Recently, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, has come under fire because of his anonymous posting on internet message boards. Using the anonymous alias Rahodeb, Mr. Mackey assailed his competitors and promoted his company. According to a recent New York Times article entitled, "The Hand That Controls the Sock Puppet Could Get Slapped," (subscription required) by Brad Stone and Matt Richtel:
Patrick M. Byrne, founder and chief executive of the beleaguered online retailer Overstock.com, has for years been accused of anonymously resorting to the Internet to do battle with his company's critics. In an interview, Mr. Byrne said that he never hides his true identity and always signs his name when he posts under his online handle, "Hannibal" (the Carthaginian conqueror, not the celluloid serial killer).
Mr. Byrne said he uses online forums to convey what he has learned about the hidden agendas of his critics. "Nothing about being a public figure compels one to surrender one's First Amendment rights," he said. [Emphasis added.]
Note: While Patrick Byrne claims that he does not post anonymously, he certainly does not make it easy to identify his posts on internet message boards
The blogger known by his pen name Scipio Africanus (O-Smear Blog), who Byrne's cronies Judd Bagley and Evren Karpak attempted to blackmail, wrote the following comment to a post on Herb Greenberg’s Market Blog entitled, "Updated: Whole Foods' Fiasco: What Do CEO Mackey and Patrick Byrne Share in Common?"
Note: I once asked Patrick Byrne to sign his full name to posts on InvestorVillage and was later booted for asking him "deposition style" questions
On January 29, 2007, in a post (message number 4166), on InvestorVillage, I asked Patrick Byrne to clear up the confusion:
Can you please sign your post with your full name so there is no misunderstanding as to who is replying?
Patrick Byrne (CEO of Overstock.com) uses the handle Hannibal. Let's clear up any misunderstanding as to who is responding.
Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convicted felon) [Emphasis added.]
Later, he complained (message number 4463) that I was acting as a “Junior Prosecutor" and asked other message board readers to ignore me:
- Is there anyone here who suspects that Sam is just trying to clog, or waste my time, or misdirect this discussion board? If you agree, please recommend this post. If we get over 20, I say that is proof that it is time we all agree to ignore Sam forever. [Emphasis added.]
Note: About three weeks later, I was booted from InvestorVillage for asking "deposition style" questions to Patrick Byrne and his cronies Judd Bagley (Director of Communications at Overstock.com), and antisocialmedia.net smear web contributor, Evren Karpak.
Patrick Byrne failed to mention that his henchman, Judd Bagley, Director of Communications at Overstock.com and administrator of Overstock.com's antisocialmedia.net smear web site, has used multiple anonymous aliases on internet message boards with his approval to threaten, intimidate, harass, blackmail, and smear his critics.
Another part of the New York Times article states:
Other chief executives have found their sock puppetry coming back to haunt them. At the criminal fraud trial of Hollinger International's chief executive, Conrad M. Black, prosecutors introduced evidence that the former press baron had once proposed joining a Yahoo Finance chat room to blame short sellers for his company's stock performance. [Emphasis added.]
Patrick Byrne apparently believes that if he uses proxies such as Judd Bagley to threaten, harass, intimidate, blackmail, smear, and resort to anti-Semitism in an attempt to silence his critics, he can escape the long arm of the law.
Patrick Byrne has blamed almost everyone and everything but himself for the decline in his stock. He has permitted his Director of Communications, Judd Bagley, to post under multiple anonymous aliases on internet message boards that cover Overstock.com.
According the Scipio Africanus (O-Smear blog), in a blog post entitled, "Bagley and/or cohort psuedonyms," Judd Bagley has used over a dozen of anonymous aliases to intimidate, harass, threaten, blackmail, and/or smear critics of his boss, Patrick Byrne.
On January 28, 2007, I asked Judd Bagley on InvestorVillage (message number 4135) the following question about his use of anonymous aliases:
Can you provide such a list of all such aliases and all communications you have made under such aliases?
On Monday, January 29, 2007, at 2:08 PM local time, during normal office hours at Overstock.com, an angry Patrick Byrne replied (message number 4165) on behalf of Judd Bagley:
I BET HE COULD, BUT I WOULD TELL HIM I WOULD ADVISE HIM NOT TO DO SO.
Note: Patrick Byrne wrote his response in cap letters.
Patrick Byrne has approved anonymous posting on internet message boards relating to Overstock.com by his Director of Communications, Judd Bagley.
On January 29, 2007, in a post (message number 4177) on InvestorVillage, I asked by Patrick Byrne and Judd Bagley the following question:
Do you believe that the use of anonymous handles by you (Patrick Byrne or Judd Bagley) to attack non- anonymous critics of either you Patrick Byrne, Judd Bagley, or performance of Overstock.com is ethical?
That same day, Patrick Byrne replied to me (message number 4179) on InvestorVillage, using his alias Hannibal:
By way of general response, I will mentioned that I am proud of both mine and Judd's behavior ....
That will have to do. [Emphasis added.]
Recently, on Overstock.com's web site, Patrick Byrne wrote:
What is the limit of what is appropriate when it comes to executives going online?
Some obvious points first: I think the Achilles heel of the Internet is anonymity. People behave in an uncivilized fashion when they are anonymous, but when they are stripped of anonymity, those same people begin behaving politely.
Patrick Byrne fails to mention that Judd Bagley ran the antisocialmedia.net smear web site on his behalf from its inception on September 8, 2006 to January 2, 2007 until Roddy Boyd exposed them in a New York Post article entitled, "Overstock.com Lashes out at Critics on Web."
In addition, Patrick Byrne writes:
Second, no executive (or for that matter, any employee) should ever go online to talk up her own company’s stock or try to bash a competitor’s stock price.
I guess that Patrick Byrne is delusional if believes that his own distortions and smears of critics carried out by him and his cronies, Judd Bagley and Evren Karpak, on his behalf is not the same as bashing a competitor. I believe that the Securities and Exchange Commission, who is investigating Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, and others sees it differently.
Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convicted felon)
Additional Coverage in other Blogs
Gary Weiss Blog - Today's Patrick Byrne Lie Du Jour
FRAUDfiles Blog - Patrick Byrne lies to New York Times about message board postings by Tracy Coenen
IP & Democracy - How Many Sock Puppets Are Out There? by Cynthia Brumfield
FRAUDfiles Blog - The SEC cares when CEOs post on message boards using pseudonyms???? by Tracy Coenen