Cooking The Books: Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s CS Degree “Error” Should Cost Him The Job

“You guys might want to cover this before he resigns tomorrow,” one hardcore reader emailed in this evening. And yes indeed, newish Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s “inadvertent error” about which degree he got in college is looking like it could cost him his new job. It should.

After a day of TechCrunch covering companies who are busy pushing the world forward — like Facebook and its big IPO plans — here’s our obligatory late-night story about the guy who is, uh, suing the massive social network over some old patents that are supposedly infringing on the aging web portal.

For more than half a decade, at least, Thompson has told the world that he’d gotten a computer science degree from Stonehill College, located outside of Boston. Today, that falsehood got exposed by activist Yahoo investor Daniel Loeb, whose firm discovered that he had in fact gotten an accounting degree.

A hardcore techie degree isn’t a job requirement in a world where anyone can learn to code, where college dropouts are shaking up the technology world (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg being one relevant example).

But it was probably more important earlier in Thompson’s career, when he working his way up the chain of command at his past jobs. Before he joined Yahoo in January, he served as the chief information officer at Barclays Global Investors, “where he implemented a new strategic technology platform and global infrastructure,” and as the CTO then President of PayPal.

One still assumes (or wants to assume) that he demonstrated the appropriate technical skills in these past jobs, even if Yahoo’s board failed to completely vet his background.

The real issue is that he (apparently) lied about it. And the corporate explanation of an “inadvertent error” is just making the falsehood look like it runs that much deeper at the company. Not only did the company not uncover Thompson’s real degree before hiring him, it failed to do a few Google (er, Yahoo) searches today and see that even his alma mater is still describing him as an accounting major. 

And, I’m done writing this post. The whole affair, like Yahoo’s patent lawsuit against Facebook, and the company’s various bumblings over the past decade, is just embarrassing. Time to get back to covering innovation, and let the activist shareholders like Loeb have their field day trying to come up with a better plan for the company.

[Image via Yodel Anecdotal/Yahoo! Inc.]