August 13, 2020

Patrick Byrne is at your beck and call

Winners and Losers in the Overstock Restatement

With Overstock.com announcing last week that they would be restating their financial statements for the the last three quarters and their 2008 consolidated financial statements, it marked another open-mouth-insert-foot moment for Patrick Byrne and his Company.

This will be the third restatement in the last three years. We understand that financial reporting can be tricky but this doesn’t make for a very good pattern.

Winners:

Steve Cohen, Michael Milliken, Sam Antar, Joe Nocera, Gary Weiss, Roddy Boyd, Barry Ritholtz, Felix Salmon, Henry Blodget, John Carney, Joe Wisenthal, et al. – Anyone and everyone vilified by Patrick Byrne because they questioned either him, his Company, or both. Patrick Byrne has always maintained that these people were part of large conspiracy of short sellers and financial bloggers and journalists. The restatement simply proves that whatever suspicions they had about Overstock, they were right. Plus all their friends and family on Facebook were violated by creepazoid and Deep Capture hatchet-man, Judd Bagley. That’s just not cool.


Grant Thornton – Not sure if GT realized it at the time, but getting fired by Overstock is looking pretty good right now. So they changed their minds on the accounting; BFD, right? It happens and clients typically get over it. Pat Byrne decided that it was unacceptable and that LOUDLY crucifying GT in SEC filings, the press, and on conference calls would convince everyone that the auditors were idiots and Overstock and he would triumph over this injustice. Grant Thornton did not hesitate in chanting “liar, liar pants on fire” to Patsy’s face (nothing to lose, they were already fired) and now they’re clear of this three ring circus.

Losers:

PricewaterhouseCoopers – PwC was the auditor for Overstoc prior to Grant Thornton and had always signed off on the company’s financial statements (excellent service in PB’s mind). Now that the restatement has occurred, PwC gets dragged back into the fray to explain what they did, why they did it, and how they got it wrong. A) That just sucks and B) who the hell is going to remember what the hell they did four years ago?

Overstock shareholders – Any Company that restates their financial statements with any regularity whatsoever should be avoided like a group of lepers. If you’re still currently long in Overstock, you have the chance to make the right the decision: sell while the shares are worth something. Your humble servant Patrick Byrne has failed you.

Jury is out:

KPMG: For some reason, Klyneveld Salt Lake City decided that despite Overstock’s dubious past, they were willing to roll the dice. The firm now has the pleasure of guiding the firm through this restatement and somehow pulling the audit for fiscal year 2009 together. The whole exercise reeks of futility. Anyone that happened to be assigned to this engagement and a shred of sanity would have given their notice on the spot. For the time being, the firm seems to be sticking it out but time will tell if the firm changes their mind about their risky new client.

SEC: Everyone knows that the Commission doesn’t have the best track record of late. They have managed to be the laughingstock of the entire bureaucracy and despite a lot of huffing and puffing about new divisions and putting together a dream team of enforcement and financial experts, we haven’t seen much for results. Overstock may be a chance to show everyone that they’re done taking shit and that they are going to start smacking companies around.

Quote of the Day | 01.21.10

“But Byrne is evil. I’ll stand by that. More than evil, he’s soul-less evil. That said, I hope you understand that I don’t have anything against Byrne per se. I have things I want, and he stands in the way, so I now I’m removing him. At the same time, there’s no reason we can’t co-exist under specific circumstances.
~ William K. Wolfrum, on Farmville junkie and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.

Nasty CEO Patrick Byrne; Blogging Is a Good Idea; Against Tax Breaks for Haiti Relief

America’s Nastiest CEO [The Big Money via Gary Weiss]
We’re still wondering if the KPMG Salt Lake City office knows what they got themselves into by taking Overstock.com on as a client.
Gary Weiss notes:

The Big Money this afternoon came out with a devastating (and gutsy) article by former Fortune writer Roddy Boyd on the corporate crime petri dish that is Overstock.com, and its nuts CEO Patrick Byrne. The title is “America’s Nastiest CEO,” and it descristematically harassed and attacked critics to cover up his own incompetence and wrongdoing–stuff that actually is a lot worse than has previously been acknowledged.

Calling all Manchester United fans [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett — never shy with his opinion — segues into an argument for blogging after noting that the Manchester United don’t need to:

There is a blog post over on Social Media Today that demonstrates as well as just about anything I’ve seen written why you should almost never listen to folk who call themselves ‘social media experts/gurus/consultants.’ Awarding itself the grand title: World’s Most Valuable Soccer Team Doesn’t Get Social Media the author proceeds to show almost zero understanding of The Beautiful Game or the people who are part of that world.


