Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Time to Demand Justice for Paul Klebnikov

That's the subject of my latest column for Forbes.com, which can be found here. I describe why the U.S. government should initiate a prosecution of Paul's murder.

© 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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A Major Victory for Press Freedom

Ever hear the name Sarah Olson? Probably not, and that is because her plight has received shamefully little attention in the news media. (The only exception I could find: an LA Times editorial.)

Olson is a a 31-year-old freelance journalist who was subpoenaed to testify against Ehren Watada, an Army Lieutenant who refused to serve in Iraq. She refused, and faced imprisonment as a result. Here's a roundup of the case in The Nation's blog.

The Nation blog quoted her as saying that "it's not a reporter's job to participate in the prosecution of her own sources. When you force a journalist to participate, you run the risk of turning the journalist into an investigative tool of the state."

She's right. There's nothing wrong with a journalist sharing the same aims as the government, in reporting on crime and malfeasance, for instance. If Watada were an accused murderer and Olson a witness, there'd have been no justification for resisting a subpoena to testify against him.

But in this instance, all Olson did was quote the man.

As I often try to explain to people -- in making them understand the problems with the SEC's subpoenas of journalists last year, for instance -- journalists can't let themselves be press-ganged into becoming junior g-men.

Fortunately, this saga seems to have a happy ending. The Honolulu Advertiser reports that the subpoenas have been dropped -- with nary a word on the affair appearing in the press.

Compare the silence on Olson with the media circus surrounding Maria Bartiromo. It's really disgraceful.

© 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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The Joys of 'Muzzling' Overstock's Critics

Responding to questions posed yesterday by Sam Antar, Overstock.com's resident stalker Judd Bagley has favored us all with a job description of his position as "director of social media." It is required reading for anyone following the increasingly bizarre Overstock saga.

As you can see, Bagley has been tasked with harassing, "muzzling" and "emasculating" critics of his boss Patrick Byrne, stalking them and planting spyware. (So as to make Byrne's critics "think twice before opening any email or following any link.")

I'm not kidding. He not only said all this, he boasted about it.

Bagley also took a stab at damage control -- to rationalize the fact that he is a walking P.R. disaster and legal liability -- by claiming that he has been trying all along to actually reduce negative attention directed at Byrne.

Obviously, if Bagley had wanted to throw himself under a bus for his boss, he would have openly run Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear site rather than cowering behind an elaborate system of phony IDs .

If that was indeed his strategy, it has been a miserable failure. Far from diverting attention from Byrne, he has done a very good job of attracting negative publicity for Overstock and his boss. There have been three negative press articles so far -- all trashing Byrne, Overstock and Bagley -- in addition to the blog spanking he is getting from myself and others ("Sleazey McSleaze.")

None of those articles would have appeared, and many of the items in this and other blogs would never have seen the light of day, were it not for Judd Bagley's good work.

What's his next spin, I wonder?

UPDATE: The following day. Byrne engaged in a desperate effort to create "deniability" and shield Overstock from liability for its corporate smear site. In the process, as usual, he just dug the ditch deeper -- admitting that Bagley has not been doing the "social networking job" for which he was supposedly hired.

The story now is that Bagley was "reassigned" the day he started work.

How about that! He's locked himself into quite a fish story, as Internet sleuth ScipioAfricanus points out.

The doubletalk ("I don't read what Sam Antar wrote, but here is a reply") is classic Byrne. Ditto for the loony ranting and paranoia, though this "tools of Satan" and "dead man's switch" stuff is over the top even by Byrne standards. He is clearly a frightened man -- and justifiably so.

P.S. Bagley has said he is trying to divert attention from Byrne. Do the above paragraphs meet that goal?

© 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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The 'I Factor' in the Bartiromo Coverage

Writing in Slate, Jack Shafer today wrestles with the "I Factor"-- "I" as in Innuendo -- in the media circus concerning Maria Bartiromo:

Delineating a friendship that includes a trans-Pacific flight alone in a corporate jet, an apparently significant sighting in an expensive restaurant, and a dressing down in which a corporate executive is told to reduce his contact with his friend of the opposite sex, all but draws the doughnut and tosses the hot dog through it.
There's another factor that hasn't been explored, which is the "J factor" -- the professional jealousy that I think is hovering beneath a lot of the coverage. Whether one likes her professional output or not (and I am not a big fan), there is no question that she has been smashingly successful. And then there is the fact that she is not terribly bad looking. Might there not be just a wee bit of jealousy behind all the media overkill?

© 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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Monday, January 29, 2007

Cozying Up to Sources

The Maria Bartiromo jet-thing just won't go away. David Carr weighs in today in the New York Times and makes an observation that caught my eye:
From the first school board meeting a young reporter covers, she learns to ally herself with the faction that has the interests of the citizenry at heart (in her estimation) and tilt that way for articles and sources.
I think it's far more common, actually, to ally oneself with the faction that happens to be controlling town government. Same principle applies to coverage of the SEC too, I've noticed.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens next, as this Maria story definitely has legs. I still think it's overblown, but after learning about the "Money Honey trademark" thing I lost a lot of sympathy for the lady.

© 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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Some Questions For Judd Bagley

Sam Antar, reformed felon and mastermind of the Crazy Eddie stock scam, has dedicated his life to repenting for his past thievery and rooting out wrongdoing. He has taken up the cause of the corporate train wreck called "Overstock.com," and has directed some perceptive questions at Overstock.com's resident stalker Judd Bagley.

