Come Grade Journalist Matt Yamamoto’s $1,000/Year Gibberish-Sausage

I do not normally take the time to respond to most pieces that get written about me, let alone ones that are a month old, but some weeks ago in a tweet I dismissed this piece by Mathew Yamamoto and he has been asking me to explain why I did. He has been courteous enough to send me the article in question.  Let me stipulate that I do not find anything egregious in Mathew’s mistakes: his work is somewhat better than average, actually (and far better than Abha Bhatteria’s, as analyzed here “Come See the Sausage Being Made”).  If I were still grading university papers I would give it… Well, I will let you go to Twitter and grade it yourself.

In any case, I am reprinting Matt’s article here, with my comments, as it presents an opportunity to show the public how sloppy journalism causes inaccuracies to enter and then propagate within the discourse. Remember, people pay $1,000/year to subscribe to Matt’s work. So read this knowing that this is the level of error the public can expect from expensive journalism.

I will follow my normal convention of interlacing my text in italics with Matt’s original.

Overstock and the boardroom squabble

October 7, 2019, 7:30AM EST  ·  3 min read


  • Overstock’s drama-filled saga persists, this time with ex-CEO Patrick Byrne’s feelings that he was “betrayed” by the board.

I never used the word “betrayed” in explaining this to Gasparino and feel it is mischaracterizes my feelings. I would describe my feelings more as “exasperation and fatigue with politics.” So Mathew is now using one word from another journalist’s (loose) interpretation of my feelings and presenting it as a factual description of my position, in quotation marks, thereby appearing to attribute it to me. Is that good journalism? Or is that loosey-goosey? Suppose I were to write a piece about Mathew and say, “Mathew Yamamoto feels that he is ‘inadequate’ as a journalist because he has been caught propagating other journalists’ errors without researching quotes and claims himself….” And I never explained that he never said that about himself, but that it was someone else’s interpretation of his state of mind: would that be fair to Mathew?

  • What was once his pack of “coyotes,” Patrick noted how all the board members but one wanted him dissociated with the firm.

This is gibberish: Matt is propogating an error that appeared in Abha Bhatteria’s Washington post article, and amplifying it, like he did with Gasparino in the previous point.

Here are the facts: Five years ago there was a group of executives who called themselves “the Wolf Pack” because they focused on fixing and refining operational matters (I believe it was a reference to Pulp Fiction’s “Mr. Wolf”). In response, a group of younger executives who worked together a lot, mostly on techno-analytic issues, started calling themselves “the coyotes”. There were five of them. Two or three drizzled out of the firm along the way in the last 5 years. The phrase has nothing to do with anything at this point, and I have not even heard it used for about three years. And it never had anything to do with “all the board members” or, for that matter, ANY of the board members. So here, Matt’s claim above is just nonsense on stilts.

  •  Adding insult to injury, Byrne seems to believe his old enemy, Marc Cohodes, played a role in the Board’s decision.

Well, maybe. Or maybe this is more sloppiness. See below.

Once again, I’m here to give you Overstock’s weekly drama. This time it’s a story of betrayal, at least in the eyes of ex-CEO Patrick Byrne. Is it odd how insistent Matt is on using the word “betrayal” though I never used it myself? Having taken Gasparino’s mischaracterization of my position at face value, and using the word in quotes above to appear to attribute it to me, Matt now takes it as a fact that he has established.

In last week’s column, we explored the rather suspicious timing of Byrne’s $90 million stock sell-off.

“Explored” it in another piece that was written without reaching out to me for comment (as far as I know), and is chock-full of even worse journalistic sins. There was nothing suspicious about it: I supplied Gasparino the facts and correspondence related to it, and he went back on Fox and said, “He provided to me tick-tocks with names and dates on why he sold when he felt like was lied to, 20 years of abuse… Screw it I’m leaving the country…. That’s when he sold all his shares.’”