After blowing up one person’s argument for social media, DH turns the tables back to why it’s a good idea:

I have for the longest time said that professionals should write blogs. Many seem bemused by the question: we’re too busy, what would we say? we don’t want to blatantly promote, we’re not sure clients would care…the list goes on. Many talk about networking and the need for face to face meetings in order to make the kind of marketing impression they believe will win business.

In case you still think that the traditional networking is still more your speed, DH continues:

Unlike football fans, clients don’t congregate in large numbers every Saturday afternoon although they may do so in smaller numbers in industry specific associations from time to time. And of course you should be making an effort to attend those kinds of event. But in the meantime and if you are serious about running a business as opposed to a practice, then surely it makes sense to stand alongside your clients?

Have you run out of excuses for your firm having a blog?
Don’t Give Special Tax Breaks for Haiti Relief [Tax Vox]
Before everyone gets excited about the possibility of your contributions to the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, et al. being deductible for 2009, don’t forget that many of you won’t benefit from a tax standpoint:

The proposal won’t help the two-thirds of taxpayers who take the standard deduction since it only accelerates itemized deductions. Even among itemizers, those millions of givers who are contributing $10 by text message are not going to care much about whether they can write off those few dollars this year or next.
Those who might benefit–relatively high-earning itemizers who give substantial gifts–can easily address this cash flow problem under current law. All they’d need to do is change their withholding or estimated tax payments to reflect any unusually large gifts to Haiti relief.

And not only that, what about other charities that are not subject to the timing change? Don’t they still need money?

Btw, a 2008 paper by Jon Bakija and Bradley Heim finds that higher-income taxpayers are more likely to adjust their giving to reflect changes in their after-tax cost–another reason they’d be the biggest beneficiaries of this bill. But even for them, this small temporary timing change is not likely to matter very much.
Still, some people would change their behavior, and that troubles me. Will they reduce gifts to other worthy causes in favor of newly tax-favored Haiti-related charities? Many organizations are already struggling with major recession-driven reductions in contributions and this would hurt even more.

Haiti still needs everyone’s help, no question but don’t be shocked if Congress’ latest attempt at helping out doesn’t turn out to be that helpful.

Will a Boycott of Overstock.com Thwart Patrick Byrne’s Auditor Hunt?

Thumbnail image for patsy_byrne.jpgGuys and gals, we here at GC are concerned about something. Something other than who the next face of Accenture will be (honestly we’re excited about Chuck’s commanding lead).
No, we’re concerned that your humble servant and Farmville enthusiast Patrick Byrne is going to be unable to find an auditor for Overstock.com. The company has until January 18th to pull something together so the NASDAQ doesn’t delist them and if things continue the way they are, it’s going to be hello Pink Sheets.
Maybe things wouldn’t look so grim if PB hadn’t blown off CNN. Or if he hadn’t pissed off every single financial journalist and blogger by getting too friendy.
But now that Barry Ritholtz has called for a boycott, any hope for finding the next auditor to put the stamp of approval on OSTK’s financial statements is fading.
Wait! Gary Weiss has his doubts: “As for that boycott: great idea, except that with Byrne manipulating the financials, how would you know if it is having any impact?”
Whew! There’s still a glimmer.
Boycott Overstock.com [The Big Picture]

Patrick Byrne May Say Something That Will Antagonize You

Thumbnail image for patsy_byrne.jpgThe Patrick Byrne Express (via Segway, natch) pulled over from its nationwide auditor search to pen the latest triumph in his quest to refute every Overstock/Patrick Byrne hater on the planet.
Patsy’s latest letter informs us of the settlement that Overstock has reached with Rocker Partners, one of those short-selling hedge fund haters, for $5 million.
His masterpiece opens with “The good guys won” and then rambles on to tell us how he feels about pretty much everyone in financial media. And that’s what this was really all about. It wasn’t about the money, you fools. This was about exposing the anti-Overstock/Patrick Byrne contingent:

What is of vastly greater significance than this $5 million payment, however, is an examination of the cover-up conducted by elements of the New York financial press. Taking the lead was CNBC, which spent a great deal of airtime downplaying the significance of this suit, vilifying me, and smearing Overstock.

Apparently, this is just the beginning. Prime brokers, sounds like you’re next.
And just so you know, PB and his company don’t give a damn if you, the SEC, or anyone else for that matter gets bent out of shape about them spreading the truth. As Floyd Norris rehashes some of the trubs going on in casa de Overstock, he notes this little treasure from the company’s unreviewed 10-Q:

Public statements we or our chief executive officer, Patrick M. Byrne, have made or may make in the future may antagonize regulatory officials or others.
We and our chief executive officer, Patrick M. Byrne, have from time to time made public statements regarding our or his beliefs about matters of public interest, including statements regarding naked short selling. Some of those public statements have been critical of the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies. These public statements may have consequences for us, whether as a result of increased regulatory scrutiny or otherwise.

