05 May 2012


Two years ago I noted embarrassment in New Zealand involving 'creativity' - more caustically characterised as fraud - in the CVs of senior public sector executives Wilce, Thompson and Davy.

In the US another Thompson is in trouble for CV embellishment in the age of credentialism; this time it's the new Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. He's being damned for what Yahoo initially described as an “inadvertent error” but subsequently appears to be treating as a serious ethical or reputation problem.

The Financial Times tartly commented that Thompson "hasn’t got a computer science degree after all, whatever his official biography may say".

The debunking was undertaken by Yahoo investor Third Point, which apparently is interested in changing the Yahoo board. It challenged the statement, in Yahoo's filings with the SEC, that "Mr. Thompson holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College".

Third Point argued that Thompson not have a computer science qualification. Stonehill offered a single introductory computer science course during his time at the college and “Stonehill College informed us that it did not begin awarding computer science degrees until 1983 – four years after Mr Thompson graduated”.

Yahoo responded that “This in no way alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies.” Third Point hit back, stating that -
If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo! at this critical juncture”.
The Washington Post sniffed that -
Thompson’s résumé has even earned itself a satiric Twitter account, "SThompsnsResume", which bears the description “I’m mostly true” and includes posts such as “FACT: Scott Thompson played Steve Urkell on Family Matters.”
Meanwhile the UK Metropolitan Police reports that William 'Billy' Mumford - "one of the UK's most prolific and accomplished art fraudsters, responsible for creating forged artwork potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds" - has been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to two years imprisonment. The forger imitated a range of artists including Sayed Haider Raza, Kyffin Williams, John Tunnard, Francis Newton Souza, Jilali Gharbaoui, Sadanand Bakre and Maqbool Fida Husain.
Operation Sketch - a proactive operation led by the Metropolitan Police Service's Art and Antiques Unit, supported by ArtBeat Special Constables - identified the scam in April 2009 after they were contacted by a major London auction house which had identified an unusually high number of paintings offered for sale by artist Maqbool Fida Husain. ...

Hundreds of paintings and false instruments were found in the back bedroom and garage of Mumford's home address, including gallery stamps, ink pads and Victorian paper used to create a false provenance and dupe art experts and investors alike.

William Mumford admitted creating up to 1000 forgeries and conspiracy to deceive potential buyers and launder the proceeds of the crimes. His co-conspirators placed the works for sale on Ebay and at auction houses throughout the UK, receiving a 20% cut for their efforts. Many of the paintings ended up abroad, some being sold on as genuine several times.
One of Mumford's accomplices
set up an office at home in what was a military style operation that included a white board detailing when and where each painting had been taken and how much it should make. He would spend his days driving round the provincial auction houses in the UK (mainly Hampshire and Sussex) with several paintings, providing elaborate false provenance stories involving late grandparents, wills and a mother downsizing and not being able to accommodate her favourite paintings anymore.
Shepherd and Karen Petrskovsky admitted in interview to furthering the offences by creating complex additional histories for the artworks, thereby increasing their saleability and value.
DC Michelle Roycroft, formerly of the Arts and Antiques Unit, said: "This complicated case highlights the pitfalls of buying works of art from online auction sites.
"These paintings, listed as 'unknown', came with elaborate false provenance that drew buyers into bidding for the items. This, together with William Mumford's execution of the paintings and the attention to detail - using forged gallery stamps and genuine Victorian paper to make labels - fooled hundreds of people both in the UK and worldwide with victims in France, USA and Canada.
Mumford pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, with a sentence of two years imprisonment. His wife pleaded guilty to money laundering, with a sentence of 12 months imprisonment. Associate Martin Petrskovsky went down for 21 months over conspiracy to defraud. Karen Petrskovsky was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud, along with Anthony Resse (the man with the white board) and Paul Shepherd, who was convicted of fraud by false representation.