COHR implicates former executive in attacks on Yahoo! message boards

November 11, 1998

Morford alleged to have provided false postingsThe advent of company bulletin boards on World Wide Web sites like Yahoo! has for the most part been a boon for investors and companies alike. But there’s also a downside to a medium that offers

Morford alleged to have provided false postings

The advent of company bulletin boards on World Wide Web sites like Yahoo! has for the most part been a boon for investors and companies alike. But there’s also a downside to a medium that offers no real safeguards for the accuracy of posts or confirmation of the poster’s identity. Some companies have been subjected to anonymous postings offering misleading and inaccurate information, often by posters who may have vested interests in seeing the companies stumble.

Independent service organization COHR believes this is exactly what occurred on message boards operated by Yahoo! during the period between Aug. 12 and Sept. 15. After enduring a spate of negative postings during the period, COHR initiated an investigation that it believes points to former COO Sandy Morford as the anonymous person responsible for numerous “false and malicious” postings.

Morford left COHR in June after revelations in an article in Barron’s charged him and other COHR executives with pocketing service rebates rather than returning them to customers (SCAN 6/10/98). Morford is now president of COHR competitor Genesis Technology Partners, a subsidiary of Cassling Diagnostic Imaging of Omaha, NE.

In information gained from Yahoo! in response to a subpoena, COHR said that Yahoo! business records reveal that five user IDs were alternative identities for the same Yahoo! account, which had Sandy Morford’s e-mail address listed when the account was set up. Those five user IDs posted 43 messages on the COHR Yahoo! message board, representing a large percentage of the disparaging messages regarding COHR, according to the Chatsworth, CA-based company.

COHR said that Yahoo! informed the company that when a new user account is opened, it is Yahoo!’s ordinary business practice to automatically send a confirming e-mail to the address provided by that user. In testimony under oath, Morford denied any involvement in the posting of messages under any of the above names or having ever received an e-mail from Yahoo!.

Morford confirmed to SCAN that the e-mail address mentioned by COHR was correct. But his e-mail address is widely known and any user could simply have entered his e-mail address, he said.

“I have had absolutely nothing to do directly or indirectly with these messages that are linked to me and have no idea who posted the messages,” he said. “COHR has not found a way of competing with my company, and this is a desperate attempt from a desperate company to discredit my company and organization and to influence more customers from COHR not to do business with me.”

For its part, COHR said its investigation is continuing, and it hasn’t ruled out further legal action, said Raymond List, president and CEO.