Monday, October 29, 2007

The 'Thousand Clowns' Principle

I call it the "Thousand Clowns Principle," based on the Herb Gardner stage play and movie of that name from the 1960s. There's a famous line in that movie about apologies, which I have modified to the simple, "The most that you can expect from life is an apology."

That brings me to the corporate clown, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, who is being roasted alive in Utah for not apologizing for his comment that he thinks minority kids who don't graduate from high school should be "burned."

That was an incredibly dumb comment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that his own marketing director was a high school dropout. (Of course, her being Caucasian, I guess that doesn't count.)

There are two possibilities:

1. He meant it.
2. He didn't mean it.

If he meant it, then, well, forget about an apology. But if he didn't mean it, if it was just hyperbole or rhetorical excess, then he should have no problem apologizing.

The third possibility, that he didn't say it, is not possible because he did. Here is a video of him saying it.

Byrne being Byrne, he takes the position that he didn't say it. As in the old Groucho Marx joke, "What are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?"

No surprise here.

Byrne has always lied when backed into a corner or even when not backed into a corner. His lies and deceptions have been chronicled by Sam Antar. Also, he has never apologized for his company's stalking and smear campaign against critics (which came with his blessing, so he could hardly apologize for it), or for his nutty "Sith Lord" comment, or for being a generally lousy CEO.

Nor has he apologized for calling Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a "cracker" and a "gangster."

Or for the mud he has slung at every member of the media, ranging from Bethany McLean of Fortune to Joe Nocera of the New York Times to Roddy Boyd of the New York Post to Herb Greenberg of Marketwatch to moi, who hasn't covered his butt with kisses.

Most CEOs would have long since been discharged for behaving like such a buffoon, but most companies don't have quite so supine a board of directors.

Time and time again, he has proven that he is precisely the kind of person that you want on your side in a campaign: by speaking out for the other side.

What's different from the past is that this time Byrne's target is not his critics or non-existent conspirators but the people of Utah, the majority, who don't like school vouchers.

One blog's reaction, entitled "You May As Well Burn These Bridges," was typical:

I'm no expert, but you'd think a sliver of humble pie would go a long way to retain the trust of your shareholders, not to mention keep you from looking like an unapologetic executive who answers to no one. That is not the way to become a trusted, influential company.
The problem is just that: he is an "unapologetic executive who answers to no one."

No one, that is, except his customers. Here's a comment from one of them:

You know, I’m pleased that Patrick Byrne refused to apologize for his comments. Many times whites apologize for racist comments to merely apease the black community; however, he has shown that he really doesn’t care what we want. Thanks Mr. Byrne, continue to stand firm in your convictions, as will I. I will no longer shop on your website, nor will my friends.
© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The 'Social Contract' Breached

John Edwards, injecting some life into an otherwise stultifying presidential campaign, gave a speech yesterday that actually made sense.

Edwards called for renewing the “social contract” between business and government if elected president. Here's a link to the text. Note what he says under "Demand Corporate Responsibility." I like it.

All meaningless rhetoric, naturally, but it's pleasing to hear some meaningless candidate rhetoric that is actually meaningful. Edwards said nothing new, but the fact that he said it -- while the other candidates say nothing or mime "supply side" blather -- is refreshing.

Sure he hasn't got an icicle's chance in hell of being elected, but his proposals are intriguing and should be studied. They won't be, but they should be.


© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Patrick Byrne: 'You May As Well Burn Those Kids'


Herr Byrne pontificates on kids, and the burning thereof

Overstock.com's SEC-investigated CEO Patrick Byrne knows a lot about burning cash-- his money-losing company is an expert at that. But Byrne apparently confuses burning cash with burning kids.

And not just any kids. Poor Hispanic, Native American and African-American kids. They're down on their luck. They can't finish high school.

Burn them!

As he continues his charm offensive in Utah, where the lifelong bachelor is campaigning for school vouchers -- yesterday he called voucher opponents "bigots" -- Byrne has brought a refreshing Hitlerian tone to the voucher debate.

Dissatisfied with driving away potential supporters by using smear tactics, Byrne has decided to pull out all the stops and really alienate them.

Here are his exact words in a TV appearance, brought to my attention by an alert Utah reader:
Right now 40% of Utah minorities are not graduating high school. You may as well burn those kids. That's the end of their life in any signif... that's the end of their ability to achieve in this society. If they do not get a high school education, you just might as just throw the kids away.
Here's a Youtube video, so you can see for yourself.

