Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Road Map For Regulators


Byrne: Has he been managing earnings?

Sam Antar's blog today raises yet more disturbing questions concerning accounting practices at the cretinous Internet retailer Overstock.com -- exploring whether the company has been engaged in the slimy practice of "earnings management."

As he did his first installment, this accounting ace provides a veritable road map for the SEC, which is investigating Overstock and its CEO, Patrick Byrne.

The case is pretty well laid out in black and white. The only question is whether the SEC will act-- or if Byrne's real or perceived political clout will keep the SEC from acting.

Tracy Coenen says it "looks like Byrne and company are doing even more fancy math! Yoo-hoo… SEC… are you listening?"

As I've explored in previous blog items (see items tagged "Overstock.com"), this company has engaged in a wide range of misconduct that includes, apart from its accounting issues, the targeting and stalking of critics, the wives of critics, and even a teenage blogger. Overstock.com and its CEO obviously hate scrutiny, which is why I've been focusing a lot on it and will keep doing so.

These Sam Antar blog items -- there's one more yet to go in this three-part series -- also give the public a unique opportunity to explore, in real time, the evidence of misconduct at a company under SEC investigation. We know what the regulators have in their files, except that they have a good deal more. So we have a right to ask: What are they going to do about it? The ball is in the SEC's court.

That goes not just for Overstock's accounting practices, but for the activities of its nauseating propaganda minister and paid stalker, Overstock.com Director of Communications Judd Bagley.


No doubt in reaction to the embarrassing failure of Bagley's "Omuse" Wikipedia clone -- still in "beta" status after the greater part of a year -- Bagley has lately resumed his harassment campaign against the online encyclopedia.

In recent postings on an anti-Wikipedia website, Bagley zeros in on two Wikipedia administrators and boasts about his use of spyware. This is Bagley's justification for his seeking to extract IP data from websites he does not own:

. . . if Jayjg [a Wikipedia administrator with authorized access to user data] can discriminantly view my IP data, why can't I have access to his? Ironic that the person with greatest access to user's identifying information is the most jealous about safeguarding his own privacy, isn't it?
Wikipedia, of course, has a legal right to IP data about its users. But site users -- particularly officials of companies seeking to compete with Wikipedia -- don't have the right to hijack data from other people's websites. Bagley's comment is about as logical as saying, "If IRS officials have access to my income tax data, why can't I obtain the income tax data of IRS officials?"

Later today, Bagley used Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net corporate smear site to attack a Wikipedia administrator. "SlimVirgin." Why this particular administrator? Well, it seems that this was the one who had thwarted his persistent vandalism and use of Wikipedia to advance Byrne's agenda. He did this - after joining Overstock.com -- by clumsily using dozens of sockpuppets. Bagley omits that little detail from his item.

O-Smear reminds us that Bagley previously attempted a crude blackmail attempt against this administrator, and notes:
The fact that SlimVirgin has made it difficult for Patrick Byrne's paid PR shill to edit the Overstock.com, Byrne and Naked Short Selling Wikipedia articles has raised their ire to no end. I think that's what Wikipedia admins are supposed to do, so he is proof that she seems to be doing a good job of it. It upset them so much that Overstock burned up a bunch of shareholder dollars to create a competitor site, Omuse (try not to laugh). So now Bagley is not only harassing women he doesn't know, he's intentionally disrupting a competing (try not to laugh) web service.
If Bagley were employed anywhere but Overstock.com, he'd have long been marched out to the parking lot by the guys in security.

Again, the ball is in the court of the SEC and other regulators. Which reminds me -- I see from his blog that Sam is giving a presentation to the financial crimes unit of the Utah Attorney General on Oct. 31. They'll have a lot of questions for him, I suspect, as a leading expert on accounting fraud.

But I have a question that he may want to ask them: Will this corporate pariah continue to flout the law?

One thing for sure is that answers to such questions will not come from the lapdog Overstock.com board of directors, even with the addition of a noted class action lawyer, Joseph J. Tabacco Jr., to the board.

Tabacco and the other "independent" directors are fully aware of what is going on at Overstock, and should certainly bear the consequences for their failure to act.

© 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, gary-weiss.com.

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