Sounds like fighting words to us. Go ahead and bring it, SEC. Patrick Byrne will be waiting.
Overstock Claims Victory [Floyd Norris/NYT]

Patrick Byrne Misses Golden Opportunity to Solicit Potential Auditors

Thumbnail image for patsy_byrne.jpgJust when we thought the hubbub around shareholder servant Patrick Byrne had gone on hiatus, we came across a post from Gary Weiss telling us that Patsy bailed on a CNN appearance for State of the Union with John King.
According to the website, “Patrick Byrne, Chairman & CEO of Overstock.com, looks at how consumer spending will fare this holiday season during a global recession.”


As Weiss notes:

Seriously, though, CNN’s bookers had no choice. What other CEO of any retail outlet bigger than a pushcart would be available during the busiest retailing weekend of the year? Byrne was scheduled to appear from studios in San Francisco, not Salt Lake City, where the corporate headquarters is located.
Here he was, while his company teetered on ruin, either flying into San Francisco for the chance to get his puss on national TV, or living it up on Telegraph Hill or wherever, far from his beleaguered and SEC-investigated company.

Apparently Byrne was late and dropped from the show. There is no transcript available for his appearance but if his smiling mug (hopefully posing on a Segway) made an appearance, by all means let us know.
In all likelihood, he was on the hunt for Friehling & Horowtiz’s San Fran office but an open plea on national television seems like a better way to find his company’s next auditor. Oh well. Next time!
“Economic Expert” Patrick Byrne Dumped by CNN [Gary Weiss]
More GC Coverage of Patrick Byrne/Grant Thornton saga:
Patrick Byrne: Noooo, Grant Thornton, You’re Lying
Grant Thornton: Patrick Byrne’s Pants Are on Fire

Patrick Byrne: Noooo, Grant Thornton, You’re Lying

Thumbnail image for patsy_byrne.jpgOkay you guys, this Overstock.com/Grant Thornton cat fight is getting real mature.
Your humble servant Patrick Byrne has responded to Grant Thornton’s letter stating, in no uncertain terms that he is a L – I – A – R by saying, “I know you are but whatami? I know you are but whatami? I know you are but whatami?”
In the latest OSTK press release, Patsy lists nine points of contention that he has with Grant Thornton’s letter to the SEC which started all this “You’re a liar!” business. We’ve presented some of our favorite moments after the jump for your enjoyment (all emphasis is ours):

4. Grant Thornton Letter: “Further, paragraph 4 references a report on the Company’s consolidated financial statements for the year ending December 31, 2009. As we have not performed an audit of the Company’s financial statements for any period, this reference is incorrect.”
We know that Grant Thornton never performed an audit of our 2009 financial statements and, again, we never said otherwise: as it is currently November, 2009, our 2009 financial statements do not exist. The SEC requirement is that we disclose what Grant Thornton would have disagreed with had it performed what our audit committee engaged them to do – an audit of our 2009 financial statements. We complied with the SEC requirement. I’m not sure what Grant Thornton expected us to say in prefacing the explanation of our disagreements with Grant Thornton.

