Friday, March 27, 2009

Message Board Positions Itself as Megaphone For Stock Touts


Ralph "Kramden" Kidd has a new business model in the works

As I've described in the past, the Investor Village message board has distinguished itself in the cause of investor poverty. It was a prime sounding board for perpetrators of the Novastar Financial subprime lending disaster, allowing investor hype to run rampant (as in this notorious post), to the point of drawing media attention. It was a forum for cyberstalking by Overstock.com's nauseating p.r. director Judd Bagley.

A couple of years ago, this ostensibly neutral investor forum banned white collar crime fighter Sam Antar from the Overstock.com message board for the crime of pestering CEO Patrick Byrne and Bagley with -- horrors! -- questions. He was first restricted to three posts a day, and then removed completely.

The move deprived investors of an opportunity for Antar to directly confront Byrne about his lies and accounting trickery. Overstock shares hit a high of $19 the month Antar was silenced. It's now trading at about $10.50, and has been much lower. Thank you, Investor Village!

But such ham-handed suppression of criticism is evidently insufficient to make Investor Village an antiseptic environment for corporate CEOs and their shills, and suitably hostile to critics.

Investor Village recently banned one of the few critical voices on the Overstock board, immediately after posting a response to Byrne on the message board. The response was deleted. No explanation was given. A message gloating about that was recommended by Bagley ("De Daumier Smith").

As a result, the board supposedly devoted to Overstock instead is dominated with nutty rants about everything but, and is silent on such material corporate events as its change in auditors. With its scant ranks of critics depleted, that subject has not been broached, and Byrne can now rant and rave without contradiction, at least from one persistent critic.

In an email to members, the site recently revealed that a new feature will allow users, including corporate managers like Byrne, to go back and delete or edit posts, forever and ever: "Unlimited Post Deletion and Editing, allowing you to correct mistakes when you need to." Since Byrne frequently changes his public announcements, as Lee Webb of Stockwatch has described, he can be expected to make good use of this new cover-your-tracks feature when he blurts out some incriminating admission, as he has in the past.

Cozy! Investor Village's operators, rather oddly it seemed at the time, anonymized its site registration a couple of year ago. Maybe it's not so odd after all.

Now, here's the funny part: Investor Village, which evidently hasn't made a go of it (don't ask me why), actually wants to start charging people.

I wish them luck. What the world needs now is another way for investors to pour their money down a black hole. But I really do think that the site operator, Ralph "Blue" Kidd, should call himself Ralph "Kramden" Kidd.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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