How did Gary Weiss come to know the substance, sentiment and timing of one of New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera’s most vicious attacks against opponents of illegal naked short selling, long before it was published?
We asked Joe.
Joe doesn’t know.
It all started on January 10, 2006, when Business Week writer Tim Mullaney clumsily fell into the very trap he had set for Overstock.com CEO (and Deep Capture reporter) Patrick Byrne. You can read all the gruesome details here and then here.
One week later, Gary Weiss launched his blog. We know from emails between Weiss and Floyd Schneider (read this to learn how I came to posses them) that at about that same time, Weiss began trying to convince journalists and editorial columnists to pen attacks on opponents of illegal naked short selling, particularly Patrick Byrne and Bob O’Brien (whom Weiss calls “Bob O’Baloney”), the pseudonymous author of the highly influential Sanity Check blog.
Weiss did this with little success, until February 22 of 2006, according to the following two emails Weiss sent to Floyd Schneider:
Subject: Re: (no subject)
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2006 18:34:19 -0500
Received: from unknown (HELO maincomputer) (firstname.lastname@example.org@18.104.22.168 with login) by smtp101.vzn.mail.dcn.yahoo.com with SMTP; 22 Feb 2006 23:34:15 -0000
Incidentally, don’t tell nobody! — but was preoccupied today. Interview with Joe Nocera of the Times for his Saturday column. Seems he is focussing on the naked-Mullaney situation. Mullaney tells me Nocera is sympathetic. We shall see……
Mullaney obviously is extremely nervous but me, I am fairly pleased I must say. I was… oh… shall we say unfavorable toward our Mr. O’Baloney.
The above is confidential!
Followed shortly by…
Subject: Re: (no subject)
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2006 18:56:25 -0500
Received: from unknown (HELO maincomputer) (email@example.com@22.214.171.124 with login) by smtp102.vzn.mail.dcn.yahoo.com with SMTP; 22 Feb 2006 23:56:21 -0000
Yeah, well I want to shift on to be a little quiet and modest between now and Friday. Yes, O’Baloney seems to have run up the white flag it would seem, at least for the time being. I think the SABEW blog seems to have brought him to reality. That is what was picked up by Nocera, by the way. This is totally my doing! Yuk yuk yuk.
The Mullaney thing really touches a raw nerve, you know.
Based on the above, we can conclude that at least three days ahead its publication date, Gary Weiss knew all about Nocera’s February 25, 2006 column Overstock’s Campaign of Menace.
Note, in the first of the two emails, Weiss insisted that “The above is confidential!”
This is with good reason, as it’s considered a serious breach of ethics for a business writer to reveal the nature of his or her coverage of public companies to outsiders ahead of time, lest the information be used to the advantage of an unscrupulous investor (ie, “trading ahead” of the story).
And yet, Weiss knew. And boasted about knowing.
Recently, Patrick Byrne asked Joe Nocera to comment on this apparent ethical misstep.
Here is Nocera’s response:
From: Joe Nocera
To: Patrick Byrne
Subject: Re: that gary weiss email
Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2008 11:31 AM
I have no idea why Mr. Weiss would make those claims, nor has he ever had any “inside information” about any of my columns. I don’t give out such information. all best, Joe Nocera
I welcome Joe to explain how reality, and his apparent interpretation of it, can possibly co-exist.