Sequence of events:

Sept. 16-18 – Byrne sells his remaining Overstock shares over a three-day period to the tune of $90 million

Sept. 17 – Greg Iverson, Overstock CFO, resigns without a separation agreement

Sept. 23 – Company announces Iverson’s resignation and lowers guidance for 3Q19

Sept. 24 – Company files an S-3 automatic shelf registration, a similar play as last year before it sold 5.8 million shares in an ATM public offering

Byrne claims he had no access to insider information, but instead sold for reasons that “had nothing to do with the operations or results of the firm.”

Question was: What was the reason that caused Byrne to sell his shares?

Feeling of Betrayal

Again, using the word “betrayal” again and again when I never did and feel it mischaracterizes my position. Is that odd?

Journalist Charles Gasparino who has been in frequent talks with Byrne following his resignation, gave more details on Byrne’s motivations for selling in a segment on Fox Business News.

According to Gasparino, Byrne sold because he “felt betrayed” by the board based on what was written in a D&O insurance letter, although it’s not entirely clear what was said in that letter. At least Matt is now being precise enough for the reader to know that the “felt betrayed” quote comes not from me, but is how Gasparino characterizes my position. It is the fourth use in Mathew’s story, the second time in quotes, and yet…. I never said it. Does that seem like good journalism?

 “He sold his house in Utah. He is living in Indonesia overseas right now. He never wants to step in the state of Utah again,” Gasparino said.

A few days later, Gasparino expanded further on twitter:

Keep in mind, this is Byrne’s third or fourth explanation on why he sold his shares (first time it was because he claimed the SEC was canceling Overstock’s digital dividend, That is a another fabrication. I never said I sold because I “claimed the SEC was cancelling Overstock’s digital dividend”, and in fact when I set up everything to sell and then went to Asia I did not know the SEC was going to block the dividend: everything looked on track when I left. Mathew is fabricating this.

second time was because he wanted to escape the “reach of the Deep State.”)

Anyone else noticing that in the last two weeks the Party Line has been switching from “there is no Deep State” to, “there is a Deep State and thank God for it,” because (I think) they know they are about to be exposed. As Orwell wrote in 1984, ” Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” The shift began in the New York Times, and is now being regurgitated by a supine and obedient press corps. In any case, yes, escaping acts of retaliation from the Deep State for coming forward is in fact one of my reasons for getting myself and my wealth outside the USA.

Delving deeper

Despite Byrne’s constantly changing narrative, Maybe it would make more sense for Mathew if he did not fabricate positions for me or simply regurgitate other journalists’ impressions within quote marks suggesting they were from me, as I above demonstrated that he has done repeatedly. Matt’s research is sloppy, and then he is surprised when the result looks “constantly changing”.

it may be of value to explore this latest explanation for his stock sale a little more deeply.

According to company insiders, Byrne was very close to many on his executive team. In a Washington Post article, a former Overstock board member noted that “Byrne relied heavily on an insular group of executives who referred to themselves as ‘coyotes’ and rarely challenged his view.”

This could explain why he felt so betrayed when the board asked him to step down.

Actually, even if the claim above (“Byrne relied heavily on an insular group of executives who referred to themselves as ‘coyotes’ and rarely challenged his view”) were true (it isn’t: years ago when they were around, they challenged me heavily), the next sentence (“This could explain why he felt so betrayed when the board asked him to step down”) would be a non sequitur. Why would my reliance on one group of executives years ago make the board doing some other thing now feel like a betrayal….? It is logical gibberish.

Byrne noted his anguish in several tweets within the past few weeks. Mathew should probably have noted that the tweets below were in reply to people asking me questions about why I did what I did. It is not like I just sat sending out tweets in “anguish”: people asked me to explain, I explained.

Influenced by an old enemy

Byrne seems convinced that his long-time rival Marc Cohodes played a part in the Board’s decision to ask Byrne to resign.

If you can recall, Overstock sued Cohodes and his hedge fund, Rocker Partners, for allegedly conspiring a campaign against the company in order to depress its stock price in 2005. Back then, Cohodes was a vocal short seller against Overstock. After a four-year legal battle, Rocker settled for $5 million. Within Overstock’s press release, Byrne proudly called the moment “a triumph for the cause of cleaning up US capital markets.”

