Monday, December 29, 2008

It's Getting Harder to Mind Our Own (Local) Business. Updated Monday Evening 12/29

Monday Evening 12/29 Update is at the end of this post.

On Wednesday we heard from our attorneys that the Federal Trade Commission ruled that we have to turn our confidential internal financial, marketing and planning information over to Whole Foods Market. Here’s a link to the ruling. We disagree with and are disappointed in this decision. We’re huddling with the lawyers to figure out what our next step is going to be. It looks like we're going to appeal but I’ll get back to you once we have a clear direction. This isn’t over yet.

In the meantime, if you’re wondering why one of our competitors is demanding access to our private information, you can read about the details on this link.

Also, the Oregonian has written about this once more. Here's a link to the story in Friday's paper. I have a few comments to make on some of the information in the story.

I'm glad that Laura Gunderson, the reporter, pointed out that only 50 of the 93 companies that Whole Foods issued the subpoenas to have responded, even though the deadline is long past. It's comforting to know that we're not the only company saying "no" to these unreasonable demands.

And we appreciate that the FTC judge said "no" to Whole Foods really over the top demand that we should be forced to search through the email accounts and computer files of every New Seasons Market staff member who worked on a computer anytime in the last three years. That would have been hundreds of people.

Having said that, I can only shake my head at the judge's position that our private files will somehow be protected. The reason I'm doubtful is because this same promise was made in in this same case in 2007 and what really happened was quite different. First of all, one of Whole Foods lawyers, who is actually an employee of their company and who is on their “Leadership Team”, was allowed to see "confidential" information that was submitted. Second, the FTC accidentally posted information that was marked "confidential" on their web site. Those two incidents have contributed to my lack of confidence in the process.

Thanks again to the hundreds of people in Portland (and actually all over the country) who have offered us their support.

Update on Monday Evening 12/29
As many of you know, today was the deadline that the FTC set for us to submit our internal documents to Whole Foods. Lots of people have asked what happened with that. I can tell you that we have not turned over any information, but our lawyers have told me to stop discussing the other aspects of this case for the time being. I’ll get back to you with more details as soon as I can. Thanks again for all of your interest and well wishes.