Monday, November 19, 2007

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Panders to Campaign Contributor Overstock.com & CEO Patrick Byrne and Defames Critic

Anatomy of a Smear

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's deliberate efforts to defame me on behalf of Overstock.com and its CEO Patrick Byrne have placed a dark cloud on his ethics and integrity as the chief legal officer of the state of Utah. In an interview with the Deseret News, published a fews years ago, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, once claimed:

But as attorney general I have repeatedly demonstrated that campaign contributions make absolutely no difference in how I do my job.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

However, if you a public company under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission like Overstock.com, it takes only about $10,000 in campaign contributions to call in a favor from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Like Crazy Eddie, Mark Shurtleff's prices are INSAAAANE!

On November 14, 2007 Overstock.com issued a press release concerning a blog item that I had written a day after my recent fraud presentation at the Utah Attorney General's Office on October 31, 2007 for its 14th Annual White Collar Crime Conference. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had written a letter dated November 8, 2008 (his date is one year ahead of time) on behalf Overstock.com and its CEO Patrick Byrne, a campaign contributor under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission that contains lies, distortions, false, and misleading information, in an effort to disparage, defame, discredit, and smear me. As is always my policy, I charged no fees and took no cost reimbursements from the Utah Attorney General's office for my fraud presentation, as I traveled from New York to Utah and back over two days and paid for everything out of pocket.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has claimed that I violated a certain agreement and understanding that I not refer to my speaking engagement at his crime conference in my blog posts about Overstock.com. Mark Shurtleff claims that he tried to have his letter posted as a comment to my blog item mentioning his white collar crime conference and my meeting afterwards with the SEC about Overstock.com. He claims that I "apparently refused" to publish his letter in my blog. He has claimed that I used his white collar crime conference for "self-promotion as a person who can detect and expose errant practices of public companies." All of Mark Shurtleff's above claims are not true.

I made no such agreements with the Utah Attorney General's office, which was confirmed to me by certain individuals in that office, to avoid any mention of their white collar crime conference in relation to Overstock.com in my blog, web site, or any other venue outside the fraud conference. My only agreement with the Utah Attorney General's office, which was also confirmed to me by certain individuals from that office, was not to mention Overstock.com during my fraud presentation, unless asked by a participant in the audience. I abided by that agreement.

It was Mark Shurtleff's office that invited me to speak at their 14th Annual White Collar Crime Conference after reading my blog and whitecollarfraud.com web site and watching my appearance on CNBC's Business Nation aired in June 2007. The Utah Attorney General's Office promoted my appearance at their white collar crime conference issuing a flyer and a press release. I simply listed my speaking appearance on my whitecollarfraud.com web site. In my blog item referred to in Shurtleff's letter, I wrote that after my fraud presentation at his conference, I visited the SEC to discuss Overstock.com.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff claims that:

Our invitation, and his presentation at our conference, should not to be taken as any comment on Mr. Antar's self-promotion as a person who can detect and expose errant practices of public companies.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

So what am I self-promoting? A "crook" that gives free speaking engagements paid for by me on my own dime?

I have written about Overstock.com's possible violations of securities laws both before and after my fraud presentation at his white collar crime conference. Nowhere in the blog item that Mark Shurtleff refers to in his letter or anywhere else on my blog or whitecollarfraud.com web site have I used his white collar crime conference for "self promotion as a person who can detect and expose errant practices of public companies" despite the fact that I made no such agreement in any way with his office concerning this issue.

On August 22, 2007, after the I accepted the Utah Attorney General's Office's invitation to speak at its 14th Annual White Collar Crime Conference, at the bottom of a blog item entitled, "Did Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne cook the company's numbers and mislead investors? (Part 2)," I added the following note:

Newly scheduled fraud presentations:

On October 31, 2007, the Utah Attorney General's Office (Financial Crimes Unit) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Utah Attorney General's Office was well aware of that blog item. They sent me no blog comments, emails, or in any way communicated to me that they objected to that information in a blog post. They let me speak at their white collar crime conference about two months later.

On November 15, 2007, a day after I learned about Overstock.com's press release and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's letter, I contacted certain individuals at his office by phone who were directly involved in my fraud presentation about his allegations. Those individuals can confirm that Mark Shurtleff's allegations about me are completely baseless, inaccurate, false, and misleading. Those individuals can confirm that Mark Shurtleff's letter made certain false allegations about me and they categorically contradict every single claim he has made in his letter.