Fast-forward to 2017, Cohodes appeared to have a change of heart. The long time short-seller decided to long the company that had previously sued him. After visiting Byrne in Salt Lake City, Cohodes said that he had bought a “not small” stake in the company after developing a newfound friendship with Byrne as Bloomberg reported.

However, after a few missteps that caused Overstock’s share price to plummet, Cohodes started to demand Byrne’s resignation as CEO.

Although it’s uncertain whether Cohodes ultimately had any influence over the board’s attitudes towards Byrne, Byrne seems to believe it did. Actually, if you read below carefully, you will see that while I do describe Cohodes’ behavior is being stalker-like, my actual claim was that the Board was “inundated with calls from guys like Cohodes and many others…” So it is not precise to say that I attribute this to him. If anything, it was more of a group-think thing, and Cohodes was a member of the group. Again, this sloppiness is not the worst of Mathew’s errors, but by this point you are seeing what I am getting at: sloppy research, sloppy thinking, sloppy writing. And this is from a journalist who is reasonably good (significantly better than an average journalist, incidentally) and who writes for a place that charges $1,000/year for his “analysis”. That should tell you something about the state of journalism.

Despite Byrne’s numerous outspoken remarks on Twitter, however, the board has yet to comment on the situation.

Again, go to Twitter and grade Matt’s gibberish-sausage for yourself.

  1. Given your definition of the deep state being career government employees at the moment I’d have to agree that I’m glad they’re there. The current administration is an absolute shit show and the Republican party seems completely content to enable it in any way possible.

    1. Is that what the Constitution says? “This is the Constitution…unless you disagree with the administration that has been elected, in which case you can subvert it”? I missed that article/section. Can you cite it?

      And what if, in the end, the people follow all the rules and select it anyway, against the wishes of their betters?

      Maybe our leaders need to fire the citizens and get new ones.

      And the “Deep State” is not “career government employees” (as you mischaraterize my position): it is political appointees who get turned into permanent civil servants (“Ramspeck-in” is one way).

      Why do the forces of anti-liberalism need to consistently mischaracterize their opponents’ positions” Could it be that their ideas do not hold together?

      1. For someone who talks about logical reasoning so often you have created quite a straw man with your “because Trump” argument. No serious argument has been made that impeachment should go forward because they simply disagree with the administration. That is nonsense.

        The impeachment inquiry only started in earnest after the Ukraine call in which the president threatened to withhold congressionally approved funds unless they would dig up dirt on a political opponent.

        Also – your second paragraph makes literally no sense. If people are misconstruing your arguments maybe it is because you appear nonsensical when on TV and ramble endlessly on this blog.

        The Constitution is important. It contains sections such as the Emoluments clause as well as the ability for congress to impeach the president.

        Why are you so sensitive about the slightest bit of criticism or any thinking that doesn’t perfectly align with your own? It is sad that you think I am a “force of anti-liberaliam” just because I don’t want to wash the president’s balls like you. It is embarrassing how many “libertarians” are going to the end of the earth to defend a bigot like president Trump and claim they are just standing for their ideals.

        1. I have never seen Byrne “defend” bigot Trump (and neither have I seen him “defend” bigot Obama). I have only seen him defend the Constitution, really.

          As for your Ukraine comment, you clearly haven’t read the transcript of the conversation.

          1. I haven’t read the transcript, and neither have you. The only thing we have seen is an edited version that the white house chose to release. A transcript implies a word-for-word recreation. It is clear from the testimony that we don’t have that. Even the edited version looks bad for Trump, which is why the Republicans have changed their argument from “nothing was wrong with the call” to “the aid was eventually released even though we tried not to” to “anyone who disagrees that this is OK is part of the deep state or hates America.”

            Patrick tacitly defends the long list of wrongs by president Trump when he writes an essay about him and the only things he can find wrong is that he has tacky taste in interior design and should choose his words more carefully.

            Speaking of the Trump essay, there were a lot of people on this board defending the Charlottesville white supremacists and Trump’s comments afterwards. I wonder what they think after hearing Richard Spencer’s released audio from after the rally.

