SEC Examines Whole Foods CEO's Chat Room Exploits: WSJ

The online postings of Whole Foods Market's chief executive have become the subject of an informal inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter.

Company ceo John Mackey posted numerous messages on a Yahoo financial forum under the user name "rahodeb," according to a court document filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and postings on Yahoo.

The postings came to light during an FTC investigation of Whole Foods' planned takeover of Wild Oats Markets .

Mackey's messages painted a bright future for Whole Foods , the largest U.S. natural and organic grocer, and downplayed the threat posed by competitors.

While it isn’t clear that Mr. Mackey violated any laws in his posting, they have raised numerous legal questions, the Journal reported.

The newspaper also reported the SEC is likely to examine whether Mr. Mackey’s comments contradicted what the company previously said or were overly optimistic about the firm’s performance.

In addition, the SEC will likely look at whether the CEO selectively disclosed material corporate information, which could violate a securities law passed in 2000, known as Regulation Fair Disclosure, which was designed to prevent executives from sharing information with favored clients or analysts.

Whole Foods didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.