updated 4/28/2008 8:40:14 PM ET 2008-04-29T00:40:14

Whole Foods Market Inc. says federal securities regulators are recommending that no action be taken against the grocery chain over anonymous postings on financial-news Web sites by its chief executive.

The organic and natural foods retailer said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday that the staff of the agency said it recommended against any enforcement action.

Last July, Austin-based Whole Foods disclosed that the SEC and company directors were investigating the postings by CEO John Mackey. From 1999 to 2006, Mackey anonymously touted Whole Foods stock and suggested that a rival, Wild Oats Markets Inc., might fall into bankruptcy.

Last year, Whole Foods bought Wild Oats for $565 million.

The internal investigation at Whole Foods was completely in October with a board vote of confidence in Mackey's leadership team. Mackey apologized for the postings.

Mackey's postings surfaced when they were included among a trove of documents that Whole Foods turned over to the Federal Trade Commission, which was examining whether the purchase of Wild Oats violated antitrust standards.

The FTC tried unsuccessfully to block the acquisition, saying it would give Whole Foods too much power to raise prices for organic and natural foods. Whole Foods countered that it faced competition from mainstream grocers, and a federal judge sided with the company.

Legal experts said regulators would have to prove that Mackey tried to manipulate stock prices of Whole Foods or Wild Oats to bring a successful case against him.

Whole Foods shares rose 57 cents, or 1.8 percent, to close at $31.76 on Monday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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