I guess that's easy enough to say when you're the son of an insurance industry executive, and have never had to work a day in your life. Just burn the underclass. Useless people. Untermenschen.

I have no idea if Byrne really believes that people such as that don't have the right to live. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if he did. (This kind of thing makes me wonder. Who's writing his scripts: Judd Bagley?)

Byrne's millions may allow him to buy this voucher election, but it won't buy him a whit of common sense, or any of the integrity or emotional maturity that most people get without spending a dime.

UPDATE: The local NAACP has demanded an apology. Byrne responded with the same obfuscations that, I expect, he'll be directing toward the SEC as its formal investigation of him and Overstock proceeds.

My advice to Byrne: stick to not selling toasters.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Patrick Byrne Wows 'Em in Utah

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne took time out from defending himself from a formal SEC investigation to weigh in on an upcoming Utah ballot initiative on school vouchers.

Being a childless bachelor. a product of privilege and private schools who has never had to work a day in his life, he has really wowed the good working people of Utah, as you can imagine.

Byrne being Byrne, he immediately has begun his reverse-Dale Carnegie act, making enemies and alienating people. His latest gaffe is smearing opponents of the initiative -- 60% of Utahans, according to recent polls -- as "bigots."

I rank that right up there with the time he almost had a fistfight with a lobbyist, after the Utah state legislature revoked his pet naked short selling bill.

It will be interesting to see if Byrne, who is pouring his ancestral wealth into the voucher jihad, will be able to buy this election. If so, it will give him a possible second career after Overstock collapses. Perhaps he can buy himself a seat on the Salt Lake Board of Education? Stay tuned.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 22, 2007

Carmen Electra and the Penny Stock Companies

AOL blogger Zac Bissonnette has a terrific post this morning about former Playboy centerfold and Baywatch star Carmen Electra. Seems she has been climbing into bed, metaphorically speaking, with some penny stock companies.

Oops! Bad move. As Zac points out, "Associating with the targets of SEC investigations can be a career-killer." And an illustrious career at that.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , ,

Holding Patrick Byrne's Feet to the Fire

Fraud-fighter Sam Antar has an offer to Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne that you can bet that he can't refuse. He has written an open letter to Byrne that is worth perusing.

Sam, who is much in demand as a speaker by business and law enforcement groups, will be giving a talk to the financial fraud unit of the Utah Attorney General's office in Salt Lake City on Oct. 31.

Since he will be in the Overstock neighborhood, Sam has issued a challenge to Byrne, one that I am sure that Byrne will instantly accept.

Sam wants Byrne to face off with him, mano-a-mano, without handlers or lawyers or spin doctors or any of Byrne's retinue of camp followers, in a meeting with the SEC, which is conducting a formal investigation of Byrne and Overstock.

Byrne has been ducking Sam's pointed questions about his questionable accounting, contradictory and false public statements, and blatant violations of the company's code of ethics for months. Indeed, Byrne's shills -- led by a creep called Evren Karpak who was later put on the Overstock payroll -- got Sam tossed off the Investor Village message board for asking those questions.

Let's see if Byrne has the guts to answer Sam's questions in front of the SEC, on the record, waiving immunity.

Hey, if he has nothing to fear, if he has done nothing wrong, he'll jump at the chance!

Sam also offers to meet with Overstock's house stalker, Judd Bagley, for a similar faceoff in front of the SEC:

Perhaps, your Director of Communications, Judd Bagley, will agree to a separate meeting with the SEC and me, too? I would be willing to stay an extra day in Salt Lake City to hear his unfiltered explanation of the issues that I have raised with the SEC. I am quite sure that the SEC wants to hear his answers to my questions, without coaching, too.


Seems like a golden opportunity for this corporate chamber pot to empty its contents in an appropriate forum.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Good Guy Wins, A Bad Company Loses

For some years I've been following the activities of an Internet sleuth named Floyd Schneider, who has been conducting painstaking research on bad stocks and rotten CEOs since the 1990s. I chronicled the exploits of Floyd and other citizen activists in Business Week and also in Wall Street Versus America.

So I'm delighted to read that Floyd's No. 1 target, Xybernaut, has received the attention that it deserves from our securities watchdogs. The feds yesterday announced that the company was the subject of a massive stock swindle orchestrated by the then-chairman and vice-chairman of the company. Here is a Bloomberg article on the indictment.

Note that the time frame covered by the indictment is 2001 to 2005, when Floyd's Internet investigation of the company was at its height.

