Sunday, October 23, 2011

Patrick Byrne to Libel Plaintiff: Drop Dead


Byrne at work making life easy for Nazerali's lawyers

After three days of silence about the libel suit that has shuttered his Deep Capture stock market conspracy website, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne surfaced today on the Investor Village message boards. He had a message for the gentleman suing him, which can be summed up thusly: Drop dead.

In a post entitled, "That's the spirit, Ali Nazerali!". Byrne said: "Gosh, I go off-line for a few days of R&R and look what happens. It looks like Ali Nazerali wants to go a few rounds. Happy to oblige."

Since Byrne is likely to be paying for the privilege, I'm sure that Nazerali will be happy to oblige as well.

What's interesting about his post is that he includes a news article describing Nazerali as a "controversial Vancouver penny stock promoter" and, somewhat incongruously, the text of an executive order blocking property of transnational criminal organizations.

The problem with this post is that it pretty strongly implies that Nazerali is a member of a transnational criminal organization and/or that he is involved in transnational criminal operations.

Now, that's fine and dandy if you're making stuff up about, say, me -- as his toadies Judd Bagley and Mark Mitchell have done. I can't afford to sue him, and as a journalist I'd have considerable qualms about doing so. But here you have a man who clearly can, and is in the process of doing so, and is not only doing so but has succeeded in at least temporarily shutting his website.

Yes, Nazerali is a controversial penny stock promoter. But that does not give Byrne the right to claim that he is a member of a transational criminal organization, or to contend, as he did in Deep Capture, that he is affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Mafia. It's fine to make that claim over a few beers at a bar in Provo, but when you do so on the web, it is going to cost you -- when you are sued in Canada.

As best as I can tell, Mitchell recycled old coverage that Nazerali received some years ago, juicing it with stuff he made up. The aim, as best I can tell, was to create an entire imaginary universe of stock promoters who didn't promote shocks but actually naked-shorted them. (That is, of course, the crime of the century.) And, if Byrne's recklessness in printing that rubbish wasn't already evident, Byrne has just done an excellent job of showing the kind of malice for which punitive damages are granted.

Yes, we all know: Byrne is "nucking futs." He is about to learn, in a very protracted fashion, that insanity is no defense to a libel suit.

In a comment to yesterday's item that wound up in the junk filter, Byrne's deputy at Overstock, Bagley, said that the "Streisand Effect" will ultimately make this all worthwhile for him and Byrne. (I.e., suing gives publicity to the libelous statements.) If I were Byrne, I would be more concerned about the "Henry Ford-Westbrook Pegler Effect." Successful libel suits ruined the reputation of Jew-baiting industrialist Henry Ford and destroyed the career (and finances) of red-baiting columnist Westbrook Pegler. Byrne is an ant by comparison.

Ali Nazerali may not be a choir boy, but Byrne had better be prepared to either prove that he is everything he says about him -- or be crushed.

Canada is a nightmare for news organizations that have produced honest, truthful news articles that displease people. I can only imagine the kind of hell it is going to be for a corporate p.r. operation that makes stuff up. And make no mistake about it: the corporation involved is Overstock.com, a publicly traded company whose shareholders are as yet unaware of the mess they've just been pulled into.

Meanwhile, it is going to be ka-ching at law firms throughout Vancouver, as Byrne's legal fees (for both defendant and plaintiff) mount up. He is truly what the Republican candidates call a "job creator" -- for lawyers.

© 2011 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.
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