As Thompson leaves, the prominent shareholder who sought his ouster stands to gain significant new power. Daniel Loeb, who wrote a May 3 letter to Yahoo's board describing the biographical falsehood, already controls a 5.8 percent stake in the company through his Third Point hedge fund. Now Yahoo is reshuffling its board, with four members departing, and Loeb named to fill one of those seats. Two of his allies, former MTV Networks executive Michael Wolf and turnaround specialist Harry Wilson, will also join Yahoo's board.
This kind of high-profile upheaval over a biography doesn't happen every day. For one thing, many companies aren't, like Yahoo, wracked with strategic problems that boil down to a corporate version of the existential question, "who am I." Had Yahoo been less troubled, perhaps the missing computer science degree wouldn't have inflamed doubts about Thompson.
Also, most big companies vet the qualifications and background of their top hires very carefully. On its face, the events of recent days suggest that Yahoo's board failed to do that. Whatever the merits or flaws of Yahoo's hiring process, Thompson was the company's fourth CEO in five years.
At the same time, resume padding has been documented as a widespread problem, prevalent among seekers of both low- and high-profile jobs.
News stories in recent years have followed people who fabricated details regarding military service, university degrees, and business deals, among other things.
The recurring lesson is that falsehoods designed to make a resume stand out against competitors can instead cause an application to be discarded, or can result in job loss if a lie is discovered by an employer after hiring.