Thursday, February 22, 2007

Overstock's Latest Smear

It didn't take long for Overstock.com's resident stalker, Judd Bagley (left), to crank up a smear about Susan Antilla, who wrote a Bloomberg column yesterday on Overstock's campaign of lies against critics and the media.

This one is typical of the tactics that Bagley and his boss Patrick Byrne deploy, in their campaign to keep people from writing about or criticizing their actions.

First Byrne tried to bully Antilla and Bloomberg by publishing her questions and his slippery, evasive responses on the Internet.

That failed, so they have now moved into the Smear phase of the strategy, in a post that Bagley published on the Investor Village message board this morning. It is titled "A wee bit of context on Susan Antilla."

Said Bagley:

The conventional wisdom has been that her husband, Dennis H Leibowitz , is with Credit Suisse First Boston. Wrong. In 2002 he left SCFB to start his own hedge fund. It's called Act 2.

Act 2 specializes in investing in the media space. Included in Act 2's portfolio is several million dollars worth of News Corp stock. You may also know News Corp as the company that owns the New York Post.

So there you have it -- a media-hedge fund conspiracy! The only problem with this smear is that Antilla and Leibowitz are divorced, a fact that is not only "conventional wisdom" but is also something that Bagley could have easily extracted from the Internet.

As usual with a Bagley smear on behalf of his employer, he takes a faux-factual nugget and fashions it into a paranoid fantasy and lie.

This latest Overstock smear not only illustrates the intimidate-and-lie tactics used by this failing company, but also again focuses attention on Bagley's chosen forum for his smears -- the Investor Village Overstock message board.

As I pointed out in a post yesterday and previously, IV allows Bagley and Byrne -- officers of a public company -- to post with impunity on the Overstock board, smearing and libeling people by name in blatant violation of IV's terms of service. Even death threats like the one in this post are allowed, when they come from Byrne supporters. Yet IV management curbs, harasses and censors critics of this company. Yesterday IV boss Ralph Kidd had the audacity to call
Sam Antar's persistent and effective questioning of Byrne "harassment," and to ban him from the board.

So now, as you can see, Byrne, Bagley and their anonymous allies can post their lies, smears and touting without much in the way of interference, since critics know they can be banned at any moment by IV's crackerjack management team.

A member of the Byrne fan club made that point clear today to one of the rare critics of the company who posts on the board: "Keep on with this frantic pace and garbage like fashion and you'll gather enough tickets to end up in the fridge."

A similar mentality has prevailed in IV's NovaStar message board, where stock touters such as Phil Saunders, the anti-shorting loon who posts as "Easter Bunny," were allowed by IV administrators to abuse and harass skeptics and tout this doggy stock.

In effect, IV has become a willing participant in the campaign by Byrne, Bagley and Overstock.com to muzzle critics and to stalk and intimidate the media. You really have to wonder why a message board operator would be so irresponsible, blatantly biased, and just plain dumb.

UPDATE: The New York Post's Roddy Boyd has a great article on how IV's NovaStar message board became a stock-pumping mechanism, propagating one-sided stock touting to untold numbers of small investors.

A good example of the service rendered by Sam's questions can be found in this post from Bagley on the Yahoo Overstock message board, after Sam was bounced from IV.

As you can see, Bagley feigned ignorance of the SEC 's investigation of Overstock.com, which has been widely publicized and which Overstock itself has disclosed in its filings. I suppose this is what the lawyers might call a "materially misleading" statement by an officer of a public company. I prefer to call it a "bald-faced lie."

These kinds of things make me wonder: What exactly does Bagley have to do before the SEC takes action? Immolate himself in front of the SEC Headquarters?

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was 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.

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