The questions can be found here.

Sam left out one question that intrigues me. Bagley was hired as "director of social media" in August. That's six months ago. Apart from creating a smear website to push the personal vendettas of Patrick Byrne, what else has he done as "director of social media"? Or is that his sole job responsibility? (Apart, that is, from dreaming up fantasies for Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear site.)

Bagley, who ordinarily waxes rhapsodic on the Investor Village message boards on the weekends, responded to Sam's questions by hiding under his bed.

These are, of course, just a sample of the questions that Bagley will have to address sooner or later. Ditto for Byrne, who has been talking out of both sides of his mouth on his relationship with Bagley.

UPDATE: Byrne, interesting enough, offered up slippery responses and his usual "chewbacca" to the questions posed to his subordinate, sliming his way past the most important ones -- such as the identities of the numerous "handles" Bagley has used on the Internet.

That's not a trivial issue since some possible Bagley handles have made "forward-looking" statements about the company. Not surprised that Byrne has advised "investigative journalist" Bagley not to touch that one with a ten-foot pole.

Note that the questions were posed to Bagley, not Byrne. Yet here he is, the CEO of the company, coming on a stock message board to respond to questions about the "hobby" of his subordinate. Some "hobby." I've known top-level corporate initiatives that have drawn less enthusiastic cheerleading from the CEO than Bagley's smear campaign.

If there was any doubt about Overstock's sponsorship of, and involvement with, Bagley's activities, Byrne just laid it to rest.

I'd still like to see Bagley crawl out from under his bed and respond to Sam's questions. I'm also still anxious to hear about all the good "social media work" -- apart from the smear site, cyberstalking, spyware-planting and so on -- that Bagley has been carrying out for his boss over the past six months.

Note Sam's response. Another valid point.

The Overstock sliminess just keeps going on and on and on. It will stop someday, no doubt about it, and it won't be pretty for Overstock's shareholders.

© 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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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Here's a Real Biz Journalism Scandal

I hope the Maria Bartiromo kerfuffle brings attention to the real issues in business journalism.

For example, take a look at a memo published on the Poynter website that was sent to Dow Jones employees by their union. It observes that Dow Jones executives are demanding "staggering" increases in health care premiums while granting themselves hefty bonuses.

These bonuses are actually far from humongous when compared to some of the well-publicized largess bestowed on Bob Nardelli, Goldman Sachs, etc., but they raise an important issue (albeit one the union doesn't mention): as a result of publisher greed, journalism is increasingly a profession for the children of the independently wealthy.

Adjusted for inflation, the salary that I received at The Hartford Courant many moons ago -- to work as a cub reporter in a small city in southeastern Connecticut -- is higher than starting salaries today for small-publication financial journalists in New York City. And that's for jobs that actually pay a salary, since no-pay internships are common.

Now that is a scandal, one that effects the coverage that you see in the media, particularly the secondary outlets, every day.

UPDATE: Mind you, trademarking "Money Honey," while not scandalous, is really in the far out wastelands of bad taste. (Hat tip: Gawker).

© 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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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Overblown Maria-on-a-Jet Brouhaha


I'm having trouble getting worked up over this whole Maria Bartiromo-Citigroup-jet brouhaha. Today the New York Times had a story on the controversy on the front of its business section -- and on a hot news day, mind you. And now I see that some people are starting to call for Maria's head.

I agree that Maria may be, well..... a bit too close to one of the companies she covers. That, however, is hardly a hanging offense in journalism and in financial journalism in particular. I railed against media puffiness in Wall Street Versus America, but what troubled me was the substance of the coverage, not the ethics of the journos.

Where's the ethical issue here? Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see it. She flew around in a corporate jet, with the knowledge of her employer. (They were "preapproved" by CNBC, according to the Wall Street Journal.) She spoke to Citi clients, which I agree is not a great thing but, again, it was with the knowledge of her employer and is not against CNBC's ethical rules. Above all, she did not get paid for them.

There are plenty of reasons to get exercised over the financial press -- such as the puffiness (again that word) of much of the coverage, as exemplified by Maria's Business Week column. But flying around in somebody's jet, after full disclosure to one's employer, simply does not strike me as much of a sin.

I do see a possible issue in the 46 public appearances that Maria made on behalf of her employer in 2006. That's also not unprecedented, but seems a wee bit excessive. And again, where's the beef? Where's the effect on her coverage?

© 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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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hedge Funds Have a Shoe


Wall Street Folly reports that hedge funds are not just an expensive way not to beat the market. They are also a shoe. The Kenneth Cole New York Hedge Fund shoe is available for $159.95, exclusive of taxes, shipping and incentive fees.

This is the latest in a line of great Wall Street gifts, right up there with the Overstock.com Sith Lord Attack Action Figure Set , which will be a fine post-bankruptcy souvenir.

© 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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Sunday, January 21, 2007

NASD Members Bestow Gift Upon Themselves

Hot news over the wire this afternoon, for those eager for their Sunday regulatory news fix: NASD members have overwhelmingly approved merging their regulatory oversight with the New York Stock Exchange.