6. Grant Thornton Letter: “We disagree with the Company’s statement in paragraph 7 ‘that upon further consultation and review within the firm, Grant Thornton revised its earlier position’ regarding the previously filed 2009 interim financial statements. This statement is not accurate. The Company brought the overpayment to a fulfillment partner to Grant Thornton’s attention in October. After additional discussions with the Company, the predecessor auditor and receipt of additional documentation from the Company we determined that the Company’s position as to the accounting treatment for the overpayment to a fulfillment partner was in error.”
This is a falsehood. On several occasions Grant Thornton discussed with and provided guidance on the accounting for the $785,000 fulfillment partner overpayment during and prior to October…
7. Grant Thornton Letter: “Further the Company’s statement does not address the fact that the consultation noted in paragraph 5 was in relation to the ongoing incomplete review of the September 30, 2009 interim financial statements.”
This is a curious statement given that on October 30 Grant Thornton sent a final report dated November 5 (for a November 6 audit committee meeting) to our audit committee stating that “[w]e have concluded our review of the most recent interim quarter. Our review procedures identified certain immaterial differences,” all of which “are currently being addressed by management or will naturally be corrected by year-end.” These immaterial differences amounted to a net $35,000 for the first nine months of 2009.
8. Grant Thornton Letter: “We have also read Item 4.02 of Form 8-K of Overstock.com, Inc. (‘the Company’) dated November 16, 2009 and disagree with the statements concerning our Firm contained therein. During the course of our incomplete review of the Company’s September 30, 2009 financial statements, we advised the Company that disclosure should be made to prevent future reliance on its March 31, 2009 and June 30, 2009 financial statements. We advised the company [sic] to make the disclosure because we became aware that material modifications should be made to the previously filed 2009 interim financial statements to conform with US GAAP.”
This is incorrect. As noted above, on October 30, Grant Thornton sent a report to our audit committee stating that “[w]e have concluded our review of the most recent interim quarter,” and nowhere in its October 30 report is there any advice from Grant Thornton that we should make disclosure to prevent future reliance on our Q1 or Q2 2009 financial statements. Such an omission from such a report seems conclusive of the fact that this was not an issue until our audit committee dismissed Grant Thornton. In addition, on November 13 – after our audit committee dismissed Grant Thornton – our Senior Vice President, Finance specifically asked Mr. Haycock (the managing partner of the Grant Thornton Salt Lake office) whether Grant Thornton had communicated to our audit committee that we should take actions or make disclosures concerning our Q1 and Q2 2009 financial statements, and we noted that any such communications would trigger a Form 8-K filing requirement for us. Mr. Haycock answered that Grant Thornton had not made any such communications. Grant Thornton only gave us such advice later on November 13 in a letter to the chairwoman of our audit committee.

Byrne wraps it up this way, naturally:

As I said in my November 16 letter, our finance and legal teams continue to work with the SEC on the issues addressed in its comment letters, and once these issues are resolved (and we have engaged another independent audit firm), we will file a reviewed Q3 Form 10-Q/A.
Your humble servant,
Patrick M. Byrne

Oh yeah, did we mention they’re still looking for an auditor? Shockingly, there are still no takers.
The final numbers from our poll show that KPMG is the winner of auditor most likely to be fired next by Overstock.com. We’re still waiting to hear who’s actually entertaining the idea of sabotaging their own firm with this little treat of a company. Stay tuned.
GC Coverage of Overstock.com/Grant Thornton:
Grant Thornton: Patrick Byrne’s Pants Are on Fire
Overstock.com Receives Delisting Notice, Really, Really, Really Needs an Auditor
Overstock.com Fires Grant Thornton, Files Unreviewed 10-Q, CEO Remains Humble
Also see: Overstock: Actually, Grant Thornton Is Lying [Silicon Alley Insider]

Grant Thornton: Patrick Byrne’s Pants Are on Fire

patsy_byrne.jpgWant more twists out of the asylum known as Overstock.com? You got it.
Overstock.com filed an amended 8-K yesterday — after the markets closed — that included a letter from GT to the SEC. The letter, in so many words, says that OSTK lied about GT’s knowledge about the hocus-pocus accounting irdinary, every day case of client and auditor going their separate ways, the auditors letter would basically say, “Yeah, we’re cool and we’re moving on.”
But in this case, since we’re dealing with Patrick “I’ll open this letter with Nietzsche” Byrne, we’ve got an auditor saying, “Um, yes, this is what happened. In CRAZY TOWN.”


To wit (our emphasis):

We disagree with the Company’s statement in paragraph 7 “that upon further consultation and review within the firm, Grant Thornton revised its earlier position” regarding the previously filed 2009 interim financial statements. This statement is not accurate. The Company brought the overpayment to a fulfillment partner to Grant Thornton’s attention in October. After additional discussions with the Company, the predecessor auditor and receipt of additional documentation from the Company we determined that the Company’s position as to the accounting treatment for the overpayment to a fulfillment partner was in error. Further the Company’s statement does not address the fact that the consultation noted in paragraph 5 was in relation to the ongoing incomplete review of the September 30, 2009 interim financial statements.

Hang in there, GT isn’t done:

We have also read Item 4.02 of Form 8-K of Overstock.com, Inc. (“the Company”) dated November 16, 2009 and disagree with the statements concerning our Firm contained therein. During the course of our incomplete review of the Company’s September 30, 2009 financial statements, we advised the Company that disclosure should be made to prevent future reliance on its March 31, 2009 and June 30, 2009 financial statements. We advised the company to make the disclosure because we became aware that material modifications should be made to the previously filed 2009 interim financial statements to conform with US GAAP. Such modifications are necessary due to the Company having reduced its cost of goods sold in the first quarter of 2009 by receipt of a refund of an overpayment to a fulfillment partner.