Those individuals from his office have already apologized to me for the actions of their Attorney General, have told me that they "disagree" with him and are "embarrassed" by his actions. They confirm that I did nothing wrong, fully lived up to their expectations, violated no agreements and understandings, and were very pleased with my fraud presentation.

I told those persons from his office that if Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff posted a categorical retraction of his letter and gave me a public apology, that I would stand by him and defend him for retracting his errors. One high ranking individual had offered to have the Utah Attorney General's office and not specifically Attorney General Mark Shurtleff issue a written apology and not a categorical retraction. However, a day later on November 16, 2007, he withdrew that offer and said I should just accept his verbal apology and the verbal apologies of certain other persons from his office.

Rest assured that I possess plenty of detailed and irrefutable documentation to back up my representations that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff made false and misleading claims in his letter from certain knowledgeable individuals in his office. Those individuals can confirm that I broke no promises made to the Utah Attorney General's office and violated no agreements or understandings made with that office. I have already provided detailed documentation to the Securities and Exchange Commission which is investigating possible securities law violations by Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne, an admitted target of their probe and a campaign contributor to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

I now publicly ask Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to categorically retract his letter concerning me and issue a full public apology to me for his ill advised actions. Mark Shurtleff should take full responsibility for his actions, rather than shift the burden of accountability to his staff for his blunders. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's staff should be free from any reprisals for disagreeing with his actions concerning me, confirming to me information contrary to his allegations, and their apologies to me.

After his letter was published in Overstock.com's press release, I had sent Mark Shurteff an email and have made several requests to his staff asking that he contact me regarding his concerns. He has deliberately avoided email or phone contact with me. So far, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff arrogantly and stubbornly refuses to issue a categorical retraction and fully apologize to me, despite the facts and irrefutable evidence.

Overstock.com's issuance of press release containing false and misleading information based on Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's letter creates a serious disclosure issue for a company whose financial disclosures are now being seriously investigated by the SEC. I have asked the SEC to refer this matter to other appropriate law enforcement authorities, as well.

A legitimate question can be raised as to whether the Chief Legal Officer of the state of Utah by publicly taking the side of Overstock.com after taking their campaign contributions has become a facilitator of the company and has involved himself in the commission of a securities fraud.

Like Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff once claimed:

My campaign is primarily funded by those who care about the same values and principles I do.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

I guess that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff found a perfect match and jumped into the sack with Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne. Mark Shurtleff is an unprincipled state attorney general who has demonstrated himself as a corrupt public official by pandering to the campaign contributions of Overstock.com and its CEO, Patrick Byrne, who are both under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible securities law violations.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's claim that I refused to post his letter as a comment in my blog

Specifically, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff made the following allegation:

As Utah Attorney General, I am writing this letter to rebut a blog Sam Antar posted on his website on November 1, 2007. I tried to post this letter as a comment on his blog but Mr. Antar apparently refused to post it.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

Mark Shurtleff's letter was written on November 8, 2007 (it's dated November 8, 2008) and Overstock.com released his letter through a press release issued on November 14, 2007. I did not receive any request from Mark Shurtleff or his office to post anything on my blog until a day after Overstock.com's press release, on November 15, 2007 at 11:40 AM ET. I promptly posted his letter in my blog later that afternoon at 2:45 PM after finishing a fraud presentation and arriving at my office.

A certain person from the Utah Attorney General's office had left the following message on my mobile phone voicemail on November 13, 2007 at 4:36 PM ET five days after Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's letter to Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne and one day before Overstock.com's press release. In other words, only after Mark Shurtleff had already released his letter to Overstock.com for eventual dissemination in a press release did anyone from his office attempt to contact me.

I retrieved that message hours after Overstock.com's press release, a day later, on November 14, 2007. That person said:

We'd probably give you a quick call and say thanks again for coming out to our conference. We sure do appreciate it. We know our boss has probably not been as appreciative but....sure are. If you get a chance give me a call at 801 XXX-XXXX. Thank you. Goodbye.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me. Names were excluded in "but...sure are."

However, nothing in that message indicated that I had violated any understandings or agreements with the Utah Attorney General's office, nor did that person warn me about Mark Shurtleff's letter or address any specific urgent concerns. To the contrary, the voicemail expressed their appreciation for my visit despite Shurtleff's relative lack of appreciation. Other than the message referred to above that I received five days after Mark Shurtleff's letter to Patrick Byrne, no one from the Utah Attorney General's office attempted to either email, post mail, or telephone me other than send me positive responses to my fraud presentation.