The NASD press release is entitled "NASD Member Firms Embrace Streamlined, More Efficient Regulation," and quotes NASD chief exec Mary Schapiro as saying "The securities industry has embraced replacing an outdated regulatory structure with one that better serves firms and investors in a fast-changing marketplace."

A Wall Street Journal online article (subscription required) observes that smaller firms opposed the merger, in the view that it would "weaken the voice of smaller firms within NASD." OK, but what benefits, if any, will this merger bring from an investor perspective?

As the mutual fund scandals proved, competition among regulators is a good thing. With some exceptions, such as this Bloomberg column that I mentioned some weeks back, the media has generally skipped over the negative impact of the merger on investors. Hopefully the coverage overnight will be more skeptical than we've seen in the past.

UPDATE: In an interview for the Journal edition that appeared the next day, Schapiro said "This is a great thing for our industry and investors." She did not even bother to explain how reducing the number of regulators could possibly benefit investors. The New York Times ran a brief Bloomberg story that also did not mention investor impact, which was not mentioned in the Reuters coverage eithr.

However, the AP managed to squeeze in a few words on the subject. It quoted the president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association as opining that "combining the two regulators is 'anti-investor' because it eliminates choice." Well, I guess a dozen words is better than nothing, which has been the norm in media coverage of the merger.

© 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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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Times Article on Overstalk

The New York Times today has a very good article on the Overstock.com cyberstalking campaign.

None of this is really new. Almost a year ago, Joseph Nocera of the New York Times wrote a damning column on Overstock's "campaign of menace." It described the methods Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne uses -- including anonymous proxies on the Internet -- to silence critical journalists and analysts. The latest tool in Byrne's arsenal of lies is Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear site.

After detailing Byrne's stock market conspiracy theories, which he described as "loony beyond belief," Nocera commented:

I've gone from viewing [Overstock CEO] Byrne as an amusing diversion to a menace, at least for anyone who cares about the First Amendment. What has become increasingly clear in the months since the Sith Lord speech is that Mr. Byrne is using the courts, the Internet, his taunting e-mails — and even his conspiracy theory — as part of a thinly disguised effort to squelch any and all criticism of Overstock. . . .

This is what Mr. Bryne does: along with [anonymous blogger "Bob O'Brien"], he bullies and taunts and goads the small handful of reporters who dare to write about Overstock, making it clear that there will be a price to be paid for tackling the company or its chief executive. And as a result, financial reporters have become very chary of taking him on.
That column was written months before Byrne hired a professional smear artist, a former GOP goon who has boasted about smearing a reporter in Florida, to publish lies about me and other critics of Ovestock.

Overstock.com's witch hunt against its real and imaginary enemies has gone from bad to despicable to, well . . . read this article on the new federal cyberstalking law. Bagley is sensitive to the implications of the law, as indicated in the update below.

Just one addendum to the article: the Wikipedia smear was denied not just by me, but by Wikipedia too. The rest of Bagley's smears have been systematically shredded by Internet sleuth "ScipioAfricanus." See this post, (as well as this one and this and this and. . . many others). Scipio, who apparently is a software engineer, also deserves credit for outing Bagley as operator of Overstock's antisocialmedia,net corporate smear site.

Also, the Times didn't mention Bagley's admitted use of spyware to track down critics of his boss, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. Blog items on that can be found here. All those items link mainly to Scipio's good detective work in uncovering invisible software "bugs," such as the one described here.

I see that yet another techie has begun to probe Bagley's methods. This is a good example of how citizen activists can counteract corporate Internet abusers like Bagley.

UPDATE: Reacting to the Times story, Bagley redesigned the antisocialmedia corporate smear site, added language confirming that he owned the blog, tossed in some spin and as usual, some new lies.

Bagley's aim was to belatedly turn a corporate cyberstalking site into something resembling "journalism." His obvious purpose was to avoid liability under the federal cyberstalking law, which prohibits anonymous harassment on the Internet. Before Bagley was exposed as its operator, antisocialmedia took great pains to conceal its ownership, including use of a "DomainsByProxy" registration. (See it here, before he changes it.).

But this effort to put lipstick on a pig is not going to work.

This corporate hatchet man's latest lie is that he gave me "multiple opportunities" to respond to his latest fantasies. (He doesn't even pretend to have contacted me before his previous smears.)

In fact, Bagley posted a comment in my blog less than one hour before he set forth his latest fantasies, and I was later forwarded an email he sent to another blogger called "Mediacrity" that he surmises, incorrectly, is me.

Obviously Bagley is apprehensive that he will be held accountable for running this anonymous corporate harassment and dirty tricks operation. He has every reason to be. Spin and lie and conceal as he may, I think Bagley will learn that toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube.

© 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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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bagley Spied on His Friends


Sorry, folks. I know this blog is gagging on the nauseating spectacle of the hideous Judd Bagley, Overstock.com's "social media" (i.e., cyberstalking) director. I really don't want to write so much about this pompous nonenity, but it seems that every new day brings something dreadful.

Internet sleuth "ScipioAfricanus," who first dug out Bagley's obsessive and slimy use of spyware, described today how Bagley snooped not on "enemies" of his boss Patrick Byrne but on his pals at a friendly website.

Bagley has been posting on a message board called "Wikipedia Review," which is highly critical of Wikipedia. Posing as a critic of Wikipedia, Bagley received a friendly reception as he pushed the "stock counterfeiting" cause and boasted about harassing unpopular Wiki administrators.

