board is launching an independent investigation into the online message board postings of its CEO in relation to the grocer and its potential merger partner,
Wild Oats Markets
Whole Foods also confirmed that the
Securities and Exchange Commission
has begun an inquiry into the matter. Meanwhile, CEO John Mackey issued an apology to shareholders for the "error in judgment."
Last week, Mackey -- who founded the Austin, Texas, grocer -- was revealed to have posted a myriad of company-boosting entries on Yahoo! Finance message boards under the assumed name "Rahodeb." (Click
here for a sample of his postings.)
He also used the forum to criticize its chief rival Wild Oats -- which Whole Foods earlier this year agreed to purchase. That deal has since come into the crosshairs of the Federal Trade Commission.
In a short statement Tuesday, Whole Foods said it has formed a special committee on its board to conduct a review into the postings. The company said it will refrain from comment until the probe is completed.
Mackey admitted to the postings in his blog last week, saying he "had fun" doing them. On Tuesday, however, he was more repentant.
"I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards," Mackey said in a statement. "I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me."
Whole Foods said it was contacted by the SEC late Monday. The company said it will fully cooperate with the agency.