The Utah Attorney General's office already had my email address and several phone numbers if they seriously wanted to reach me. The concept of a state Attorney General attempting to reach me via a comment on my blog for such a serious matter is ridiculous considering that his staff had my home phone number, office phone number, cell phone number, and my email address. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff could have just picked up the phone before the letter was issued and called me saying, "Sam, we have a serious disagreement...." Instead, he personally personally pandered to the whims of a campaign contributor Overstock.com and its CEO, Patrick Byrne, both of whom are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That same individual, whom I contacted on November 15, the day after Overstock.com's press release had said:

What you did was exactly what you promised to do for exactly the price you promised to do it at with no expense on our side and total expense on your side.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

Did the Utah Attorney General's office play a game a catch up to cover their tracks after releasing its letter to Patrick Byrne on November 8, 2007 and Overstock.com's press release on November 14, 2007?

The blog comment that I received from Mark Shurtleff arrived on November 15, 2007 about 7 days after he wrote his letter and a day after Overstock.com released that letter. The phone message I received from an individual within the Utah Attorney General's Office was sent to me 5 days after Mark Shurtleff wrote his letter a day before Overstock.com's press release. In any case, certain individuals have confirmed to me and I have detailed irrefutable records to back up my representations that I did not violate any agreements, understandings, or promises made to Utah Attorney General Michael Shurtleff's office regardless of Shurtleff's claims to the contrary.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's claim that I used his invitation to "bookend" and "inappropriately...attack" Overstock.com in my blog

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff alleges:

Mr. Antar was invited to speak at our 14th Annual White Collar Crime Conference, and to express my concern and dismay at the way Mr. Antar used that invitation to "bookend," and inappropriately attempt to legitimize, his attack on a publicly traded company headquartered in Utah.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

In my blog post November 1, 2007 entitled, "Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne Continues to Dodge Questions about SEC Probe and Faces Counterclaims by Rocker and Gradient," referred to in Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's letter, I wrote:

On Wednesday, October 31, 2007, I visited Salt Lake City Utah at the invitation of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff as part of their 14th Annual White Collar Crime Conference. My presentation started at 9:00 AM and was supposed to finish by 11:15 AM. I invited the persons attending the fraud conference to ask me any question. I answered every single question posed to me truthfully, unambiguously, and without deflection. As a result, my fraud presentation concluded about one-half hour later than originally planned.

There were still more questions. So I stayed around at the conference until 1:30 PM and did not leave the conference until every person was satisfied that their questions were answered by me. Afterwards, I visited the Securities and Exchange Commission office in Utah and met with them about issues related to Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne. I waived my right to counsel as we discussed issues relating to Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, and other persons working in collusion with him.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

In the closing paragraph of my blog item, I wrote:

Special thanks to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for inviting me to make a fraud presentation at his office's 14th Annual Conference on White Collar Crime. In the last eight years, I have traveled across our great country and made over 200 fraud presentations on behalf of over 70 hosting organizations, including dozens of government entities, universities, professional groups, and companies free of charge and without any cost reimbursement.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

I neither expressed nor implied that my fraud presentation at the Utah Attorney General's 14th White Collar Crime Conference had anything to do with Overstock.com in that blog item. I was in Salt Lake City Utah to give my fraud presentation at his white collar crime conference and "afterwards" I visited with the Securities and Exchange Commission to provide certain information about Overstock.com. In fact, the Utah Attorney General's Office was well aware of my plans that day and they permitted me to invite certain persons from the SEC, who I would meet up with later at their offices, to attend their white collar crime conference. At the end of my blog post, I gave, "Special thanks to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for inviting me to make a fraud presentation at his office's 14th Annual Conference on White Collar Crime."