In early September, just as he was getting all comfy in his job as Byrne's "director of social media" (i.e., as operator of Overstock.com antisocialmedia.net corporate smear site) Bagley inserted spyware in a Wiki Review web posting. The spyware "bug" snooped on people clicking on the posts, and linked to a Bagley-related enterprise.

The details are in Scipio's posts here and here.

Meanwhile, Bagley continued to dig the shovel in deeper overnight, with posts such as this one, in which he boasted about hacking into Yahoo's message board system.

Bagley also started hounding, threatening, stalking, and sending spyware to a user critical of him at the Investor Village message board. ("Got what I need," bragged the refreshingly conscience-free corporate henchman.) IV's operators, not the brightest bulbs in the pack, acted quickly-- by revoking the victim's messaging privileges.

It's not only getting worse and worse, it is getting sicker and sicker, and increasingly off the charts from a legal perspective. (It moved way off the "unethical" meter long ago.) And I'm sorry to say that there will be more Tales of Judd to tell in coming days and week. They're nauseating, I know. But keep repeating to yourself "this is an officer of a public company, acting with the blessing of his CEO," and it will keep the bile down. For a while at least.

Oh, when I say there will be more Tales of Judd -- that's not speculation.

UPDATE: Internet sleuth "ScipioAfricanus" later found that a suspiciously Bagleyesque denizen of Wikipedia Review was traceable back to Bagley's business partner, Provo Labs. Read about it here.

© 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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A Firing Offense


Overstock.com CEO/conspiracy theorist/short-and-analyst suer/journalist-taunter/Worst CEO-wannabe and stalking aficionado Patrick Byrne told Donny Deutsch on CNBC last night that it is a firing offense at his fast-sinking company to mention the stock price.

Gee, I wonder why that is? Can anyone take a guess?

Byrne seemed subdued and pro forma in his tired recitation of "stock market IOU" and "the sky is falling" nonsense. I wonder if even he believes any of that garbage anymore.

© 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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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Bad Or Good Year For Hedge Funds?

A story that moved over the Reuters wire last night suggests that 2006 was a pretty good year for hedge funds:

Hedge funds that specialize in emerging markets rose 20.49 percent in 2006, according to new data, reminding investors of the out-sized returns that made these loosely regulated portfolios famous just a few years ago. . . . Overall, the average hedge fund returned 13.86 percent, a little more than the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index of large stocks, which rose 13.6 percent.
Reuters source for this was Credit Suisse's Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Index. But then we read that "Last week, Hedge Fund Research Inc., the first company to report industry data, said the average hedge fund gained 12.99 percent."

So which is it? 13.86% or 12.99%? That's a significant difference, when you consider the sums of money involved.

In fact, Reuters didn't report that the Hennessee Hedge Fund Indices showed an even lower number for average fund performance, 11.36%. Hennessee found that emerging market funds climbed 13.18%, a staggering seven percentage points lower than the Credit Suisse/Tremont numbers.

Reuters also didn't report that the Hennessee numbers showed that just 21% of hedge funds beat the S&P 500. Or, to put it another way, that 79% didn't beat the market. I think that is pretty significant, particularly when you consider that none of the fund styles in the Hennessee index managed to beat the market.

In years like this, fund managers scoff at the S&P as a proper benchmark and say that they focus on "risk adjusted returns" and "absolute returns." A gent from the fund industry made that point last night, in a discussion I had with him on CNBC's On the Money. But in years when they beat the market, hedge funds embrace the S&P to their collective bosom.

The media, I think, needs to be a bit more forthright in reporting on hedge fund industry performance. The press needs to emphasize that none of the hedge fund indexes are particularly reliable, as their contradictory numbers indicate. That's because only hedge funds that wish to do so actually report their performance. That may skew the results positively, or negatively, but I am sure that it does skew the indexes.

© 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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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Overstock CEO Expounds on the Joys of Cyberstalking

Over the long weekend, while normal people relaxed, Overstock.com stalker-in-residence Judd Bagley and his out-of-control boss Patrick Byrne dug themselves deeper into the cyberstalking scandal that they have created for themselves and their shareholders.

Bagley boasted about spying on Internet critics (also see this post and this one), and Byrne yanked closely the umbilical chord that binds him with Bagley's stalking-and-lying site, antisocialmedia.net. Here Bagley pretty much confesses to have sent a spyware-infected private message to Internet sleuth "ScipioAfricanus." Nice work, Judd!

More on Bagley's links to spyware-infected Internet messaging can be found in this neat bit of sleuthing. It is now increasingly obvious that the planting of invisible spyware codes in message board posts, which I described a few days ago, was carried out by Bagley.

Byrne's revelations came in two waves. First came his "cyberstalking is citizen journalism and journalists are evil corporations" rant on Jan. 13. When that was found to contain a real whopper of a contradiction, Byrne came back with a post on Jan. 14.

Blabbermouth that he is, Byrne did a nice job of confirming that Bagley's job is to run antisocialmedia:

Does Judd Bagley primarily work from Overstock.com facilities? STRANGE GUY, KEEPS HIS OWN HOURS, COMES IN SOME NIGHTS, STAYS AWAY FOR DAYS.
I would love to be a fly on the wall at the deposition sessions that I am sure are in his future. More evidence that Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear site is Bagley's full-time job can be found here.

