It's been quite a while since we've checked in with Arkham Asylum escapee Patrick Byrne. […]
The financial gumshoes at the SEC have closed their investigation of Overstock.com and have concluded […]
We really don’t pay much attention to the E&Y Entrepreneur thingamajigs because, well, it’s boring. Sure, we like entrepreneurs just fine but c’mon. These guys are filthy rich and successful and E&Y gives them trophies? Is this sort of commercial circle jerk really necessary? Regardless of our personal feelings, the awards are a big deal – Jay Leno hosted this year’s event for crissakes – and the Google News feed for E&Y is constantly clogged with stories about people advancing to the next round of voting like some sort of capitalist March Madness.
Anyway, Casa de Turley officially announced this year’s winners over the weekend and Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner, founders of
Facebook for Suits LinkedIn, are your entrepreneuriest entrepreneurs.
There are also some winners that you have heard of including Andrew Mason, one of the co-founders of virtual clipfest and increasingly looking insolvent Groupon. As well as Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.com. You know, the guy on the Segway. The guy who Sam Antar can’t help to poke and prod every chance he gets. The guy whose company is being sued by seven California counties thanks to a Walmart sticker. The guy who may have had some weirdo trolling a bunch of bloggers’ Facebook friends. Yes, that Patrick Byrne.
But HEY! not every entrepreneur can be squeaky clean. It’s not like he’s Pete Rose or anything. Unless you count this.
It’s been quite some time since we picked up the Overstock beat but Gary Weiss picked up something in the company’s recently filed 10-K yesterday that makes us wonder if the company was shooting for irony or if they’ve given up on blaming the “shorts” turning instead to “social media,” which, similar to the anti-short campaign would allow them to encompass a number of villains without naming anyone directly.
From “Note 1A: Risk Factors” section of the company’s notes to the financial statements:
There has been a marked increase in use of social media platforms and similar devices, including weblogs (blogs), social media websites, and other forms of Internet-based communications which allow individuals access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. Consumers value readily available information concerning retailers, manufacturers, and their goods and services and often act on such information without further investigation, authentication and without regard to its accuracy. The availability of information on social media platforms and devices is virtually immediate as is its impact. Social media platforms and devices immediately publish the content their subscribers and participants post, often without filters or checks on accuracy of the content posted. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate information, is seemingly limitless and readily available. Information concerning the Company may be posted on such platforms and devices at any time. Information posted may be adverse to our interests, it may be inaccurate, and may harm our performance, prospects or business. The harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction. Such platforms also could be used for dissemination of trade secret information, compromise of valuable company assets all of which could harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
As Gary points out, this disclosure is especially rich since Patrick Byrne had a goon using Facebook to stalk critics like Gary, Sam Antar, Barry Ritholtz among others which of course was disseminated in various social media outlets. Newsflash to Overstock’s risk managers: when people are being pursued by creeps on the Internet, they complain about to EVERYONE THEY KNOW.
One could easily argue that Segway accidents at the office pose just as great of a risk to key employees – and thus a disclosable item – but perhaps that’s covered under their D&O policy? It still seems plausible that disclosure would still be warranted. Additionally, the risk of a good snowfall might cause some of Salt Lake City-based company’s employees to call in sick to enjoy the fresh pow could have resulted in a late filing which is certainly something the SEC would want to know. We know KPMG has a crack squad of auditors all over this engagement but it’s conceivable that they overlooked some other risks. If you’ve got ideas on what those might be, let us know below.
Accounting News Roundup: The Problem with American Apparel’s non-CPA CFO; Diversity Still Lags in Accounting; Patrick Byrne Denies Insider Trading Accusations | 08.23.10
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 [FINS ying 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.