What "bookend" is Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff referring too? None exists except in Shurtleff's imagination. In telephone conversations with certain persons from the Utah Attorney General's office, I was told that they had no issue with my blog item. In other words, Mark Shurtleff is wrong.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff allegation that I violated a promise to his office

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff alleges:

I was warned that Mr. Antar might use this speaking engagement to suggest that my office or I personally, endorse or support his accusations against Overstock.com or some other public company. Based on that warning, officials in my office secured a promise from Mr. Antar that he would not use this invitation for that purpose. So much for the promises of a convicted felon! The day after speaking in Utah, he submitted the forgoing (sic) post, opening and closing his latest round of Overstock attacks with references to me, my office, and his presentation at our crime conference.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

A certain person at the Utah Attorney General's office told me that Overstock.com was upset over Utah Attorney General's office invitation to me to make a fraud presentation at their white collar crime conference. The only agreement that I made with Mark Shurtleff's office was to not discuss Overstock.com during my fraud presentation, unless asked by someone in the audience.

I fully complied with my agreement to the Utah Attorney General's office. Nowhere in my blog or whitcollarfraud.com web site did I write anything to suggest that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff personally endorsed anything I had written about Overstock.com or any other public company.

While Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff writes, "So much for the promises of a convicted felon," none of the promises I made with his office were violated. It is Mark Shurtleff who has written false and misleading accusations on behalf of a campaign contributor, despite information from his own staff that refute his allegations. It is Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff that cannot be trusted to tell the truth or own up to his errors in judgment.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's allegation that I claim that he endorses my views about the current practices of any public company or supports any so-called "controversial statements" I have made

In his letter, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff claims:

Let me be perfectly clear: Our invitation to Mr. Antar was in no way an endorsement of his views on the current practices of any public company. It was in no way a statement of support or an endorsement of Mr. Antar's controversial statements respecting any particular public company of any sort. Our invitation, and his presentation at our conference, should not to be taken as any comment on Mr. Antar's self-promotion as a person who can detect and expose errant practices of public companies.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

Where did I say in my blog or whitecollarfraud.com web site that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff endorses my "views on the current practices of any public company" as alleged by Shurtleff? Where have I written on my blog or whitecollarfraud.com web site any "statement of support" or any "endorsement" as alleged by Shurtleff? The answer is nowhere. I invite Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to prove me to the contrary.

During my taped presentation, I never discussed Overstock.com nor did any person in the audience ask me about Overstock.com.

The Attorney General's Office and other attendees actually praised my fraud presentation

Andrew Adams from KSL News Radio interviewed Chief Deputy Attorney General Torgensen and I after my presentation:

There was a "rock star" in a room full of "good guys" downtown today. It was a bad guy at the "White Collar Crimes Conference."

The women auditors were almost in a swoon.

Sam Antar just explained how his family had skimmed $20 million off the top, and then made another $75 million from pumping and dumping Crazy Eddie, Inc. stock in the 1980s.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgenson was a sponge. "When you hear it from somebody who did it, it gives you insights into how they think," Torgersen (sic) said.

"I'm no rock star, I'm a crook," Antar said. "White collar crime is just as brutal as violent crime."

That was Antar's message. He says the way to crack down is with better auditing and policing. He also says his CPA license was just revoked; that should have happened 15 years ago.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

Link to audio clip.

Two days after my fraud presentation and one day after my blog post discussing that presentation, a certain individual from the Utah Attorney General's office emailed me, writing:

Thank you for giving such a dynamic and thought-provoking talk. I've received nothing but positive feedback. I hope you enjoyed your brief stay in Salt Lake. Also feel free to contact me if there's anything I can do for you in the future.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

Other individuals from the Utah Attorney General's office have told me that they received only praise from the persons attending my fraud presentation.

Certain persons from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff office contradicted his allegations and fully agreed that I did what I was supposed to do at the fraud presentation and did not violate any understandings or agreements with the Utah Attorney General's office. They had read my blog item that Mark Shurtleff had complained about in his letter, found nothing wrong with it, and disagreed with his judgment and actions.

A message to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff

In your letter you wrote:

In light of Mr. Antar's background as a convicted white collar criminal, we believe that the public should carefully scrutinize and objectively examine any public statements Mr. Antar makes.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

If you had actually attended and listened to my fraud presentation at your white collar crime conference or read the any newspaper coverage about my other fraud presentations, I make just about the same representation to every audience. I teach them, "Do not trust, just verify, verify, and verify." I explain to my audiences that the word "trust" is a professional hazard for law enforcement, antifraud professionals, and the accounting profession. In addition, I explain to my audience that no person is beyond reproach, even an Attorney General as you have aptly demonstrated by your behavior. I will send you a tape of my fraud presentation at your 14th white collar crime conference. You may learn something about crooked CEOs, too, instead of kowtowing to them after you receive campaign contributions from them or their companies.

