Yesterday, Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com issued a press release regarding a recent speaking engagement done by Sam Antar. The Utah Attorney General’s office invited Sam to speak at their annual White Collar Fraud Conference on October 31.
As with all of Sam’s speaking engagements, he received no fee and he paid for his own travel costs. He does many of these speaking engagements around the country, and he pays all of his own expenses, which surely total at least tens of thousands of dollars each year.
The press release issued by Overstock and Byrne was part of the ongoing battle between him and Sam, as Sam questions the unusual accounting practices and financial statement disclosures at Overstock. (Yes, I too, question the financial statements of the company and in my opinion, something is fishy there.)
The Overstock press release related to a letter written by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and said, in part:
SALT LAKE CITY, UT–(MARKET WIRE)–Nov 14, 2007 — Overstock.com, Inc. (Nasdaq:OSTK) has received and published a copy of an open letter from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to Sam Antar, the substance of which Antar refuses to post to his blog after Shurtleff twice attempted to submit them as comments.
The Attorney General’s comments can be read at: http://www.overstock.com/Shurtleff+comment.pdf
Shurtleff maintains that Antar used his blog to violate a commitment to avoid exploiting, for self-promotional purposes, an invitation to participate in a recent seminar on white collar crime organized by the Utah Attorney General’s office.
Shurtleff’s letter states, “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!”
Antar is a former CPA who engineered the money laundering portion of the legendary Crazy Eddie stock manipulation scheme.
Referring to Antar as a “known criminal mastermind,” Shurtleff wrote, “We invited Mr. Antar to speak at our conference solely because he is a convicted felon. There is much that law enforcement can learn from criminals to catch more criminals and better protect the public.”
Shurtleff went on to affirm: “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 any way Mr. Antar or his views. Nothing could be further from the truth. I admonish Mr. Antar to remove from his website any reference (including the forgoing blog) that might suggest such a conclusion; and to be careful not to suggest such a connection or conclusion in any of his public statements.”
Overstock.com Chairman and CEO Patrick Byrne has engaged in a very public battle against illegal stock market manipulation. Several bloggers and journalists, including Sam Antar, have responded with equally public attacks against Byrne.
“For over two years I have alleged that the New York financial media has grown so cozy with Wall Street that they refuse to report on what the smart money knows: that a crack exists in our financial system by which criminal hedge funds are profiteering at the expense of hundreds of entrepreneurs; that this is destroying corporate governance, ruining companies, and possibly creating systemic risk; and that the SEC has grown so captured that getting them to enforce the rule of law to stop this may take (quite literally) an Act of Congress,” Byrne said.
“The letter from the Attorney General of Utah, which Sam has, for a week, ignored and refused to post to his blog as twice requested, speaks to Sam’s perfidy,” Byrne added. “The real investigative business journalists left in this country might explore whose interests are being served by the promotion of Sam Antar by CBS-MarketWatch, DowJones, and Fortune.”
Sam says he never received a comment on his blog, and I believe him. Why? Because I run several blogs and there are plenty of times when comments disappear, either because they are wrongly tagged as “spam” by the software or there is just a computer glitch. It happens.
Further, I think that if Mark Shurtleff had a problem with what was posted on Sam’s site, couldn’t he or one of his staffers contact Sam directly? Did they contact him directly when they invited him to do the speaking engagement? Or did they invite him with a comment on his blog. Most assuredly, they contacted him directly. If he was good enough to be telephoned or e-mailed about giving a gratis presentation, certainly he is good enough to be contacted directly about some blog content to which Shurtleff objects????
Add to this the fact that Shurtleff completely mischaracterizes what’s posted on Sam’s site. Did he even read it? The letter makes it appear as if Sam improperly indicated in his blog post that Shurtleff or the AG’s office had something to do with Overstock. It makes it seem like Sam said Shurtleff or his office had something against Overstock.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and that is clear to any rational person who reads Sam’s blog article. The context of the article is clear. Sam provides the context of his visit to Utah, which was his presentation at the White Collar Crime Conference. He gives a few facts about his presentation. He then states that he went to visit with the SEC. Sam makes no inference that there is any connection between Shurtleff, the AG’s office, and the Overstock.com situation.
I provide the relevant parts of the blog post for your information:
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne Continues to Dodge Questions about SEC Probe and Faces Counterclaims by Rocker and Gradient
On Wednesday, October 31, 2007, I visited Salt Lake City Utah at the invitation of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff as part of the 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.
<snip> Sam goes on to detail certain Byrne antics. No mention of Shurtleff or AG’s office.</snip>
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.
Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convicted felon)
I don’t understand what is believed to be promotional about Sam’s statement that he was a presenter at the conference.
I don’t know why Shurtleff might be involved in this attempt to smear Sam. I find it interesting that following the presentation, Sam had several nice things to say about Shurtleff and his office.