It's been quite a while since we've checked in with Arkham Asylum escapee Patrick Byrne. For better or worse, OSTK has managed to keep their financial reporting relatively respectable and thus his smiling mug has not graced these pages. Today we pick up the beat again and it's more or less in line with what you […]
The financial gumshoes at the SEC have closed their investigation of Overstock.com and have concluded that no enforcement action is necessary. Naturally, former Arkham Asylum resident and current Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne sees this as a vindication: "We are the ones who brought all these matters to light, we made the corrections, we fully disclosed these […]
Overstock.com has had its detractors over the years. Everyone from Barry Ritholtz to Felix Salmon to Joe Weisenthal to, of course, Sam Antar have been calling shenanigans on the company on everything from financial reporting to social media stalking. The company has made some dumb decisions and they seem to be willing to blame anyone and […]
Potash says in talks for superior deals [Reuters]
“Potash Corp’s board urged shareholders to reject BHP Billiton’s hostile $39 billion offer and said it was in talks with a number of potential suitors for a superior deal.
Potash Corp, the world’s largest producer of potash based in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, said superior offers or other alternatives are expected to emerge.
Discussions are on with several of these third parties in order to generate superior offers, the company said in a statement.”
How to Shine in a Skype Interview [FINSying across the country for a second round of meetings, you may be asked to interview for a job from the comfort of your living room.
While it might sound less stressful to some than an in-person meeting, such an interview can be filled with landmines for job candidates.”
The Problem With a Non-CPA CFO [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Francine McKenna guest-posts over at FEI for the second time, this time discussing the American Apparel situation and noting that 31 year-old CFO might be in over his head.
Goldfarb Branham LLP Investigating Shareholder Claims Against American Apparel, Inc. [Business Wire]
Speaking of APP, investigations are starting, “Goldfarb Branham LLP is investigating American Apparel, Inc. (APP 0.75, 0.00, -0.09%) due to allegations that the company may have issued materially inaccurate statements to investors concerning its 2009 financial results and the circumstances surrounding the replacement of American Apparel’s auditor.”
Movement afoot to increase diversity in accounting industry [Pittsburgh Business Times]
“Sam Stephenson, a partner at ParenteBeard LLC, a Downtown-based certified public accounting firm, brings an interesting perspective to the equation as a black man who has worked in the profession for nearly four decades. During his long tenure, he has seen improvements in efforts to recruit and promote women in the profession, but ethnic diversity still lags behind.
‘We need to bring this issue to the attention of individuals who run local and regional firms because they may not be aware that this is a problem,’ said Stephenson, who serves as a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy, which enforces the licensing rules for CPAs. ‘A lack of diversity often means missed opportunities to attract talent and clients.’ ”
Preparer Costs Will Increase Some; Taxpayer Costs Will Increase More [Tax Update Blog]
Joe Kristan responds to fellow practitioner/blogger Robert Flach’s question of how the new tax preparer registration will affect costs for consumers more so than tax preparers.
Gays See Complex, Changing Tax Picture [Dow Jones Adviser]
“Gay couples are taking one step forward, one step back when it comes to their tax rights. Not to mention sideways.
The shifting landscape of new rules and initiatives makes it a big challenge to provide same-sex partners with good tax advice.
In Massachusetts, a successful challenge to a federal law denying gays tax breaks that heterosexual couples get could mean progress, but only if it stands up to an expected government appeal.”
Patrick Byrne Refutes Insider Trading Claims [Forbes]
Sam is certainly as insightful as the Easter Bunny:
From: Sam E. Antar
To: Patrick Byrne
Board – Jonathan Johnson
Dear Patrick Byrne and other persons from Overstock.com:
Overstock.com’s Q2 2010 conference call is scheduled for today at 3 PM ET. I will be calling in. I expect to be permitted to participate in said call and ask relevant questions about Overstock.com. As I recall, in 2005 you allowed a lay person named Phil Saunders AKA Easter Bunny to participate in the call.
Sam E. Antar
Last we heard from Patrick Byrne, the Overstock.com CEO and Farmville enthusiast, he had just disposed of 140,000 shares of OSTK via High Plains Investments, LLC, an entity 100% owned by PB. This had a few people scratching their heads, including us.
At the time, we wondered why Patsy would need to dump the shares, especially after all the excitement the company generated by turning their first profit ever in 2009 and a profitable Q1. We were hoping that the KPMG engagement team – that was doing such a bang-up job – would get some new Segways to cruise SLC but pesky independence rules probably got in the way of that.
Regardless, Q2 wasn’t expected to be a showstopper but when asked, Patsy wasn’t worried, telling Investor’s Business Daily, “Given that in 2009 we had close to $40 million of free cash flow (and $8 million net income), I think we should just continue building the intrinsic value of the business right now.”