Floyd's No. 1 target today is the corporate chamber pot Overstock.com, which has made him a target of cyberstalking by Overstock's house stalker Judd Bagley. In an item on Overstock's antisocialmedia.net corporate smear site, Floyd's focus on Xybernaut was highlighted.

Birds of a feather stink together, as the old saying goes.

Speaking of stench: whatever happened to the SEC's formal investigation of Overstock and its CEO, Patrick Byrne? I have a hunch, but I'll keep that to myself for now.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

The MOASS That Never Was


The world of baloney was all agog in recent days because of the approach of Oct. 15 -- today. This was the day that all the many "grandfathered fails to deliver" were supposed to be closed out under a nonsensical bit of rulemaking called Reg. SHO.

That sounds like a lot of irrelevant gobbledygook, and it is. To sum up several tons of baloney into a few words: the stock market conspiracy types (in stuff like this and this) were expecting that their massive "scandal" would result in a huge upward move in the markets today. This was a central event, a kind of Bastile Day, to the inept CEOs and penny stock types who promote this discredited cause.

Well, guess what, folks? There was a big move in the market today: downward, in all stocks including the stock market conspiracy cult stocks. Doggies like Overstock.com actually fell. Overstock was down 3%. Novastar Financial, a favorite of Internet huckster Phil Saunders a/k/a "Bob O'Brien," was down 1%.

Saunders is a former used medical equipment salesman who uses his shilling expertise to convince investors that a massive market conspiracy -- and not poor corporate results -- causes bad stocks to perform badly. He uses a pseudonym -- his real name was revealed by the New York Post some months ago -- in order to avoid taking responsibility for his bad advice.

As usual, the baloney peddlers have been proven wrong with their predictions of a MOASS ("mother of all short squeezes"). But don't worry. The excuse machine is churning away, and a new fairy tale will soon replace the old one.

UPDATE: D-Day having been a dud, the latest word from delicatessen-land is that the date of the big MOASS has been rescheduled for 35 days from now. Stay tuned.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: ,

A New Approach to Investigative Journalism

In discussing Mark Cuban's Sharesleuth insider-trading website -- a project that really sticks in my craw for a number of reasons -- I've lamented how no public-spirited rich guy has stepped up to the plate to offer a real investigative journalism website for the public interest, not private profit.

Well, that has happened. The New York Times reports today that an organization named ProPublica has been established, to offer investigative reporting for magazines and newspapers.

The public-spirited rich people are Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation. The Sandlers deserve a standing ovation from journalists everywhere for doing this, and creating a nonprofit operation in the public interest.

It's too bad that Cuban, in creating Sharesleuth, decided to create that supposed "investigative journalism" project to rake in a few extra bucks, masking his greed by calling that a "new business model."

I think ProPublica is an outstanding idea, and may well be the only really good news to come out of the journalism profession in... oh, I don't know.... fifteen years? Twenty?

ProPublica has a tough road ahead. As I recall from my brief tenure in the news syndication biz in the early eighties, newspapers and magazines are notoriously reluctant to punlidh investigative and enterprise stories from outside sources.

I note that my former boss Steve Shepard was quoted in the Times article. The reporter should have asked him how many outside stories we ran at Business Week. The answer, of course, was zero.

However, ProPublica will do fine as long as it is willing to swallow that, and accepts that some of its best work may be relegated to its own website. If so, that will reflect on the news business, not ProPublica.

UPDATE: A journalist I know wrote in with an interesting comment, which I'm quoting below with his permission:

Must say: I disagree with you about ProPublica... I think the venture will end up patronizing journalists. Are we now all charity cases? In the future will we all be working for the Poynter Institute or ProPublica or some other touchy feely nonprofit. Somehow I don’t see nonprofit groups as bastions of confrontational journalism.. Also makes journalism into another form of foundation-supported activism. Like: I work for NARAL, you work for Human Rights Watch, he works for Pro Publica. I think people will stop paying attention to journalism when that happens.


© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Major Federal Institution Endorses the Baloney Brigade!



I'm pleased to report tonight that a major federal institution has given a ringing endorsement to the Baloney Brigade stock market conspiracy nutcases. Yup, none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken an interest.

I am sure that there are a lot of high-fives among the penny stock peddlers and inept CEOs who are using naked shorting as an excuse for their incompetence and criminality, now that the Douglas MacArthur of the Baloney Brigade, deposed Universal Express CEO Richard A. Altomare, and the company's general counsel Chris Gunderson, are the subject of an active criminal investigation by the FBI.