In your letter, you claim:

Neither I, nor the Office of the Utah Attorney General, is reliant on Sam Antar for training or advice on the current practices of public companies. This office is not underwriting or endorsing in anyway Mr. Antar or his views. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

It was your office that asked me to take time out of my schedule to come to you for "training or advice on the current practices of public companies." I did not say that you or your office was "underwriting or endorsing" my views. However, it is your office that invited me to express my views on white collar crime and your office praised the presentation of my views at your white collar crime conference. Your office and conference attendees have given me nothing but positive feedback about my presentation.

Lastly, you state in your letter:

"I admonish Mr. Antar to remove from his website any reference (including the forgoing (sic) blog) that might suggestion such a conclusion; and to be careful not to suggest such a connection or conclusion in any of his public statements."

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

Well than Mr. Shurtleff, at least you have raised public awareness of cronyism and possible corruption by high public officials, such as the chief legal officer of an entire state.

The word and wishes of an unprincipled state attorney general who has demonstrated himself as a corrupt public official by pandering to the campaign contributions of a company and CEO under scrutiny by the SEC gets no respect or cooperation from this convicted felon. You are an Attorney General, who does not care about possible crimes by companies who happen to be campaign contributors, in your own backyard.

However, I invite you to provide me via email with specific detailed reasons of what I should edit or remove from my blog post and why. I strongly advise you that before you respond to me, Mr. Shurtleff, you and your office should get your stories straight. You have the right to remain silent and a constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Otherwise, your charade has wasted enough of my time.

PS: A state Attorney General should be careful to proof read official documents before signing and releasing them. Your date was off an entire year. Your letter was dated November 8, 2008, not 2007. You had one incomplete sentence, "Mr. Antar was invited...." You used the wrong spelling for "forgoing." It should be "foregoing." I guess that's the best quality a campaign contributor can expect from you for $10,000.

Well, typos happen to the best of us.

Written by:

Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convicted felon)

Update (11/29/07): Please read my blog post entitled,"Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Caught Lying on Behalf of Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne," and listen to the taped conversation between Deputy Attorney General Richard Hamp and I.

Update (12/13/07): Please read my blog post entitled, "Open Letter to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Re: Your lies on behalf of campaign contributor Overstock.com."

Update (08/18/08): Please read my blog post entitled, "Overstock.com (NASDAQ: OSTK) CEO Patrick Byrne Pays Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to Defame a Blogger." Just a few days prior to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's defamation of me in his "open letter" and Overstock.com's subsequent press release, Shurtleff received a $5,000 so-called campaign contribution from Overstock.com. In addition, new details of phone conversations with Deputy Attorney General Richard Hamp and Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen verify that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff lied on behalf of Overstock.com to defame me.

Other Blogs Covering this Issue:

The FRAUDfiles blog by Tracy Coenen (date order):

11/15/07: Yesterday’s press release by Overstock.com on Sam Antar and the Utah Attorney General’s office

11/15/07: My letter requesting an apology to Sam Antar from Utah AG Mark Shurtleff

11/15/07: Update on Mark Shurtleff’s comments from Sam Antar’s blog

11/16/07: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff: No apology for Sam Antar!

Other Blogs:

11/20/07: The World According to Me - AG Shurtleff Defames Critic of Patrick Byrne by Bob

11/21/07: Gary Weiss - Utah Attorney General Kowtows to Overstock.com by Gary Weiss

2 comments:

Laird said...

Sam,
Last week I left you a positive comment here based on a published report of the work you do. I'm sorry I need to ask you to remove that comment imediately. I will not have my name associated with someone small enough to write what you just did to any state attorney general. What disrespect and pettiness (criticising spelling??)! I hope things go better for you.

Sam E. Antar said...

Laird:

You obviously have not read my entire blog post. As I wrote in my blog item above:

"Rest assured that I possess plenty of detailed and irrefutable documentation to back up my representations that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff made false and misleading claims in his letter from certain knowledgeable individuals in his office. Those individuals can confirm that I broke no promises made to the Utah Attorney General's office and violated no agreements or understandings made with that office. I have already provided detailed documentation to the Securities and Exchange Commission which is investigating possible securities law violations by Overstock.com and Patrick Byrne, an admitted target of their probe and a campaign contributor to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff."

Respectfully,

Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convcted felon)