Sunday, August 05, 2007

Overstock.com Hits New Low: Targets Teenage Boy


Bagley: now he's chasing after a teenage boy

You have to give Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne a lot of credit. He may not be very good at running his company, but when it comes to attacking critics -- well, at that he is an innovator who would put Thomas Alva Edison to shame.

Byrne's latest gambit is to attack a teenage blogger who dared to lampoon the great man. The blogger's name is Zac Bissonnette, a 19-year-old college freshman. Zac has written a number of perceptive articles for AOL's Blogging Stocks blog, and also runs a parody website called Hedgefunnies.

As in the past, Byrne did so through his director of communications, Judd Bagley, whom he hired in August to run an anonymous smear website called antisocialmedia.net. The site was run anonymously until Bagley was outed by the New York Post in January.

Now Bagley openly runs the site with Byrne's blessing and support -- though always with a patina of deniability. Such "astroturf" sites provide a buffer between sleazy companies and corporate-sponsored websites dedicated to advancing their interests.

Antisocialmedia, dedicated to attacking Byrne's critics as "market manipulators," is part of what Bloomberg's Susan Antilla has called a "creepy" corporate strategy of lies and attacks on critics. In a column last March, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera observed as follows:

"It has always seemed to me that Mr. Byrne's primary mission had less to do with the supposed evils of naked short sellers, and more to do with making life miserable for anyone who dared to criticize his company."
The Overstock "campaign of menace," as Nocera put it, continues, with Nocera and Antilla immediately attacked by Byrne's proxies once their articles came out.

Attacks on journalists are creepy enough, but pursuit of a teenage blogger is nothing less than sick.

Here is the Hedgefunnies post that lampooned Byrne, and no doubt caused him to sic his underling Bagley on Zac.

Bagley began by issuing a threat to Zac on a Yahoo message board, which he later reiterated in an email to Zac, that he was about to smear the teen blogger on the antisocialmedia corporate smear website. Sam Antar recounts the details in his blog, and forensic accountant Tracy Coenen has a good account in her blog.


Then Bagley turned to his favorite stomping grounds, Wikipedia, which he has sought to undermine -- and attack Byrne's critics -- by use of dozens of sockpuppets.

Bagley smeared Zac as a "dropout" in the discussion page of an article on the charter school this young man had attended.

The glassy-eyed flack then posted the following threat on a Wikipedia page he believed was associated with Zac:

Zac, let this be a lesson to you...think about what you write and the consequences words bring. Eventually, we're all held to account for our words. Hint: it typically works out better when your words are truthful.
Bagley, using the same moniker "WordBizzle" then went to the discussion page of the article on Mary Kay cosmetics, to attack Tracy, also a critic of Bagley's employer. The attack has since been deleted by Wikipedia administrators. The two sockpuppets Bagley used were banned today by Wikipedia as sockpuppets of "WordBomb," Bagley's Wiki user name.

Bagley's behavior was so disgusting that he even drew brickbats from Wikipedia Review, an anti-Wikipedia site that usually supports his cyberstalking of Wikipedia administrators. (Note that this corporate jackal calls Zac a "high school dropout worm," drawing a rebuke from a Wiki Review administrator.)

You really have to wonder the kind of mentality at work here, which is only slightly more elevated than that of a child molester as far as I am concerned. But something else bugs me:

Where are regulators, who are fully aware of Bagley's actions?

Were are Overstock's so-called "independent" directors, including its latest entry Joseph J. Tabacco -- a class action lawyer who ordinarily would sue, not support, a creepy company like this?

Where is the media?

After this latest atrocity, I cannot see how parents of teenage children can purchase products at a company such as this -- no matter how much its bachelor CEO spouts libertarian platitudes about "first class education."

It's time for Overstock to be treated as the pariah that it is.

© 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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