With the recent SEC investigation of the message board posting activities of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, the spotlight has also been turned on Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com. Byrne is known to run around the internet, posting on a few different message boards, often using a screen name rather than his real name.
But did he say this to the New York Times? Nope. He instead said this:
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.
Byrne says he never his true identity and always signs his name, but the evidence shows otherwise.
It’s not as easy to discern who Hannibal is as Overstock PR proxy Evren would like you to believe.
Here are the stats on how Patrick Byrne has signed his “Hannibal” posts on InvestorVillage:
- 1 signed as Patrick Byrne, CEO
- 3 signed as Patrick Byrne
- 57 signed as Patrick
- 34 unsigned
The user profile is private and gives no clues. A similar (if not worse) scenario exists on the Motley Fool, although I do not have accurate stats from there.
It’s bad enough that Byrne is not clearly and publicly disclosing his identity when writing messages about Overstock.com, but it’s even worse that he lies about it and makes it seem like he does always disclose it.
Byrne hides behind the First Amendment and free speech. Well…. he may have the right to say what he wishes about Overstock, but [tag]Regulation FD[/tag] dictates how he must do that when his free speech relates to Overstock, the public company which he runs.
In January, Sam Antar asked Byrne to clearly identify himself in his posts about Overstock on InvestorVillage:
Can you please sign your post with your full name so there is no misunderstanding as to who is replying?
Sam has plenty to say about the online activities of Patrick Byrne and his hired help, Judd Bagley. Gary Weiss weighs in as well.
I wonder how officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission feel about this?