Thursday, March 27, 2008

CJR Daily on 60 Minutes and Biovail

Mark Mitchell

Great piece in CJR Daily's Audit last night on Biovail and the disgraceful 60 Minutes segment that I've discussed a bunch of times in the past, most recently here.

Audit editor Dean Starkman observed:
The SEC charges against Biovail effectively torpedo the Stahl piece, which was devoted to airing the drug maker’s allegations that the stock-research firm, a predecessor of Gradient Analytics, concocted phony research to please SAC, a client.
In fact, the danger to investors was Biovail. So, 60 Minutes had it exactly wrong. But it’s worse than that: Biovail had been under SEC investigation since 2003. So it was clear at the time that Biovail was probably not a good example of a public company victimized by shorts. In fact, it was more likely that the Biovail example would prove the value of shorts, as it has.
The Audit piece is a refreshing contrast to the attitude of the former Audit editor, Mark Mitchell. An article such as this would have been impossible under the old regime, you see, because Mitchell swallowed whole the line peddled by Biovail and that they were swell and that the media and analysts were the real villains.

Mitchell spent a year working on a hatchet job pursuing Biovail and Overstock's conspiracy guff, mainly focusing on Herb Greenberg. It was ultimately rejected by Columbia Journalism Review, and Mitchell quit under a sustained barrage of criticism.

Mitchell has since become a kind of de facto p.r. man for Byrne, appearing with him at a college lecture in Utah -- resulting in this strange article in the Deseret News -- and pursuing once again his Byrne-inspired "article," though he is a biz hazy as to who would run such rubbish. He telephoned me for his "article" a few weeks ago and told me initially that the publication was "secret," but then admitted that he had none.

More on Mitchell's latest, strange antics here. Mitchell, incidentally, never returned my call and email in which I wanted to discuss with him the initial coverage in a college newspaper, since removed after a complaint by Byrne, saying that he was a "business associate" of Byrne's.

(Note: Mitchell later admitted that he is on Byrne's payroll. See this subsequent item.)

It's certainly good to see that The Audit is actually functioning as a journalism review, not as a vehicle for corporate shills.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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