Prominent securities attorney Howard Sirota is calling for a boycott of Overstock.com. He's doing so in reaction to an attack on him in Overstock's antisocialmedia.net corporate smear site, which attacked him (and me too, natch) in response to his concerns about anti-Semitic posts on the Yahoo board and the smear site.
I certainly agree that this corporate chamber pot deserves a customer boycott because of the vile behavior of its CEO Patrick Byrne and his paid cyberstalker, the nauseating Judd Bagley.
And Sirota has a point. In one December 2005 Motley Fool post, Byrne made bizarre comments on Israel and Jews that led blogger Jeff Matthews to doubt their authenticity because of what he gently described as "their apparent anti-Semitism." Any such doubts have since been laid to rest -- Byrne has acknowledgd that he is the author of this and other Motley Fool posts under the pseudonym "Hannibal100."
Referring to odd references to Israel and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Matthews noted:
I can think of no clear reason for making the analogy to Friedman and Israel except one: the enemies cited in the post (Herb Greenberg, David Rocker and Jim Cramer) are all Jewish.The Stalwart commented that "it's not a stretch to read an anti-Semitic tone into the letter. Not only does he finger all Jews in his conspiracy, but he, out of nowhere, throws in a jab at Thomas Friedman's unevenhandedness in covering Middle-East affairs."
Even for the CEO of Overstock.com, hints of a Jewish conspiracy would represent a rather disturbing twist in the ongoing saga.
However warranted Sirota's call for a boycott may be -- and I believe that it is warranted -- I would argue that a wide-ranging, nationwide boycott of this company is already underway.
As you can see from the chart below, customers have been avoiding the Overstock.com website since the end of 2005 -- which happens to be approximately when Byrne made his company name synonymous with "nuts" in his paranoid "Sith Lord" anti-short selling crusade.
Notice the particularly sharp dropoff this year, which coincides with the revelation in the media that antisocialmedia.net, which had previously engaged in illegal, anonymous cyberstalking, was secretly operated by the nauseating Bagley.
Then you have the dollars-and-cents aspect of this customer boycott of the company, as seen from this spectacularly unspectacular income statement, below.
Note that the number is parenthesis is getting bigger. That is no good. Got to take off the parenthesis before bigger numbers are better.
Last but not least we have the stock price, which is less than half of what it was at the end of '05:
As you can see, Overstock.com is already being boycotted by customers and investors of every race, color and creed. And mind you, for the most part, they're not avoiding Overstock.com because they don't like Byrne's behavior. They're boycotting the company because there are, quite simply, better places to buy stuff.
That's the party to Overstock's downfall that Byrne has yet to insult -- the American people.
Oops, wait a second. He has.
UPDATE: Forensic accountant Tracy Coenen observes:
What really is the purpose of making anti-semitic remarks on a message board designed to discuss the stock of a public company? My guess is intimidation.
Howard refers to Judd Bagley and his Anti-Social Media website. Judd is an “executive” at Overstock.com, and he’s a little ruffled that people like Howard and Gary Weiss and Sam Antar are exposing the shenanigans going on there. Quite simply put, something is not right at Overstock, the shareholders are suffering because it, but Judd wants everyone to shut up already.
Judd’s really a nobody. He’s the mouthpiece for Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock who is quite often referred to as “Wacky Patty” because of his delusional rantings and Sith Lord conspiracy theories.
So the executives at Overstock want to intimidate people to stop discussing all the unusual items on the financial statements, the discrepancies in the disclosures, the fact that the company waited nearly a year to write down inventory it knew was junk, and the fact that executives of the company pump the stock on a variety of message boards using pseudonyms not known to the average investor. (Rules? What rules?)
© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.
Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
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