I'll bet this must please Altomare, who almost literally wraps himself in Old Glory at every opportunity, as do the other vaguely right-wing and libertarian fruitcakes who push this discredited cause, such as Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. The latter once talked about "men with guns" expressing interest in his allegations.

I am sure that is true in his case, and of course we know that is true with Altomare.

Word of the FBI investigation emerged yesterday (Oct. 11) in a court document filed in the SEC's lengthy litigation against Universal Express.

Altomare's lawyer Arthur Tifford, begging the court to put off an Oct. 12 contempt hearing, said as follows:

On 18 September 2007 Assistant United States Attorney Rhonda Jung and Special Agent Thomas Zukauskas, Federal Bureau of Investigation telephoned me as counsel for Mr. Altomare. In that conversation AUSA Jung informed me that there is an active criminal investigation of Messrs. Altomare and Gunderson and asked if I wanted to arrange an appointment with the government to discuss a disposition of the case as to Mr. Altomare.

It didn't work -- the judge almost instantaneously denied the motion -- but at least we now know, from Altomare's own lawyer, that his client is in the cross-hairs of the feds. (Gee, shouldn't that have been disclosed to sharehol... ehh, never mind.)

I've uploaded the full document to my website, since Blogspot doesn't have that capability.

I am sure that leading Baloney Brigade organs, such as Phil Saunders' "Sanitycheck" website, will spread the word: the FBI is on the case, just as they have long expected. And if that "active criminal investigation" ends... well, badly, the only baloney Altomare will be spewing will be the cheap stuff they serve at government expense.



© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Evils of Credit Card Arbitration

That's the subject of my latest Forbes.com "Muckraker" column, available here.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Republican Debate: Is it Time for Despair?



I watched (most of) the Republican debate last night from an appropriate spot, which was the treadmill at my gym. Actually it was these guys who seemed to be on a treadmill, mouthing the usual platitudes and saying absolutely nothing new, interesting or original. Anyone who feels despair about the '08 elections would be pushed over the edge by last night's lifeless exercise.

Lower taxes, lower spending, Reagan was a God, etc. etc.

The media focused on the exchange between Mitt Romney and Rudi Giuliani on the line-item veto, but I was struck by the equally fatuous remarks that the media did not pick up.

Thus we had Tom Tancredo hammering away at illegal immigration, even though his own grandparents would have been barred under the take-no-prisoners policies he advocates. Tancredo seems to feel that if all illegal immigrants vanished, the economy would get a lift. This nativist pap is not only hypocritical but brain-dead, since illegal immigrants pick up jobs too dreary for Americans.


Mitt Romney appeared to be auditioning for CEO of the pro-business, anti-public U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as he advocated waiving Section 404 of Sarbanes Oxley for "small business." Penny stock outfits and CEOs of cruddy microcap companies would have a happy life under a President Romney, I suspect. The rest of 'em too, I also suspect.

I must confess that I do have a bit of a soft spot for Giuliani, lingering over from Sept. 11. Too bad he was as fatuous (the word is worth repeating) in pushing to the right as the rest of them.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Man Bites Dog: A Genuine Shareholder Rights Group

I've written so much about astroturf groups claiming to advance shareholder rights, but really pushing corporate interests, so it's refreshing to see the genuine article. This is a real man-bites-dog story.

SEC Chairman Chris Cox introduced retrogressive proposals last July that would cut back on shareholder rights, and make it harder to introduce shareholder resolutions. He actually introduced two proposals, one supposedly "pro-shareholder," but both are a step backward.

Cox is politically hypersensitive, so he probably thought his proposals would sail through without objection. Wrong.

A whopping 22,500 comment letters have poured in to the SEC to protest the proposals, spurred by a group called Save Shareholder Rights.

Here's a Kathy Kristof column that sums up the issues involved, and here is the group's website.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , ,

Going Postal in Baloney-land

As I have noted in several posts, the paranoia of the anti-naked shorting loons sometimes froths over the top into obscenity and violence.

The threats against Universal Express receiver Jane Moscowitz by deranged anti-shorting cultists, and the creepy threats against a Wikipedia administrator by Judd Bagley of Overstock.com, are examples of that.

The rhetoric from these lowlifes seems to have ratcheted up a notch.

I'm grateful to a reader for bringing to my attention some really troubling, violent rhetoric from a character named C. Austin "Bud" Burrell, who runs a pink sheet company and is one of a cluster of penny stock types to bang away at stock market conspiracy theories in "thesanitycheck" website.