        2. Watching as a nuetral observer to your points, William.
          I would have to say you jump to conclusions a tad hastily ! (Whether on Patrick or the other topics you youch on above)
          Take care,

          1. Thank you Anil. I love it when people come in and save me the trouble of correcting these obvious errors. It gets tedious doing so myself to correct trivially obvious slips in reasoning, such as William is displaying.

  2. Patrick – given your apparent disdain for journalists I’m curious where you get your news. What do you consider reliable sources?

    1. Some journalists are excellent. Matt Taibbi, Gretchen Morgenson (on financial stuff)… I could name plenty of good ones. Ashlee Vance, Cade Metz. Some are real bright, actually. But 50-60% are not. And with some, my God, helping them with stories is like doing charity work.

      1. You are generous, Patrick.
        I would say about ninety percent of journalists are not the brightest kids on the block !
        Of course, i have only known two journalists in person, but i do watch and evaluate (for my own understanding) about twenty to thirty print and tv “journalists”, and i especially watch for how logical they are in debates with the opposing viewpoint…

  3. Never read nor read Gasparino nor this Asian fella. Observed nd listened intensely including video live or near live interactions with Saum who seemed like an overwhelmed little boy being held by the by Dominant Daddy. He said non shareholder friendly, charitable things regarding being glad tZero after spending a King’s ransom on legal fees and patents were glag to open source for others to benefit by. Wrote IR outraged regarding same. Right under your nose he was appearing on Cohodes’ Twitter like a loyal servant when called for clarity by King Know It All Cowhore.

    You were and remain betrayed, Patrick, and as suggested in other posts, Jj was part of insideous plot, but you must take responsibility too, since you failed including your special history with Buffett, to get Goldman off your bak and pocure necessary runway financing.

    Do you believe like I do; real life is stranger than fiction? Remember, “The Good Shephard”?

    The Deep State owns the county, the rest of us are merely visitors here, and you proved it by leaving U.S.

  4. Never read nor do I read Gasparino or this baby face, young Asian fella seemingly overpaid. You were “betrayed,” Patrick, and it was concluded after much intense observation and listening over a large time period beginning last April and prior to writing The Oracle citing those concerns for your benefit.

    Watching Saum respond in your presence was like seeing a young boy whose hand was being held by a Dominant Daddy. He exhibited a feeling of helplessness or lost identity. When he appeared alone he was worse, however; so much so we wrote IR concerned he believed he was running a charitable organization by citing that he was glad tZero invested a King’s Ransom in legal fees including but not limited to patents so that others could access it in “open source.”

    He became a featured guest on Cohodes’ Twitter whenever Marc or one of his cheering squad members made a comment which might seek his input as though he was on CoWhore’s payroll.

    As stated in previous posts, Jj seems to have been part of the plot too, and from this perspective believe was the real Brutas, Caesar.

    But you cannot be excused for failing at creating a successful Empire, so must be held accountable as well for many reasons including the fact that even with you and your family’s special relationship with Buffett, you could never get Goldman off your back, and you could never get the necessary financing for launching the runways you and the company still desperately needs to address markets.

    What a bizarro company, and seemingly absolute failure it has become in the wake of all this drama that was and remains nothing more than distractions to the business at hand, including even, your health as you explained the story. It’s hard to fathom how any human could do all the things you have done especially being responsible for a public company the way you did in spite of all the issues plaguing you.

    Very sad, very sad indeed, Patrick. Enjoy the $90M before or after taxes you are basking in The Far East sun with. You have merely proven what I believe when pondering “The Deep State,” knowing that real life is stranger than fiction like depicted in “The Good Shepherd.”

    It was here one learns “The Deep State Owns The Country,” and the rest of U.S. are just visitors here, or in your newest journey along with collective experiences, THERE!

  5. Sorry for the spam, but this is what happens when one travels and is away from their desk, and the site they are attempting to post to doesn’t always post what is cued. My bad, but maybe what was being seen as censorship earlier is being corrected by the web host?

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