What could have prompted Yahoo to hire its first-ever chief compliance and ethics officer? Could it have been the criticism executives received at the annual shareholders meeting about two weeks ago over Yahoo's cooperation with the Chinese government on censorship?
Yahoo allegedly provided information about a Yahoo Mail user in China to the government that led to his arrest and subsequent 10-year sentence. That man, a journalist, recently joined a lawsuit filed against Yahoo in the U.S. in April by the World Organization for Human Rights USA and the wife of a Chinese dissident who claims Yahoo aided in his arrest and conviction as well.
On Thursday, Yahoo announced that it has hired David C. Farrell to develop the company's global ethics program. His responsibilities will include working to ensure the compliance with corporate best practices and overseeing data privacy and corporate social responsibility efforts.
Farrell previously served as the chief compliance officer at Sun Microsystems.
At the rancorous June 12 meeting, Yahoo shareholders blasted then Chief Executive Terry Semel for the company's declining revenue growth and stock price, which likely played a part in Semel stepping down the following week. He handed the reins to Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.
Also at that meeting, Yahoo shareholders rejected two proposals related to the company's international policies, including one that asked the company to commit to not proactively censoring its Internet sites in other countries, and another that asked the company to establish a committee on human rights.
Maybe this is Yahoo's compromise.