Did I Just Imagine It.....
... or did Patrick Byrne, chief executive officer of Overstock.com, just call Herb Greenberg a "crooked reporter" on Kudlow & Co.?
You know, at times like this, I wish that I had different parents.
Why did I choose so poorly? If my dad had been CEO of GEICO, and not a project engineer at the New York City Transit Authority, I too would have enough money to go on CNBC and besmirch the character of an honest reporter, knowing he couldn't hire a lawyer to sue me for slander -- knowing that, even if he did, I could withstand the legal fees.
Oh well. Maybe in my next life I'll do a better job and pick richer parents.
To be exact, Byrne ranted in a telephone hookup to Kudlow & Co., "I'm talking about a crooked research firm hooking up with a crooked reporter." So, to be more precise, he smeared a reputable research firm -- Gradient Analytics -- and a reputable reporter.
Except for the SEC's apparently Byrne-inspired investigation, none of this is really new. Though the tactics employed by Byrne are considerably more execrable than in the past, this is not the first time that companies have sought to tar reporters and analysts for doing their job.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, one of my former bosses, Alan Abelson of Barron's, was regularly smeared for having -- to use one expression that was applied -- a "symbiotic" relationship with short-sellers. He was even sued once by disgruntling shareholder seeking to shift blame for a bad investment. Over time the allegations was proven to be a lot of hooey, and the suit was tossed out.
Even so, I'll bet there are still some people around who remember the smears against Abelson and don't remember that they were proven false. That is what worries me about the latest smear campaign.
(Updated Feb. 28.)
Wall Street Versus America will be published by Penguin USA on April 6. Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.