Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Overstock.com Covers Up Demise of 'Omuse'

Don't expect this list of blank Omuse pages to last much longer

More fun and games at my favorite corporate crime poster child, Overstock.com.

In previous blog items I've described how Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne set up Omuse, a kind of Wikipedia wanna-be, to provide corporate cover for his employment of an ex-Jeb Bush dirty trickster, a nauseating creep named Judd Bagley.

Omuse was a waste of shareholder resources from the start, and Byrne has made it progressively harder to see just how big a flop Omuse truly is. In February 2007 he made it impossible to see all "recent changes" in Omuse--which had indicated that few people were editing the site. Though that was gone, you could still see the number of new pages, and when they were created. In this July 2008 post I described how how Omuse was dying, based on the almost total absence of new pages.

Here is a display of the number of new pages as of July 2008:

But today, if you go to the site and click on the display of new pages, you see this:

Poof! History has been erased, Stalin-style. The "new pages" function has been disabled, to make it difficult (but not impossible, as we will see) to see just how badly Omuse is doing.

However, another page that Byrne neglected to delete, "Newest Guides," tells the story.

If you look at the history of the newest guides, you can see that a grand total of three guides, all of them blank starter pages, have been created since the beginning of 2009. The three most recent guides, all empty, were created on Feb. 4 and Feb. 6.

There were no Omuse pages in January 2009, one created on Dec. 25, and other pages created on Dec. 3, Nov. 24, Sept. 15, Aug. 25, and two on Aug. 13. All except the last two, a polemic on "poverty and hunger" and something on "MLA Format Works," were blank.

Don't expect the "newest guides" page to last much longer.

The only guides with any detail aren't "guides" at all, but a polemic on naked shorting written by Byrne and conspiracy theorist Phil Saunders, and a lengthy attack on me by Byrne. The latter is a blatant violation of Sarbanes-Oxley, which is designed to prevent CEOs from engaging in misconduct. Unless, that is, Byrne received an explicit waiver from the corporate code of ethics from his board of directors for that little act of issuer retaliation.

The Overstock board is as dumb as it is lacking in guts and integrity, but not so dumb as to move from a "see no evil" stance to active complicity.

Chris Cox's SEC has ignored Byrne's accounting tricks and Sarbox violations. It will be interesting to see if the new administration takes a dimmer view of corporate wrongdoing.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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