By: WSJ Blog - Lauren Weber and Melissa Korn contributed to this article | May 9th, 2012
Posted in: Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students
Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is facing a call for his ouster over the accuracy of his academic credentials. Here, a look at some notable résumé flaps:
Yahoo Inc. said in May 2012 that its new chief executive, Scott Thompson, didn’t earn a degree in computer science as stated in a recent securities filing, citing an “inadvertent error” without providing further explanation. The admission came after an activist shareholder, hedge fund Third Point LLC, pointed out the discrepancy. Yahoo’s website stated Mr. Thompson had received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. Yahoo later said Mr. Thompson received a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a major in accounting from Stonehill. The fund, run by activist investor Daniel Loeb, called for Mr. Thompson’s immediate termination. RadioShack
In 2006, RadioShack Corp. Chief Executive David Edmondson resigned by “mutual agreement” after he admitted inflating his educational background. Mr. Edmondson acknowledged misstating his educational credentials from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California, saying he believed he received a ThG diploma—typically a certificate with fewer requirements than a bachelor’s degree—and not a bachelor of science degree as he previously claimed. But the CEO also acknowledged he couldn’t document the ThG diploma. Mr. Edmondson said in a statement at the time: “The board and I have agreed that it is in the best interest of the company for new leadership to step forward.”
Bausch & Lomb
Eye-care company Bausch & Lomb in 2002 rescinded a bonus for CEO Ronald Zarrella after learning his biography incorrectly claimed he had an M.B.A. from New York University. “I am fully responsible for the misrepresentation in my official biography, an error that has been repeated elsewhere,” Mr. Zarrella wrote in a letter to the board, adding: “There is simply no adequate excuse for a misrepresentation of this kind, and thus I offer none.” He offered to resign; the board didn’t accept his resignation. He retired in March 2008. Mylan
When Heather Bresch was promoted to chief operating officer in 2007, the company said she had an M.B.A. from West Virginia University. Ms. Bresch had studied at the school but hadn’t completed her degree, an independent panel later concluded. After receiving questions from the media, the university retroactively awarded Ms. Bresch an M.B.A.—which, after further contention, it moved to revoke. In an emailed statement in 2008, she said, “I continue to believe that I did what I needed to do to earn my degree. The administration allowed me to take an unconventional approach as part of what was then a program in its infancy.” Ms. Bresch is now the generic-drug maker’s chief executive. HerbaLife
Gregory Probert, the president and chief operating officer of Herbalife Ltd., resigned in 2008 after he was caught embellishing his academic credentials by fraud investigator. Herbalife, a Los Angeles marketer of weight-loss products, had said Mr. Probert received an M.B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles. It mentioned the degree in at least 19 regulatory filings. But Mr. Probert never finished Cal State’s M.B.A. program, where he took classes in the early 1980s, the university said. Mr. Probert said he nearly completed an M.B.A. at Cal State, but “the truth is that my vanity prevailed and I did not take action” to correct Herbalife’s biography. MGM Mirage
J. Terrence Lanni, the chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage Inc., retired from the gambling company in 2008 shortly after questions surfaced about his academic background. Mr. Lanni claimed to have an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California, but the school later said that, while he had earned a bachelor of science degree, there was no M.B.A. on record. When questioned about the discrepancy, Mr. Lanni said he had received an honorary M.B.A. from the university in 1992. USC denied the claim. Mr. Lanni said at the time that his decision to retire had nothing to do with the allegations. CSX
In 2009, railroad operator CSX Corp. levied a “substantial financial penalty” on its chief commercial officer, Clarence Gooden, after discovering that he had misrepresented his academic background in a corporate biography. Mr. Gooden claimed he had earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in the 1970s. As he later admitted, he attended the school for several years but never completed the degree. The executive released a statement at the time apologizing to employees: “I want you to know that I take full responsibility and hope that you will accept my sincere apology.” Veritas Software
In 2002, the chief financial officer of Veritas Software Corp., Kenneth E. Lonchar, resigned after directors learned he had lied about having an M.B.A. from Stanford University. A Veritas biography said Mr. Lonchar received a bachelor of arts degree in accounting from Arizona State University. A university spokeswoman had said it could find no record that he was a student there. In a written statement at the time, Mr. Lonchar said he regretted misstating his educational background. “Under the circumstances, I believe my resignation is in the best interests of both the company and myself,” he said. Microsemi
James Peterson, the president and CEO of Microsemi Corp., an Irvine, Calif.-based semiconductor maker, kept his job but paid a $100,000 fine in 2009 and gave up his bonus that year after the company learned that he had attended classes at Brigham Young University, but was never awarded the bachelor’s and M.B.A. degrees that he had previously listed as credentials. After conducting a review, Microsemi said its board “concluded that the interests of Microsemi’s shareholders are best served by retaining Mr. Peterson while imposing appropriate financial penalties and remedial actions.” The board also adopted an ethics policy that, among other things, mandated background checks for directors and high-ranking executives. “I have respected the board’s process from the start, and I accept the results of that process,” Mr. Peterson said in a company statement at the time.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In 2007, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology dismissed its longtime dean of admissions, Marilee Jones, after the university received an anonymous tip that she had embellished her own credentials. She attended college for one year, as a part-time student at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1974, but never received the bachelor’s or master’s degrees that she claimed from RPI. Nor did she receive a degree she claimed from Albany Medical College, the university found. In a statement released by the university, Ms. Jones said she first fudged her résumé in 1979 when she was hired in a junior position in the MIT admissions office. When she was promoted to the deanship in 1997, she “didn’t have the courage to correct my résumé,” she wrote. R.H. Donnelley
In 2006, telephone-directory publisher R.H. Donnelley Corp. said that its chairman and chief executive never graduated from the Minnesota university he attended. David Swanson attended St. Cloud State University in Minnesota from 1973 to 1976 but didn’t earn a degree. R.H. Donnelley had twice issued news releases stating that he had. The company said the detail had never appeared in any document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission or the New York Stock Exchange. It said Mr. Swanson didn’t claim to be a graduate of St. Cloud State when he was hired. “This is a regrettable situation for which I accept full responsibility,” said Mr. Swanson at the time. Smith & Wesson
James Minder resigned shortly after being named chairman of gun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. in 2004 when it was learned that he had spent time in prison in the 1950s and ’60s for an armed-robbery spree and an attempted prison escape. Mr. Minder confessed his past to directors after getting a call from a reporter. U.S. Olympic Committee
Sandra Baldwin resigned in 2002 as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee after admitting she hadn’t received an undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in 1962 and a doctorate from Arizona State in 1967. She did attend Colorado in 1958-1959 without graduating and earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State in 1962. She said she completed the course work for a doctorate but didn’t finish her dissertation.
University of Notre Dame
In 2001, George O’Leary resigned as Notre Dame football coach five days after being hired, admitting inaccuracies in his academic and athletic background. Mr. O’Leary claimed to have a master’s degree in education and to have played college football for three years, but checks into his background showed it wasn’t true.
“Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, ousted by Sunbeam in 1998 amid allegations of accounting irregularities, was later discovered to have been terminated by Max Phillips & Son after seven weeks in 1973 and by Nitec Paper Corp. in 1976 after two years as president, according to his lawyer. The two major search firms checking his employment history never uncovered those dismissals.
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