Well! The Company reported its Q2 earnings after the close yesterday and, um, they missed the numbers badly. The $0.02/share loss expected by analysts was tripled with a loss of $0.06/share. As you might expect, the shares are taking a beating and Byrne nemesis Sam Antar finds this just a little bit fishy:
[N]ine days after Q2 2010 ended, Byrne led investors to believe that Overstock.com was going to break even in that quarter by citing previous year’s free cash flow numbers. However, Byrne did not mention that Overstock.com’s free cash flow for the six months ended June 30, 2010 was negative $54.8 million compared to negative $35.8 million in the previous year’s comparable perid [sic] or about $19 million lower.
So, there’s that. OH! And the $3 million in shares. Don’t forget that.
The emphasis isn’t needed but we’ve provided it anyway:
Despite being the most popular website in America, consumers don’t like Facebook, according to the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Business Report, produced in partnership with ForeSee Results. Facebook scored 64 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale, which puts its satisfaction even lower than IRS e-filers. This puts Facebook in the bottom 5% of all measured private sector companies and in the same range as airlines and cable companies, two perennially low-scoring industries with terrible customer satisfaction.
It makes sense, really. If someone is filing their taxes electronically and something goes wrong, he/she is probably able to keep it together long enough to call up the IRS and tell him what the problem is. On the other hand, if Farmville starts acting up on Patrick Byrne (just as an example), we’re guessing the man loses his shit.
So Patrick Byrne (via his 100% wholly owned entity High Plains Investments, LLC) sold 140,000 OSTK shares in the past five days and that has a few people talking/wondering aloud about what the hell is going on.
Barry Ritholtz, who is long OSTK (quantitative drivers) despite, “I…think it is a steaming pile of shit, that the CEO is an asshole, and that the entire company is probably corrupt,” is really curious:
Is Byrne in possession of material insider information? Would he be so stupid as to sell the shares? (I doubt anyone could be that dumb).
Perhaps he sees a favorable outcome to the SEC investigation? Maybe he is raising money to pay a fine?
These are all excellent jumping off points (although we disagree with the notion “I doubt anyone could be that dumb”) but let’s explore other possibilities:
A) Segways for the KPMG audit team.
B) Reverse Psychology – he’s done fighting the short selling crowd (or is he?)
D) He needs some cash for a Father’s Day gift.
E) Needs to feed the Farmville addiciton.
These are merely some ideas. And there’s always the possibility that PB has gone right out of his mind. Share your own, should you feel inclined.
Long OSTK, Short Byrne [The Big Picture]
Proxy Statement/Schedule 14A [SEC.gov]
Patrick Byrne Pockets $3.1 Million from Dumping Overstock.com Shares [White Collar Fraud]
Patrick Byrne Dumps His Overstocked Overstock Shares [Gary Weiss]
“My father brings tremendous wisdom and experience, which will help Overstock continue to grow and mature as a company. I am pleased that the Board of Directors nominated him, grateful that he was elected by the stockholders, and look forward to working with him again.”
~ Patrick Byrne, on his Dad, Jack Byrne, rejoining the OSTK board of directors.
Last week the financial three-ring circus Overstock.com officially put an end to its 2009 by filing its 10-K with the SEC (after a two week extension). Ring managed to keep his promise about turning a profit and managed to keep his head about it in his letter to shareholders only mustering, “It’s nice to be profitable.”
As you might expect, Sam Antar was not impressed and since the Company’s filing he and others (including Gary Weiss) have pointed out major internal control problems, mistakes in the footnotes, false disclosures related to an alleged “tax dodge” and now, NOW the most unforgivable thing yet.
We lacked a sufficient number of accounting professionals with the necessary knowledge, experience and training to adequately account for and perform adequate supervisory reviews of significant transactions that resulted in misapplications of GAAP.
Information technology program change and program development controls were inadequately designed to prevent changes in our accounting systems which led to the failure to appropriately capture and accurately process data.
These are the only two “control failures” identified by the Company in its filing that constitute material weaknesses. Naturally, the management team and the audit committee agreed with this assessment, “Our management concluded, and the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors agreed with management’s conclusions,” that former CFO David Chidester and former Treasurer Rich Paongo are the ones at fault here.
Is that class or what? So did Patrick Byrne finally realize that David Chidester and Rich Paongo, after several years at Overstock, lacked the “necessary knowledge, experience and training” so they and the Company “parted ways” (aka fired their sorry asses) for the latest restatement? What about the previous umpteen restatements? Why wasn’t didn’t the parting of ways occur after those?
