The vegan mayo company Hampton Creek undertook a massive buyback operation for its own employees to buy the company’s mayo, a report from Bloomberg claims. Former employees told Bloomberg they bought massive quantities of Just Mayo and called stores asking for the product to bolster sales and investor interest. This scandal follows a lawsuit and federal probe that almost forced the vegan mayo company to change the name of its product.
“We need you in Safeway buying Just Mayo and our new flavored mayos,” wrote Caroline Love, former director of corporate partnership, in an April 2014 e-mail to contracted workers that was found by Bloomberg. “And we’re going to pay you for this exciting new project! Below is the list of stores that have been assigned to you.”
CEO Josh Tetrick has alleged the buyback scheme was really just a quality assurance check.
“Assessing the product from the customer perspective, more than anything, gets us out of the bubble of typical manufacturing,” said Melanie Myers, an executive who worked in the company’s corporate partnerships team, in a prepared statement. “This was and always will be the primary purpose of it, which is why we’ll continue doing it. We also thought it might give us a little momentum out of the gate.”
Is this illegal? The buyback schemes that bolster a company’s sales used to be illegal until 1982, when a law passed allowing corporations to repurchase their products without repercussions. It’s allowed… but it’s a giant headache for investors.