Overstock.com’s “Unusual” Financial Statements and Disclosures

Supporters of Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) can’t seem to get over the fact that the company has never turned a profit and that it is being investigated by the SEC (despite false assertions in the most recent conference call that the SEC has resolved “all the issues” and has sprinkled holy water on the company) and that there are numerous “unusual” disclosures and elements in the financial statements.

I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane regarding all these unusual, irregular, questionable, problematic, abnormal, odd items and see if a pattern emerges.

While under the watchful eye of the Sith Lord, I have generated quite a few blog posts regarding Patrick Bryne and Overstock.com. Isn’t it amazing how one, solitary public company can have situation after situation that indicates something is wrong with the financial data and disclosures?

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Why the Overstock Inventory Issue Matters

It has been suggested that discussing the inventory issues at Overstock.com is a waste of time. Surely there is more interesting stuff going on. like Sith Lords and such.

So I’ll explain why it’s so important.

Inventory is a financial statement line item that is notorious for being abused. Some companies are loath to record proper reserves, and so inventory may be on the balance sheet at too high a value. On the other hand, when a company has a really good quarter, it may be tempting to overstate the reserve to create a little “cookie jar” for later. (The idea is that we recognize additional expense in this good quarter, since we still have “room” for more expenses. Then during a later quarter when numbers aren’t as good, we can dip into that reserve to pump up the earnings.)

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