Regardless of the answers to these questions, Sam has appealed to none other than Mary Schapiro to make sure the shenanigans don’t continue:
From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, April 05, 2010 3:56 AM
To: ‘Mary Schapiro’; ‘[email protected]’;
Cc: ‘Patrick Byrne’; ‘Joseph Tabacco’; ‘Board – Jonathan Johnson’
Subject: Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures
To Chairperson Mary Schapiro:
Enclosed is a link to my blog post entitled, “Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Part 8): Bring Enforcement Action Against Overstock.com for False and Misleading Disclosures.”
The blog post referred to in the link above, is to be considered a formal complaint to the SEC for continued false and misleading disclosures by Overstock.com and its officers. Please note that as a courtesy, I have cc’d Overstock.com on this email.
Sam E. Antar
Is the SEC not interested in a slam dunk case? We’ll see.
This morning we thought the KPMG audit team working on Overstock.com would continue slaving away through the extension deadline tomorrow to get that beast of 10-K finished. Well! Turns out they’ll bet of you tonight because the OSTK 10-K has been filed and, as promised Overstock shareholders, your humble servant Patrick Byrne and Co. are reporting an annual profit for the first time ever!
First–stop the presses! Overstock’s auditors at KPMG says that Overstock has insufficient internal controls.
Second, the Marin County District Attorney and four other DAs in northern California want the company to fork over $8.5 million to settle consumer ripoffs by Overstock. The company disagrees and is fighting it, so …. No, wait a moment, make that read “$7.5 million.”
First off, we share Gary’s shock — SHOCK! — on the insufficient internal controls revelation. Second – AUDITORS! We talked about this, remember? Read the 10-K carefully. Overstock’s “Risk Factors” section runs 25 pages for crissakes. A million fucking clams can’t get missed!
You know what though? Mistakes happen, so we’ll let it slide.
Oh, and about that letter to shareholders. Patsy doesn’t bring up former auditor Grant Thornton once, doesn’t quote Nietzsche, compiain about short sellers, bring up Facebook, or say anything remotely antagonizing (although on page 32, the Company’s states he still might).
This makes think: 1) Is he not feeling well? 2) We want the old Patrick back! Read for yourself:
In Q4 our revenues grew 27%, twice the ecommerce industry’s rate, and we earned $12.7 million in net income. In 2009 we grew revenues 6%, earned $7.7 million in net income, generated $46 million in operating cash flow, and generated $39 million in free cash flow. It’s nice to be profitable.
I am proud that, for the second year in a row, we rank number 2 in the NRF/Amex survey of American consumers, behind only LL Bean and ahead of Amazon, Zappos, eBay, Nordstrom, and many other fine firms.
As you may know, at the end of Q4 we engaged KPMG as our independent auditors, and announced that we were restating our FY 2008 and Q1, Q2 and Q3 2009 financial statements. I thank you for being patient with us as we worked through the questions raised by the SEC, the transition to the KPMG team, and the extra time it took to ensure that our financial statements are accurate.
I look forward to our conference call next Monday. Until then, I remain,
Your humble servant,
Patrick M. Byrne
In case you haven’t been paying attention, this has been a banner week for the alleged but fairly obvious and ongoing Overstock.com accounting drama (aka “The Quarterly Lie”) and now’s your chance to get caught up. Thank me later (unless you are Patrick Byrne, in which case you are welcome to trash me later out of pure, outraged butthurtedness).
Gross violations of the sanctity of GAAP are not the largest of Overstock’s numerous accounting issues. I know, how could it get any worse? Sam Antar discovers GAAP violations both new and old in this, the latest hilariously fraudulent SEC filing by our friends at OSTK. What makes it even funnier is that they apparently attempted to slip in the new violations with old ones in the hopes that the SEC (and those of us paying attention) may not notice.
Overstock.com nonchalantly lumped in its latest GAAP violations with other GAAP violations previously disclosed by the company on January 29, rather than separately disclosing them. Those newly identified GAAP violations add to a long laundry list of other violations.
Well that’s cute. Now I may not be an SEC filing savant like some among us but, um, something smells wrong here. I’d say I can’t put my finger on it but I can, the only problem is I can’t seem to wash the stink off my finger.
Gary Weiss is also all over it (naturally) and is equally shocked that OSTK would attempt to casually insert new, previously undisclosed accounting violations in with the old, previously disclosed accounting violations as if, you know, it’s a good idea to just lump them all in together while we’re on the subject of violating GAAP accounting. I’m no CPA but if I were advising Overstock on its accounting practices, I might warn against netting its creative accounting in SEC filings for starters. Separately stated items, people, come on.
Do you think it’s merely a coincidence that Overstock has burned through two audit firms in a year’s time? Perhaps not and maybe KPMG has the magic touch that will turn Overstock’s straw financials into gold but if we were the betting type, we’d put our money on indictments and a really messy fall for the Salt Lake City outlet.
