Social Media Poses Enough of a Risk to Overstock.com That They Disclosed It in Their 10-K
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.