Byrne then ducked and weaved and contradicted what he had said in the past. The Aug. 8 reference is particularly damning, as "ipfrelee" was an Internet handle Bagley cringed behind earlier in the year. So, what have we here? Byrne spoke to Bagley about his cyberstalking on Aug. 8, hired the same cyberstalker to be a vice president a few days later, and (to quote what he said on Dec. 23) didn't "technically" know who ran antisocialmedia!

(Aside to the SEC: As Byrne would say, "Is this bad?")

Byrne also promised to send email spams to Overstock's hapless customers about an upcoming TV sound bite.

The same Internet sleuth who did all the great work linked above, "ScipioAfricanus," has found disturbing evidence tying Bagley's spyware-planting to Provo Labs of Utah, whose CEO Paul Allen is widely known in the Utah biz community. Provo Labs bought Bagley's "Big Idea" PR firm early in 2006.

In his Jan. 14 IV post, Byrne went out of his way to say that he has never even heard of Provo Labs! I'm convinced. Aren't you? Provo Labs has absolutely, positively nothing to do with Bagley's corporate-blessed critic-stalking, even though one of the spyware-infected message board postings linked directly to a Provo Labs blog.

Last but not least, Bagley posted a message on my blog (not published, of course, but preserved for posterity), reciting lies that he was imminently posting about my wife and then saying: "I again invite you to open a dialog that will allow us to settle our differences. This is getting pretty silly, I trust you'll agree. Judd."

In other words, "shut the f--- up, Weiss, or we'll post more lies about you and we won't stop at you. We'll go after your family."

I'd say Bagley has been watching The Godfather one too many times.

Note the resemblance to an anonymous threat that I posted about a few months ago, as well as an extortionate post by Bagley on a Yahoo message board in December. The message has been nuked by Yahoo, which has no tolerance for cyberstalking, but was replicated here:

"But the fact remains: his bad behavior needs to stop, and at some point, fire must be fought with fire...So, prior to the publication of Part Two on 12/20, we again ask Gary Weiss to engage us in a meaningful dialog. Please contact me at: antisocialmedia@gmail.com"
"Bad behavior" meaning, of course, criticism of Bagley's employer, Patrick Byrne.

It just keep going on and on and on and on..... Every time they open their big mouths, they blurt out something incriminating. Watching Byrne and Bagley dig themselves in deeper is like the fat lady at the carnival: it would almost be amusing if it wasn't so ugly.

Food for thought: this is a hobby blog, one that I write for my own amusement and as a diversion from real work. As you can see, it has driven Byrne over the edge. How is he going to react when the real investigators get on his case? And here's still more to consider.

UPDATE: Later in the day, Bagley made an appearance in the comments section of Dealbreaker.com, and brought his big mouth with him:
Gary's blog is now about me, leaving Bob O'Brien and Patrick Byrne to skip along undistracted. Hell, I'll take one or two for the team, and keep on feeding them the same rope they'll soon find themselves even more profoundly tangled up in. [emphasis added]
In other words, all the stuff about antisocialmedia being separate and apart from Overstock is what it appears to be, which is total bull. Bagley acted in concert with others, Patrick Byrne and Phil Saunders a/k/a "Bob O'Brien," in pursuit of his criminal cyberstalking and harassment enterprise.

Correction: In an early version of this item I inaccurately referred to Bagley as a "vice president" of Overstock.com. He is not. I apologize to all the people holding the title "vice president" in corporate America

© 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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Monday, January 15, 2007

Another Fund Wrist Slap

Chuck Jaffe of Marketwatch has a great story on the absurd wrist slap that was meted out last week by the Securities and Exchange Commission to former Putnam Investments boss Lawrence Lasser in a serious mutual fund pay-for-play case.

Says Jaffe: "The Lasser case was seen as a step up in enforcement, a sign that regulators wanted top managers to know that their necks are on the line. Forget about it: The settlement amounted to $75,000, a one-fingered slap on the wrist. "

That's an absurdity. As I pointed out in a New York Times op-ed article a few months ago, the feds need to make Wall Streeters feel pain when they break the law. "Pain from laughing too hard" is not what I had in mind.

© 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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Friday, January 12, 2007

Judd Bagley Fesses Up

UPDATE: Judd Bagley copped a plea to eight felony forgeries in April 2013. See "Closing the File on a Criminal and Junkie Named Judd Bagley," March 30, 2015, describing his arrest and conviction for repeatedly forging a doctor's name on prescriptions.

Overstock.com's director of social media Judd Bagley, motivated by Lord knows what, admitted last night that he runs the anonymous cyberstalking site antisocialmedia.net.

Wow. That was faster than I expected. The Internet sleuths who smoked out this nightcrawler and professional liar should be congratulated.

Only one question arises in my mind: What laws were broken? Not "were laws broken?" but "what were the laws that were broken?" The new federal cyberstalking law comes to mind, obviously, but what others? Regulation FD is another good possibility, given the ASM Lie Machine was created after Bagley became a corporate officer. (And speaking of corporate disclosure, shouldn't Overstock file an 8-K disclosing its involvement in ASM?)