Burrell is justifiably obscure, but he recently garnered some attention when it was revealed that his constant hyping of naked shorting poster child Universal Express (in rants like this and this) came at a price -- he was on the payroll of Universal Express as a "consultant."

The strain of railing against a nonexistent crisis seems to be extracting a toll on the poor dear, as today we get a violence-tinged rant.


Burrell begins by likening "the typical serial financial criminals" (translation: people who disagree with him) to serial killers, and then spits on the experiences of real combat veterans by likening his silly posturing to serving under fire in the military: "I am 7 years in, and bluntly, I am well past hoping to completely repair myself psychologically." He'll get no argument from me on that.

Burrell continues,
I warn everyone here and now that if one or more of you wants to try and drag me back into this morass, don't expect to survive in whole form. I have had enough of this corrupt insanity. If I am threatened again by anyone for any reason, I will retaliate on the spot without limits. I won't wait to find out if you really meant it, or for you to try and choke out an apology. (emphasis added)

You can hope that I can call the FBI first, but that will depend entirely on how serious I think you are. You should not interpret this as a warning, but much more as a promise from someone who keeps his as a part of his personal identity.
No. My hope is that someone else calls the FBI first, and the sooner the better.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An Alternative Magazine Scoops the Business Press

Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review's Audit website had a fine blog item a few days ago, describing how it took an obscure magazine to describe how Sandy Weill's empire was built on subprime lending.

I missed this when it first appeared, mainly because I had grown accustomed to ignoring the Audit. However, the site, under its new editor Starkman, is clearly worth checking out every day.

One observation is worth repeating:

This troubling Tale of Two Citis shows how the business press, even as it produces oceans of copy, can lose its way. I don’t think the business press is lazy or lacks courage. I know the opposite to be largely true. I do think, though, that it is poorly led. An overemphasis by senior editors on deals and other scoops has forced reporters to give away far too much in the never-easy trade-off between access and arms-length scrutiny. A lack of investigative experience and overall editorial vision at the top has produced coverage that is too narrow, too incremental, and insufficiently confrontational, in my view.
What I've placed in boldface is, I think, and is kind of a sour undercurrent that one sees in a lot of business journalism.

The tendency to trade access for scrutiny pervades a good portion of the coverage that you see, and is most troubling in reporting on hedge funds, financial services, and CEO coverage generally.

Dean is also correct in his observation about the lack of investigative experience of newsroom management -- though I would modify that somewhat.

For most of my time at Business Week, my immediate editors had no significant investigative experience. However, they were advocates of investigative reporting, and that is what counted. Other editors may have had some investigative experience, but were unwilling to jeopardize their careers by pushing stories that might result in complaints.

The crucial trait is a will to be investigative and confrontational, a kind of fire in the belly and a strong feeling of right and wrong.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 05, 2007

New York Times Gets Stiffed For Baloney Brigade Ad


Commenting on a loopy, lying New York Times ad last June by Richard Altomare of the naked shorting poster child Universal Express, Times correspondent Floyd Norris quipped, "Speaking as a [Times] shareholder, I hope The Times got payment for the ad before it ran."

Apparently it didn't and that was no joke. As Zac Bissonnette points out today, the Times was stiffed for the ad.

Zac notes that a report by receiver Jane Moscowitz lists "the newspaper is listed as a creditor in the amount of $173,416.32." Floyd confirms in a follow-up that that the Times and other media outlets were among the hapless Universal Express creditors, who apparently didn't pay too close attention to the company's financial condition before extending credit.

Since the Times should not have accepted this slimy ad in the first place, I am not doubled over in grief over the hit to Floyd's shareholder equity.

Meanwhile, more details are coming out every day about how Altomare used this company as a personal piggybank, while he illegally sold unregistered stock.


The Baloney Brigade anti-naked-shorting nutcases, who clasped this cockroach of a company to their manly breasts, are predictably strangely silent on the Universal disaster, as it begins to a resemble a rape case more than securities fraud.

The shareholders of this company contain the usual deluded crackpots, as indicated by the threatening emails Moscowitz has received, but I note that one baloney brigadier has come to his senses. An"online petition" on behalf of this crooked company was withdrawn, its sponsor saying:

****NOTICE**** As author of this petition, in good conscience I can longer support Mr. Altomare or Universal Express, or any of the other defendants. I have sadly come to the conclusion, based upon what I have read from the court appointed Receiver in this matter, that shareholders were abused. I withdraw this petition. My intentions were good, but I feel betrayed.
No s--t, Sherlock.

