When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

12 July 2007

Sock-puppetry at Whole Foods

Rumors on stock discussion boards being seeded and spread by sock-puppets are nothing new.

Usually the sock-puppets only claim to have inside information and are looking to manipulate a stock's price.

Sometimes, the sock-puppets actually HAVE inside information, and their goals are... hmm.
In January 2005, someone using the name "Rahodeb" went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share.

"Would Whole Foods buy OATS?" Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats' stock symbol. "Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small." Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management "clearly doesn't know what it is doing .... OATS has no value and no future."

The comments were typical of banter on Internet message boards for stocks, but the writer's identity was anything but. Rahodeb was an online pseudonym of John Mackey, co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market Inc. Earlier this year, his company agreed to buy Wild Oats for $565 million, or $18.50 a share.

Whole Foods Is Hot, Wild Oats a Dud -- So Said 'Rahodeb' (Wall Street Journal [subscription required], 12 July 2007)

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