SEC Yahoo investigation could open door for Verizon exit

Yahoo is reportedly being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to decide whether the team was quick enough in disclosing the hacking scandal to investors.

The investigation will help the SEC decide whether Yahoo complied with civil securities laws, appropriately disclosing information regarding the security breaches, according to the Wall Street Journal. Verizon executives are have continued to maintain their silence with regard to the $4.8 billion acquisition of the internet firm, however it remains to be seen whether the investigation has had any material impact on the deal.

The acquisition of Yahoo has been one of the longest running sagas in recent telco memories, though the security breaches must have brought around a sense of buyer’s remorse. Verizon has been rumoured to be cooling down on the deal in recent months, asking for a $1 billion discount and also having its lawyers question clauses which could see the telco hit the reset button, but the acquisition is key for the future business diversification strategy. Its desire for media assets is truly being tested.

The basis of the investigation is the time which passed between the security breach, and when the incident was disclosed to investors. The initial hack happened in 2014, though it took almost two years for the team to release this information. Whether this is deemed prompt or not will test the resilience of certain regulations and legislation, which could be viewed as too open to interpretation.

Although it’s an easy dig to make, we’re going to ignore the fact it has taken the SEC almost five months to undertake an investigation into Yahoo, to decide whether its procedures are time efficient enough. Perhaps it’s too easy to point out the irony in the reaction speeds of the SEC, so we won’t make a big deal out of it.

The SEC and other agencies have made investigations into hacking scandals before, however these examples are too few and far between to create any notable precedent. Should Yahoo be found to be one the wrong side of right, there could be sufficient wiggle room for Verizon to either negotiate more favourable terms for the acquisition, or even back out of it completely.

As with many developments in the digital era, this is one of the first of its kind; the outcome of the investigation, and the subsequent actions from both parties could set precedent for negligence in the internet era. The SEC, Yahoo and Verizon would do well to tread carefully here, as the world will be watching.

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