The stench of penny stock fraud has long permeated this fraudulent movement. If you didn't notice, don't expect anyone to feel any sympathy for your bad choices.

P.S. One silver lining is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading Baloney Brigade supporter that appointed Altomare to three committees, was stiffed for $10,000. Floyd reports "A Chamber spokesman confirmed to me that Mr. Altomare was invited to join the committees, but said that he is not now associated with the chamber."

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Redesigning Business Week

I'm looking forward to seeing the newly redesigned Business Week, since my alma mater redesigned itself not long before I flew the coop in 2004.

The changes being wrought by the new editor in chief, as described by Mediaweek, are interesting, but one caught my eye.

Seems that the Personal Finance section is being renamed "Personal Business." That just happens to be the name that the section had when it was created in the early Eighties.

One thing that is not clear is whether text will be sacrificed for art. That has been the trend during each redesign for many years.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: ,

Turning Over a Rock at Universal Express

The court-appointed receiver for naked shorting poster child Universal Express has turned in her first report, which is available on the web here.

It's all here: a company that raped its shareholders while blaming "naked short selling." Also there are threatening emails sent to the Jane Moscowitz, the receiver.

Floyd Norris's commentary touches on the salient details, but you really have to wade through these remarkable documents to understand the full extent of this company's sliminess and the creepiness of its CEO, Baloney Brigade Commanding General Richard A. Altomare.

The documents released by Moscowitz should be required reading for the fast-dwindling ranks of SEC commissioners, who continue to waste their time with the overblown naked shorting issue.

The normally restrained Floyd sums up the situation in unusually strong language: "The gravy train appears to be over for Richard Altomare, the man who ran a company called Universal Express and paid himself very well out of cash from shares that were illegally sold to the public."

That's what it's all about: screwing shareholders. But judging from the crudely threatening emails to Moscowitz that she cites in her report (you can gag on them here), I'd say some of these shareholders deserve all the screwing that they get.

Well, at least you can say this much for Universal Express: unlike the creepy, threatening emails of Judd Bagley on behalf of Overstock.com, these apparently originated from deluded nuts and were not the full-time job of a company official.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , ,

Patrick Byrne's Staggering History of Lies

Reformed felon Sam Antar has a devastating blog post this morning, the first of a series chronicling Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne's multiyear history of lies. It's a must-read for corporate crime aficionados.

The first part can be found here. This is the beginning of what I am sure will be a useful roadmap for the SEC, which is investigating Byrne.

Sam observes:

My cousin, Crazy Eddie Antar used to say that, "people live on hope." Like Eddie, Patrick Byrne's hyping seems to reflect the behavior of a penny stock promoter, since his comments often have no bearing in reality. Overstock.com constantly misses targets set by Byrne. Patrick Byrne's statements are often inconsistent with each other and in many cases contradict other facts on hand. In most cases Patrick Byrne's contradictions cannot be reconciled with other disclosures by him and Overstock.com. His different versions of events cannot coexist, leading me to question whether is simply promoting hope without regard for reality.
To be sure, it takes one to know one.

Sam's analysis of Byrne's lies goes back to 2001, which might strike most laypeople as being ancient history. Not from a regulatory standpoint, Sam points out:

Many people may think that prior acts dating back seven years from today are beyond the statute of limitations for possible charges of underlying securities law violations. However, from my own experience in the Crazy Eddie fraud, such prior acts are still clearly relevant, since the SEC is not bound by any statute of limitations on acts relating to underlying violations of securities law. Patrick Byrne has recently admitted to being the target of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of possible wrongdoing in contrast to his previous denials. Any information about his deceptions is clearly relevant to its investigation.
It's a remarkable, well-researched piece of work that should be carefully examined by corporate crime watchers.

Speaking of serial deceptions, one of Byrne's many lies -- his constant whining about naked short selling -- has recently been shredded by the market. In recent months this perennially money-losing, SEC-investigated, critic-stalking company has confounded the laws of gravity and common sense by seeing its share price climb over $33, more than doubling in the span of a few months.

Overstock has a small float and a large short interest, so this is obviously a classic short squeeze.

If Overstock were really a subject of naked short-selling, that would be impossible. Shorts would just continue to hammer the stock. Remember that stocks that are naked-shorted are not borrowed, and thus are not subject to short squeezes, as is evidently taking place here.

In a short squeeze you force the short to replace the stock that he has borrowed. No borrowing, no squeeze.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article

-----------

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.

Labels: , , ,

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner