I have a friend who enjoys shaking up dinner conversations and cocktail parties by saying something inflammatory--"So I'm thinking of buying a gun," he'll say; "What do you think?"--then he sits back and watches the fireworks.
Thus it has been with this blog: a discussion about Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne's obsession with short-sellers, his relation to an oddball Conspiracy Theorist calling himself Bob O'Brien, and the vacuity of "X-Files" O'Brien's conspiracy case has given way to an intense shouting match leading to precisely no conclusion.
Although it does lead somewhere very interesting.
We know, for example, that "X-Files" and his cohorts have taken the threads of established cases of illegal naked shorting in stocks that hardly merit serious discussion, and woven a broad Conspiracy encompassing professional short-sellers in general and shorts in Overstock.com, in particular.
Unfortunately, for his case, "X-Files" ignores the fact that professional short sellers view naked shorting the same way he does: illegal. But pros go further: it is not only illegal, it is amateurish and also stupid. Hence, whatever Overstock.com's problems are, they come not from naked shortsellers.
"X-Files" not only refuses to believe this, he goes off the deep end by making very bizarre claims, including one that the hedge fund industry has been "linked to organized crime" and another that hedge funds such as those involved in Overstock.com violate the Patriot Act by accepting funds from terrorist groups.
These are serious charges and might be seriously considered, except that Mr. O'Brien practically declares himself certifiable by stating, and I quote:
I have contacted the FBI. My attorneys feel that given the players involved, only a madman would reveal his identity and strap a bulls-eye on his chest at this juncture. I thought they were being paranoid two years ago, but now I believe they are just being prudent.
What we're dealing with here, I think, is a crackpot. A certifiable crackpot.
Now, that's my opinion. Others might say he is merely eccentric, or a whack-job, or a harmless nut. The correct adjective is not important, what is important is this: why would the CEO of a large, widely owned, publicly traded company give over a significant portion of his earnings call to an individual who is so misguided as to the facts, and, apparently, a certifiable crackpot?
That's a question that merits a serious answer, because real public companies--and I had included Overstock in that category until "X-Files" more fully revealed himself here--do not allow their earnings calls to be hijacked by crackpots.
Note: This blog is not an Overstock.com blog, nor is it a Patrick Byrne blog, nor an "X-Files" O'Brien blog. I will be moving on to other topics. But I'm still looking for answers to the fundamental questions already raised about operating issues from Overstock's last quarter. Anyone who knows--and who is not making it up--is welcome to respond. Certifiables are not.