he was first in the industry. After that, when do you suddenly drop it? Once he was well-known, that background would have become attached to him and it would have been impossible to drop quietly without something public.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Not everyone is dishonest. Far from it. I know very few people who lie other than the ever popular white-lie answers to loaded questions like "does this outfit make me look fat?"

      I agree that the fellow making the issue over the lie on the resume has a motivation for doing so. It's good to know that his motivation is control of the company rather than vengeful destruction of someone's career just for the sake of making their lives miserable.

      Yahoo has been struggling. Everyone knows that. It seems p

  • What's at stake here isn't whether his lack of a degree matters or whether this is one of those innocent embellishments.

    We shouldn't let ourselves be lulled into a debate over what we think the real issues are -- the same standards and punishments should be applied to this CEO as would be applied to any other employee in the organization. There shouldn't be a double standard for this guy just because he's the CEO.

  • and only the republicans seemed to care about that one..

  • Leave Scott Thompson alone? No! And Steve Jobs is not the greatest CEO ever. What a sorry, pathetic apologist Mr. Lyons is being! Does he like Lloyd Blankfein, Tony Hayward, Angelo Mozilo, Dick Fuld, Brian Moynihan, Ken Lewis, and Ken Lay too?

    Stop being bedazzled by wealth and power, and not caring whether it was ill gotten! Too many people still venerate them, even now, when memories of the most recent disaster perpetrated by our wealthy elite should still be fresh. It's dangerous. Are honest people all idiots, chumps, dupes, and mushrooms? What kind of world does Lyons want for us all?

  • So if I read this correctly, we're now at the point where our collective opinion of CEOs is so low that any standard of behavior above "didn't go on a shooting spree" is considered acceptable?

    Sorry, but no. We should expect at least out of our so-called "leaders" what we expect out of entry level staff or unpaid interns. That many CEOs are too morally bankrupt to meet that standard doesn't mean we lower it.

  • Dear mr. Lyons,

    Just because they all lie, doesn't make it okay for any single one of them to lie.

  • "But mooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmm! They did it fiiiiirssssst!"

    • by shentino (1139071)

      The "He started it" line is often an attempt to whine about others getting away with something you get stuck being punished for.

  • ... from here [ethicsscoreboard.com].... shows significant use of fallacy #1, with a hint of #4 and #5 in there as well. Also, although not listed on ethical fallacy sheet... I notice that he also uses a hand-me-down from the all-too-common conspiracy theory fallacy, when he accuses people who support his termination of actually having an ulterior motive for doing so without substantiating that position with even a single argument.

    Really, if you have to use fallacies to support your position, is your position actually really a sustainable one?

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell

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