We’re all calling bullshit, Overstock. Your turn.
Sam Antar knows an accidental criminal hero when he sees one: his cousin Eddie Antar was hailed as a champion of cheaply-priced consumer electronics in the Crazy Eddie days, though the poor saps in New York didn’t realize he could price his goods so cheaply because he was stiffing the government on sales and payroll taxes. Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com are pushing to corner the accidental criminal hero market by denouncing the evils of naked short sellers (bad bad bad), of which they seem to be convinced Sam is one.
While we’re on the topic of OSTK’s campaign to end evil naked short sales, I hereby volunteer to help Overstock edit their naked short selling page, by the way, as it’s not only a dry read but a tad poorly-written. Just sayin. Helpful girl that I am, it’s the least I can do.
Anyway, Sam’s still waiting for his apology from Patrick Byrne but in the meantime, would like him to take back those mean things he said about Sam naked shorting them to death. In an email to the SEC, Byrne himself and Overstock.com audit committee member Joseph Tabacco this weekend, Sam sets the record straight:
First off, I have never been involved any illegal naked short selling.
Second, how can Overstock.com label me as an “anti-Overstock.com blogger” when:
I correctly reported in my blog that Overstock.com used an improper EBITDA from Q2 2007 to Q2 2008 in violation of SEC Regulation G to materially inflate its financial performance, in light of its later amended disclosures.
I correctly reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement.
Third, please note Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff received $5,000 in cash from Overstock.com a few days prior to writing his defamatory letter about me. Both Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen and Deputy Attorney General Richard Hamp acknowledged that Shurtleff’s claims about me were false in various tape recorded conversations cited in my blog.
Sam goes on to explain that he’s actually doing Overstock a favor by uncovering fraud that its own audit committee has seemed to, um, overlook. You know, so they can set themselves right with the SEC and skip the restatement next year, filing all those extensions can get pricey and time-consuming you know.
See, Patrick, why so hostile? We’re all just trying to help!
As you’re probably aware (if not, check the links below), it hasn’t been the friendliest of exchanges between criminal CFO/forensic accounting sleuth Sam Antar and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Sam being Sam, he recently reached out to Patrick Byrne to see if he would be interested in a mea culpa:
From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Patrick M. Byrne
Subject: Overstock.com Restatement
Will you finally admit that I was correct when I reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement?
You owe me a public apology.
Our understanding is that Pat hasn’t responded to Sam’s request for an apology yet (we’re hopeful!) so Team GC thought we’d offer some suggestions to Dr Byrne should he decide to take the high road and apologize to Sam. Having been in this situation more than once myself, I can honestly say sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up, buy some flowers, and admit that you’re an ass but totally repentant.
Overstock.com gift cards – Nothing says I’m sorry like free stuff that the aggrieved party can pick themselves. Bonus, the overhead on Byrne’s own inventory must be low. You know, because it’s his, not because there is any monkey business going down on OSTK’s financials.
An SEC Gift Shop Goodie Basket – I busted Sam in an SEC baseball hat at Stanford last week so wouldn’t it be cute if Byrne got him a whole basket full of fun regulatory shwag? Awww, what a precious moment it would be watching Sam pull out DoJ beer cozies and a color-changing SIGTARP coffee mug. Who doesn’t love tchotchkes? PB can’t go wrong! I’d even throw in a pair of NY Fed Pistol Team patches for that added touch of flair.
Cupcakes – Come on, no one can resist cupcakes, not even Sam E. Antar’s hardened criminal ass. You know, might as well send some to the GCHQ while he’s at it, we’ve been putting up with this Overstock shit for months too. Hopefully even Patrick Byrne knows when it comes to cupcakes, it’s best to invest in high quality, over-priced boutique cupcakes. Even my cheap ass knows that.
Since the Times ran a story on this cultural trend in fall of 2008, and the following video was posted in December ’09, you might say that accountants are again, late to the party but whatevs. And of course it’s an IFRS spin.
While somewhat humorous, it’s still based on a Canadian company and there’s no mention of Sir David Tweedie, which we think is an unforgivable oversight. That being said, it is encouraging that there is at least one Downfall remake out there that encompasses accounting. Personally, we’d like to see some of the following topics addressed using the clip:
• Patrick Byrne getting the news that Overstock has to restate their financial statements, again.
• Tim Flynn learning that the KPMG Salt Lake City office actually accepted the Overstock audit engagement.
• Stephen Chipman receiving word that Grant Thornton was fired from the Koss engagement because VP Sue Sachdeva made off with $31 million and it was discovered by American Express.
We’re sure there are other possibilities. We encourage you to get to work on this ASAP.