Bagley is trying hard to distance himself from his employer, Patrick Byrne, who brought him on as "director of social media" in August with all the fanfare that you and I would use in buying a can of Raid cockroach spray. Nice try, but too late. Byrne himself promoted the site and contributed to it, and has indicated that he has advance knowledge of its disclosures. Once again, Byrne's big mouth has landed him in deep doo-doo.

Putting a name behind a smear won't help when it comes to that cyberstalking law, which bans anonymous stalking on the Internet. Not now. Too late for that too. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

Even retracting his lies, and admitting that they've been refuted (such as his oft-repeated Wikipedia lie, which was denied by Wiki founder Jimbo Wales), would be a nice gesture but won't get him off the hook. Again, too late.

Further lies, such as saying that I and others are "criminals" as he did last night, just make the noose tighter. Cybersleuths are already ripping last night's lies to shreds. The time for lies is over. Bagley's admission that he is ASM, after months of cringing behind pseudonyms and anonymous registrations like the coward that he is, is only a first step.

Remember also that there is a lot more than ASM involved here. There is a pattern of intimidation, threats, harassment, invasion of privacy and, as revealed yesterday, implanting of spyware in message board posts. Click here for my posts on this increasingly bizarre corporate chicanery.

As you can see, Bagley is in trouble, and he is not the only one by a long shot. Byrne, and others I am sure, need to be held accountable for their actions. My advice is that Bagley go to the authorities, now, and try something new for a change: tell the truth. This is not a time for spin. The authorities won't expect anything less. He owes that to his wife and kids.

And down the road, if he ever wants to tell the story of the most clumsily executed corporate smear campaign since General Motors stalked Ralph Nader, I'll be happy to talk to him.

Meanwhile, I am reminded of a line from those old British crime movies: "Officer, do your duty."

Dealbreaker's headline sums up the rather self-evident character of the recent tidings: "Sleazey McSleaze Admits To Sleaziness."

But Bagley is just a side issue. Here is a question that is worth pondering:

Byrne said the following on the Investor Village Overstock message board on Dec. 23:

I am not behind antisocialmedia.com, offer it no support, it has nothing to do with overstock. Technically, I do not "know" who out there is behind it (the person who is behind it has made an effort to shield me from that knowledge), though admittedly, I have a very good idea.
Of course, we now know that at the time he said that, his "vice president for social media" was running ASM. As Byrne would put it, is that bad? Or as I would put it, is that a material misrepresentation under the securities laws?

I don't know the answer. But that's a good question, I would think.

UPDATE: Two subsequent developments confirm my thesis that Bagley and Byrne are in deep, deep trouble -- much greater trouble than they may know.

The first is a post at Investors Village from Patrick Byrne that embraces Bagley's antisocialmedia, showing it to be the corporate smear machine that it is. Along the way, Byrne dissembles (as usual) about the circumstances of ASM's creation.

The next is the usual anonymous Judd Bagley fairy tale and collection of lies, hinging on a "letter to the State Department" that somebody supposedly wrote on behalf of my wife to obtain residency in this country. Lurid, but, as usual from Sleazey McSleaze, a lie. Her permanent status application was based on marriage, not employment, and no such letter was ever requested or necessary.

Now, there was indeed a very serious immigration scandal, involving the wife of another correspondent. This has received widespread publicity, and apparently was twisted by Bagley to conform with Byrne's obsessions.

After the ASM's latest lies went online, Bagley appeared on the IV board in a series of bizarre posts, including this one in which he merrily gloated about mastering bigger and better spyware and invasion of privacy techniques. (His pals and sockpuppets did him one better, with the latest of series of death threats directed at me -- here's its former location. IV deleted it, but, as usual, took no action against the creep who posted it.)

Oh well. This is Overstock, after all, a company whose CEO is a habitual liar, and who employs lies and lying liars/stalkers like McSleaze as an essential part of his business plan.

In Byrne's world, anonymous stalkers are "citizen journalists" and his abysmal performance as CEO is replaced by a fantasy land, in which his many critics are the bad guys who have, I suppose, sucked the life out of his company. Them, not him. What a sad, sick world in which he lives.

© 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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Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Fallout From Overstalk


The Patrick Byrne-Judd Bagley circus is becoming more grotesque by the minute. It now seems that pals of Overstock.com's clownish CEO have been planting spyware in posts in the Investor Village Overstock message board, to snoop on people who wander by just to read IV posts.

This is not speculation -- it's a cold, hard fact that becomes obvious if you closely examine a whole bunch of IV posts.

Seems that cyberstalkers planted invisible "web bug tracking images" in IV messages that transmit back the IP addresses of people reading the posts. They can then presumably be transmitted back to Bagley's antisocialmedia.net smear website, for whatever use will satisfy Byrne's craving for lies about his critics. This can happen on IV because its software allows customers to put images in their posts, which can be abused by cyberstalkers to hide spyware.

Read all about it in posts here, here and here.

The third "here" describes how the software "bugs" track back to outside parties, three of which are traceable directly to Bagley, based on the use of the same code as Bagley's blog. This post describes how another would-be spyware-planter revealed a link to yet another Bagley-related outfit. (The links in the post were swiftly deleted after appearance of this item -- see update.)

All this spyware was planted after Bagley became Overstock's "director of social media," but before it was revealed that he runs the "antisocialmedia" cyberstalking site.