There you have it. Grant Thornton, in extremely diplomatic manner, is calling Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com liars.
Now after considering both the humble servant’s story and GT’s letter, our instinct tells us to go with GT. Obviously we’re partial to the servants of the capital markets but the other mitigating factor is, let’s see, Patrick Byrne is off his rocker.
Undiagnosed mental conditions aside, we wish we could give GT more credit for calling BS on a slimy client. Fact of the matter is, they were warned by Sam Antar back in March — when they took OSTK on as a client — that they were in for trouble:

I wish that I can wish you luck with your new client. However, I cannot wish you luck because you apparently ignored the basic “smell test” in evaluating Overstock.com as a potential client.

Apparently Grant Thornton, like your predecessor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, did not carefully examine false claims about Overstock.com’s financial performance, dating back almost ten years by CEO Patrick Byrne. You would have discovered that Byrne has no problem habitually lying to the investors, the news media and the public.

So as you can see, this is all very awk. In GT’s case, they were explicitly warned to stay the hell away from OSTK. And any auditor worth their salt would take one look at this company and get a feeling like their body was covered in centipedes.
As for Patsy and OSTK, well, as Gary Weiss notes, “Overstock will be tossed onto the pink sheet ant hill where it really, seriously folks, really belongs.” Indeed.
We asked for a show of hands yesterday on who you thought would roll the dice with Pat and Co. and so far KPMG has the lead which seems a tad ludicrous. But hey! We’re not one to argue with the voice of the people.
Voting remains open until the end of today, so check out the latest tally and throw support behind the next firm to get tangled in the Patrick Byrne web. We’ll continue to update you on this horror show as it develops.
Open Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission Part 3: Overstock.com Lied About Grant Thornton and Concealed Error [White Collar Fraud/Sam Antar]
Grant Thornton to SEC: Overstock.com Lied [Gary Weiss]
Also see: The Auditor Disagrees With Overstock.com [Floyd Norris/NYT]
Overstock’s Fired Accounting Firm Says Overstock Is Lying [Silicon Alley Insider]

Overstock.com Receives Delisting Notice, Really, Really, Really Needs an Auditor

patrick_byrne.jpgJust a brief follow-up on the three ring circus known as Overstock.com. After Wednesday’s bizarro conference call, Ringmaster Patrick Byrne and his company filed an 8-K on Friday letting the SEC know that the NASDAQ wasn’t impressed with the unreviewed 10-Q that the company filed last week.
The NASDAQ notice informed OSTK that since the company thought it would be cute to file an unreviewed 10-Q, they will delist the OSTK from the exchange if they are not back in compliance with listing rules by January 18th.
It was an especially nice touch that OSTK filed the 8-K “two minutes after market close today, a day after the letter was received.”
Getting back into compliance will involve finding an auditing firm stupid enough desperate enough willing to be the next humble servant to sign off on the 10-Q.
The issue at hand is worth putting to a vote. For whatever reason you like, choose the firm that should be the next auditor of OSTK. We’re not privy to all the possible independence issues that may exist, so anyone that brings them up to point how one firm would be disqualified can piss off.

Overstock.com Fires Grant Thornton, Files Unreviewed 10-Q, CEO Remains Humble

patrick_byrne.jpgThere’s really nothing better than an eccentric CEO throwing caution to the wind, consequences be damned.
Insert Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com (“OSTK”). He issued a letter via press release yesterday that has many people’s attention.
Byrne opens the letter by quoting Nietzsche:
“All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”


Tragic enough but then Byrne really amps it up, droning on for eleven points about his company’s dire situation. Here’s the gist*:
• The difficult accounting treatment of an overpayment received by OSTK from a “partner”.
• Putting the audit out to bid after “eight years of fine service” from P. Dubs, and hiring GT because “my belief that changing auditors every decade or so might be healthy.”
• SEC inquiries into the accounting treatment of the overpayment.
• GT changing their minds on the accounting treament after said inquiries.
• We’re filing an unreviewed 10-Q, P. Dubs is on board for our treatment, GT is fired, anyone (and I mean anyone) want to audit us?
Byrne spends no less than six paragraphs/points explaining GT’s wishy-washy, bending-over-for-the-SEC ways. The man is nothing if not thorough.
Spineless auditors notwithstanding, Byrne will press on, the company will overcome, and he will remain committed to you, Overstock.com shareholder:

I will hold a conference call to further explain and answer questions regarding this matter on Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. EST (details below). Until then, I remain,
Your humble servant,
Patrick M. Byrne

10-Q [SEC.gov]
8-K: Dismissal of Grant Thornton [SEC.gov]
Press Release [SEC.gov]
*If you want to debate the particulars, be my guest but this isn’t the Journal of Accountancy, feel me?