Monday, March 19, 2007

Ordinary Perople Versus Corporate Bullies


The Overstock.com slo-mo train wreck continued last night, with its resident stalker, the so-called "director of social media" Judd Bagley, reiterating a threat he had made a week ago to contact the employers of people criticizing this disgusting company.

It's interesting how Bagley and his boss Patrick Byrne have focused their venom on ordinary Internet users, as well as gutsy reporters who have taken them on (such as Susan Antilla of Bloomberg and Joe Nocera of the New York Times). This is a new and disturbing element of Overstock's "campaign of menace," as it was so accurately described by Nocera.

While it is unclear whether Bagley can actually do any damage by his tactics -- replaying his smear campaign against a Florida reporter when he was a flack in the Jeb Bush administration -- there's no doubt that this slimeball would love to destroy his boss's critics.

After all, that is what Bagley is paid to do. His cover story, a joke called "Omuse, was revealed last week to have been outsourced, and another fairy tale, that Bagley was put in charge of a "cars" project, disintegrated today with a routine announcement referring to a "vice president for cars." It ain't Bagley.

It's clear that he and Byrne are hell-bent on diverting attention from Overstock's miserable financial condition, as in Byrne's moronic "hold up the sign" stunt on CNBC last March (right). Overstock's finances have become so awful that it has begun liquidating assets. See Jeff Matthews's analysis of Byrne's sale of a once-hyped travel subsidiary, and a Seth Jayson article in Motley Fool describing the O-Meltdown.

The number one target on Overstock's enemies list is a software engineer who runs the excellent O-Smear blog, who was instrumental in revealing that the antisocialmedia.net smear site was run by Overstock.

O-Smear recently deconstructed Bagley's smear campaign against Antilla, commenced after she wrote a column excoriating Bagley and Byrne. Bagley, typically, centered an entire item around a fiction -- Antilla's "marriage to a hedge fund magnate," constructing a brand new conspiracy theory. A few minutes of checking records on the Internet-- or, God forbid, a phone call to Antilla -- could have ascertained that they are divorced.

Bagley and Byrne are also terrified of Sam E. Antar, former CFO of Crazy Eddie's, who devotes his life to exposing the Overstocks of this world. They worked hard to get him kicked off the Investor Village Overstock message board, where he was removed for "clogging" the board with smart questions.

Sam's analysis of Overstock's accounting, through sharp questions such as this, provides a road map for regulators in the months ahead.

David Carr talked about "citizen journalists" in the New York Times today. But these aren't journalists. They are just citizens.

What I don't understand is why regulators and law enforcement (who are fully aware of Overstock's actions, believe me), haven't stepped in by now, particularly since Overstock's strange share price behavior is sucking in still more "dumb money."

All regulators need to do is follow the trail of bread crumbs -- left for them by citizen sleuths who have already done much of the spadework.

Meanwhile I wonder what's next on Bagley's agenda. Drowning puppies?

UPDATE: Nope, looks like the next item on his agenda was covering his tracks. All of Bagley's posts on the Yahoo Overstock message board, where he is "antsaresocialinsects," abruptly vanished on March 20. The puppies will come later.

© 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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