This is top notch computer forensic detective work. But read these posts fast, just in case IV's harebrained management listens to Bagley/Byrne or their pals and nukes the posts for "clogging" or some other shabby pretext.

The legality of such software "bugs" is questionable at best. Investor Village, no doubt anxious to repair the damage to its reputation -- after knuckling under to pressure by removing posts critical of Byrne -- will certainly act quickly to put an end to this activity, and kick out cyberstalkers who abuse its site.

Or at least I hope so. If past is precedent, the cyberstalking will continue to be tolerated by one of the most irresponsible message board proprietors I have ever stumbled upon.

But dealing with a few message board cockroaches is the easy stuff. More difficult is what this says about Overstock's nonexistent corporate ethics and laughable board oversight, and how Overstock's beleaguered shareholders have yet one other ticking time bomb to worry about.

UPDATE: The spyware-infected IV posts linked in this post mentioned earlier were deleted by IV's crackerjack management shortly after this item appeared. However, they are available (here, for instance) from Google Cache for viewing by those of us lacking subpoena power.

By the way, if IV really wants to implement a zero-tolerance policy toward cyberstalking, the idea is to nip it in the bud, not to delete embarrassing evidence.

(A few weeks later, it was discovered that Bagley had been planting spyware in posts on the Silicon Investor messge boards. See an analysis posted here.)

© 2006 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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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Is Dick Grasso a Tax Cheat?


New York City tax authorities are piling on Dick Grasso, the New York Post reports. They are claiming that he is a New York City resident, and that he owes $1.8 million in penalties and an unspecified sum in back taxes.

I can't blame city authorities for seeking their pound of flesh from the much-sued Grasso, but this strikes me as a tenuous claim at best. He did have an apartment in Tribeca, but actually moved out of the city to a succession of increasingly lush North Shore residences many years ago. He also has a summer house in the East End of Long Island.

I've never seen any of those dwellings, but as a longtime New Yorker myself I seriously doubt that Grasso spent more than the requisite 183 days in the city, given the alternatives. I sure wouldn't, if I had a North Shore mansion etc. etc.

© 2006 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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Monday, January 08, 2007

Bob Nardelli's $211 Million Parting Gift

I have a theory about why such corporate atrocities take place. Jack Welch believes CEOs are paid as they are because of they are scarce, like athletes and rock stars.

I quote another expert.

Read all about it in Salon.

© 2006 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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Another Overstock Critic Silenced

Overstock.com's Patrick Byrne and loyal flack Judd Bagley are obviously feeling the heat over last week's revelation that Overstock is behind a smear site called antisocialmedia.net. They've just silenced the Internet sleuth who has tied Bagley-Byrne to antisocialmedia--a slimy relationship that could be devastating for Overstock.

The Internet sleuth in question goes by the name of "scipioafricanus," and all of this person's posts have been removed en masse, in Stalinesque fashion, from the Investor Village message board. Since IV hasn't removed the dozens of posts by Bagley (via peseudonyms), Byrne and their pals, mostly hysterical personal attacks on myself and others, it is reasonable to conclude that Byrne and/or Bagley have screamed bloody murder. It is particularly reasonable since Byrne's antisocialmedia stalker site has recently targeted message board posters, as the Post story pointed out.

This same sleuth has since shown that Bagley posted Internet messages under various IDs ("veg-o-matic" was one) showing prejudice against Jews, Mexicans and others. (I'd post links to more of his bizarre yammering, but the posts containing them were deleted by Yahoo, no doubt at Bagley's insistence). The net sleuth also traced his Internet smear campaign in 1999 and 2000 against a Florida reporter who wrote tough articles about his then-boss. Bagley has not denied the former, and responded to the latter by gloating about it.

IV's action is odd indeed for supposedly neutral message board, but apparently IV is seeking a franchise as a free-fire zone for stock touts and stalkers, undeterred by skeptics and dissenters. For example, a death threat ("you ought to be put out of your misery") against Scipio remains on Investor Village. Scip's typically civil response was erased. Ditto for attacks on me and others.

Byrne can now spew hate and lies about his critics, and generally behave like a clown, without fear of contradiction -- something that hardly benefits his shareholders, who have suffered from his inattention. The same goes for other cranks who parrot Byrne's lies, such as this idiot--who can now repeat the "Wikipedia lie" without Scipio to explain that it has been denied by Wikipedia.

Byrne is, of course, always vigorous when it comes to silencing dissent, and his desire to cover his tracks is understandable. Barron's pointed out today that Medifast CEO Bradley T. MacDonald was fired for Internet activity far more benign than Byrne's and Bagley's:

More recently, Barron's has learned, Medifast's board has become concerned about Internet postings, under the name bradmed@verizon.net, in support of Medifast on the Yahoo! Finance message board. People in a position to know say that this is a pseudonym and that MacDonald was the author of these messages.

Barron's reported that "company directors reprimanded MacDonald in mid-December after learning of a Barron's inquiry into the postings, and told him to stop posting messages, fearing, among other things, that this could violate 'fair disclosure' regulations."

That's what happens at a normal board of directors, by the way, as opposed to the collection of Byrne cronies on the Overstock board.

