Monday, June 02, 2008

Patrick Byrne Pulls a 'Reverse Dick Nixon'

Patrick Byrne admits the obvious

Forensic accountant Tracy Coenen observes today that CEO Patrick Byrne has admitted what has been obvious for ages: that he is a crook.

This is a refreshing gust of honesty from the famously dissembling Byrne, who has made a second career out of hounding analysts and members of the media who call him to account for his serial lies. Unlike Dick Nixon, who famously said "I am not a crook," Byrne is forthright in admitting his crookedness.


She notes that Byrne said as follows in a CNBC telecast in 2004:

Well, first of all, I’m all about gap. [sic] I have been so critical of the companies that do–I don’t believe in one-time charges; I don’t believe in EBITDA. If somebody talks EBITDA, put your hand on your wallet; they’re a crook.
The "gap" in the transcript is supposed to be "GAAP" -- generally accepted accounting principles -- which Byrne has disregarded when it suits him. Tracy and Sam Antar have been hammering away at that point for some months now.

Sam Antar adds:

The double talking Patrick Byrne not only likes EBITDA, he also likes to violate Securities and Exchange Commission Regulation G and materially overstate EBITDA in's financial reports. My blog and Tracy Coenen’s blog have detailed’s SEC Regulation G violations and resulting material overstatements of EBITDA in its financial reports starting from Q2 2007 and continuing to Q1 2008.
Indeed, Byrne's latest stock-pumping conference calls have been EBITDA-love-fests. Tracy's blog has a good analysis here on how Byrne has not only "talked EBITDA" but overstated it.

Tracy concludes, "I agree with Patrick: He is a crook." I agree with him too on that point. Whenever he talks about EBITDA (or stamp collecting, or ornithology, or if it is raining outside), put your hand on your wallet. A crook is talking.

I guess it's time for the SEC to wake up from its slumber, conclude a nearly two-year-old investigation and make it unanimous.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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