Copper River, Overstock Close To Settling Dispute -Sources
Copper River, Overstock Close To Settling Dispute -Sources 12/08 03:48 PM
Overstock.com Inc. (OSTK:$14.64,00$-0.38,00-2.53%) and arch-nemesis
Copper River Partners are close to settling a four-year long dispute,
according to people familiar with the matter.
Utah-based Overstock and Copper River have been battling since the
online retailer sued the hedge fund (then known as Rocker Partners) and
research firm Gradient Analytics in California state court in 2005.
The company accused Rocker, which was short Overstock, and Gradient,
which published research critical of the company, of colluding to
denigrate Overstock for profit. A trial is scheduled for February 2010.
Gradient and Copper have denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Overstock
Chief Executive Patrick Byrne, an unabashed critic of short sellers,
was attempting to silence critics.
When asked about the new settlement with Copper, Byrne said he would call back, then hung up.
Byrne told investors in 2005 that he believed "Overstock has been
damaged ...in the high hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps more."
Overstock settled its dispute with Gradient in 2008. Details of this
settlement weren't made public, but people familiar with the matter
said that the research firm, running out of cash to fund its legal
defense, settled for a relatively small sum.
In a carefully worded statement, Gradient said at the time it regretted
saying that Overstock's accounting policies didn't conform to generally
accepted accounting principles and apologized for saying that some of
Overstock's directors weren't so independent. But Gradient didn't make
any statement about Overstock's claim that it let Copper River edit
libelous reports while the fund positioned itself to profit from the
expected drop in the company's share price.
Copper River, of Larkspur, Calif., filed counterclaims in 2007,
claiming Overstock and Byrne made false statements to boost the
company's stock price and launched a campaign to intimidate critics.
The fund is seeking damages for false statements in connection with
Overstock's securities, stock price manipulation and unfair business
The fund liquidated late last year after losing more than half of its
value in the market downturn. Copper River had been a $1 billion fund
that primarily took bets on the declining value of stock it deemed
Fund manager Marc Cohodes might be keen to end the legal tussle with
Overstock to facilitate the launch of a new fund. Not long after
Overstock filed its suit, the Securities and Exchange commission began
an investigation into Gradient.
In November 2005, U.S. securities regulators subpoenaed information from Gradient and some of its employees and clients.
In February 2006, the SEC also subpoenaed this columnist and others,
requesting information in connection with its investigation into
Gradient. Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal and
Dow Jones Newswires, objected to the subpoenas, which were put on hold.
The SEC later announced new guidelines for requesting information from
journalists. Dow Jones is owned by News Corp.
In 2007, the SEC terminated its probe of Gradient without recommending
an enforcement action. In 2008, the SEC also closed an investigation
into Overstock's accounting policies without recommending an
In September, Overstock announced that the SEC is investigating several
restatements of its financial statements in 2006 and 2008 and other
matters. Last month, the company fired its accountants over a
disagreement on how to book revenue. Nasdaq recently put Overstock on
notice that the filing of an unreviewed quarterly report violated its
listing requirements. Overstock has until Jan. 18 to provide Nasdaq
with a plan to regain compliance.