Barron's continued:

But even if a CEO weren't disclosing private company information, corporate governance experts say failure to identify himself as an executive of the company could be a problem. "In a worst-case scenario, it could be considered a fraud on the market if you are giving incomplete information and in my mind it is incomplete per se if you don't say where it is coming from by hiding your identity," says Nell Minow, editor and co-founder of The Corporate Library, a corporate governance group.
I wonder if a company "aiding and supporting" (to quote the Post) a vicious, lying, cyberstalking website violates Regulation FD--and a slew of other securities laws?

It obviously violates any semblance of morality and corporate ethics, but hey, this is Overstock.com!

UPDATE: Reacting to this blog item, Investor Village reinstated Scipio's posts, and IV's Ralph Kidd denied that IV had deleted the messages under pressure from Bagley and/or Byrne. (Well, sort of denied. Kidd used the words, "to my knowledge.") According to Kidd, Scipio's messages were wiped out en masse supposedly under pressure not (to his knowledge) from Bagley or Byrne but from Bagley's/Byrne's supporters, who called Scipio's posts "clogging." Without bothering to look into the matter further, but just caving in to a bunch of jugheads on a message board, IV just deleted all the posts.

It's hard to believe that any message board operator would be quite so craven and irresponsible. It is, to say the least, hard to believe, and frankly I don't (Kidd's fibs about his contacts with me not enhancing his credibility). But this does explain why IV is Patrick Byrne's favorite message board, one that he prefers to post in more than his own.

Bottom line: Scip has been forced by this ham-handed action to curtail his posts to the Overstock board. Byrne and Bagley can now lie to their heart's contend, with Scipio handcuffed. If Kidd truly is not interested in running a cyberstalker board, he will show a little backbone and allow Scipio to respond to Byrne's and Bagley's lies in the forum where they spew them.

© 2006 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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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More 'Strategic Messaging' From Judd Bagley


An Internet sleuth has tracked down Overstock.com's Judd Bagley early foray into "strategic messaging" -- skills that he has since put at the disposal of his money-losing employers.

Follow the links here, if you have a strong stomach, to see Bagley digging for dirt on a Florida investigative reporter who had written negative stories about his then-boss, Cynthia Henderson, who was the controversial (to put it mildly) head of Florida's Department of Business and Professional Affairs.

Here's an Internet post from 2000 that, as you can see from the links, have been traced directly to Bagley:

"The word in Tallahassee is that the Tampa Tribune fired M--- P---...the reporter whose writing has provided them with the lion's share of their editorial fodder.

They say it happened because she physically struck J--- W---, her bureau chief."
Mind you, this smear was being spread after this reporter had already been fired and was no longer a danger to Bagley's employer.

Some months before this happened, Bagley went to an Internet newsgroup to heap abuse on this reporter. Then an anonymous email address engaged in an Internet smear campaign against this same reporter. A coincidence, I presume.

The mentality at work in this unrestrained smearing can be found in a Bagley Internet post in 2002, in which Bagley says that libel "only applies to reporters." An amazingly ignorant, and telling, comment. And then there's this one, in which he shared his homicidal fantasies concerning a hedge fund manager who fell afoul of Patrick Byrne.

I'd say Overstock shareholders are getting their money's worth in the "strategic messaging" department. Too bad Overstock can't devote the same energy to turning a profit.

UPDATE: Bagley later materialized on a Yahoo message board and, with characteristic malice, slimed that same reporter again. In the best "strategic messaging" tradition, he left out some minor details -- that the reporting was fair and accurate, and that the Florida pol in question was reassigned under fire and was later the subject of an unflattering Vanity Fair article.

Bagley later confessed to running Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear site. See this subsequent post.

© 2006 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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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Overstock.com=Overstalk.com?

Today, the New York Post gives a name and an address -- Overstock.com -- to a particularly grimy anonymous Internet stalker.

The stalker in question is a slick, professionally designed website called antisocialmedia.net, and it has posted grotesque, paranoid, convoluted lies about me and other critics of Overstock.com in a sneering, menacing, "we're going to crush you" kind of way. I described one of its fairy tales here.

Antisocialmedia recently began hounding private citizens whose sole offense is criticizing Overstock and its grotesque CEO Patrick Byrne.

Despite this site's careful attempts to guard its anonymity, the Post was not fooled:
Internet retailer Overstock.com's war against its critics is taking an ugly new twist, as a Web site aided and supported by its management is leveling sharp charges against two Internet message board posters.
A few days ago I described how Internet sleuths had tracked that site to Overstock.com "director of social media" Judd Bagley. Byrne himself provided corroboration, by responding with a carefully worded non-denial when asked if the site was run by Bagley.

This corporate smear campaign is a kind of clumsy, low-rent version of General Motor's effort to harass, stalk and discredit Ralph Nader in the sixties.

Anonymously harassing people over the Internet is a federal crime -- even when, as in this instance, the anonymous stalkers are cowering behind a sheet of cellophane.

GM wounding up eating crow, apologizing to Nader and paying damages. Given the miserable state of Overstock's business, as reflected in its share price, I doubt that there will be much left of Overstock when the smoke clears -- except the stench.

UPDATE: On Jan. 3 the market reacted to the Post's revelations with a hearty 6.5% tumble. Meanwhile, the "Overstalk" website came out with another fairy tale, this one concerning my wife. Evidently the Overstalkers took a real UN correspondent scandal and changed the names to suit Byrne's vendetta. The real story can be found here.

Bagley later confessed to running Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear site. See this subsequent post.

© 2006 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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