Thursday, June 19, 2008

Patrick Byrne Covers Up Ownership of 'Deep Capture' Smear Site


A couple of months ago I described how Overstock.com's terminally wacky CEO Patrick Byrne has thrown caution (and any lingering sanity) to the winds and was openly sponsoring attacks on journalists and other critics, on a smear site that he owned and was operated on Overstock servers, "Deep Capture."

This was a change from Byrne's previous tactic of claiming that smears and attacks were by people who just coincidentally happened to be his employees. The word for this is "astroturfing," and it is a particularly sleazy method of concealing corporate (and sometimes government) involvement in dirty tricks campaigns.

Well, it seems that Byrne is back to astroturfing. For some unknown reason he has been frantically trying to distance himself from Deep Capture's ownership, while at the same time boasting about his and Overstock's involvement in the site.

An eagle-eyed reader points out that Byrne has changed the ownership of the site, as recorded in the records of the Utah Department of Commerce. Here are Deep Capture's registered principals, duly recorded with the Utah Dept. of Commerce, as of April 20:



As I pointed out in my earlier post, High Plains Investments=Patrick Byrne, according to Overstock's SEC filings.

Here's Deep Capture's registered principals as of today:



"Judson Bagley" is, of course, Overstock's nauseating house stalker Judd Bagley, the former low-level Republican dirty tricks specialist who Byrne put on Overstock's payroll to run his "antisocialmedia.net" corporate smear site and to attack his critics on the Internet generally. "Deep Capture," the ironic term Byrne uses for his website, is the successor to antisocialmedia. I say "ironic" because Byrne is quite arrogant about using his trust fund income to capture not only regulators but also ex-journalists such as Mark Mitchell, the ex-journalism review editor now on Byrne's personal payroll.

Evren Karpak is not an ex-journalist, but just some creep who won Byrne's heart by attacking his enemies. Karpak was put on the Overstock payroll after a distinguished career silencing critics of Overstock on the Investor Village message board. I've always found the hypocrisy of all this amazing, by the way. Byrne screams about "paid bashers" criticizing his company, always without evidence, while he very openly puts people on the payroll to smear his critics.

In addition to changing the registered principals of the company that owns the smear site, Byrne has changed the registration of the website, which used to be in his name.

Here's the registration of the Deep Capture website as it was on April 20:



. . . and here is the website registration today:



Apparently he anonymized the registration on May 2. Note that he hasn't yet taken Deep Capture off Overstock's servers. I guess that will come later.

It's not clear to me why Byrne is trying to hide his and Overstock's ownership and operation of Deep Capture. Just the other day he boasted that Overstock.com had financed an advertising truck at the SABEW convention. Deep Capture is linked from Overstock's "community" tab, and openly benefits from a share of Overstock revenues.

I can't figure out a rational reason for any of this. To shield himself from liability? A court would strip away that corporate veil in five seconds. But, then again, rationality has never been Byrne's strong suit.

UPDATE: Forensic accounting guru Tracy Coenen has a cogent follow-up.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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