Overstock.com settles suit with research firm

Published October 14, 2008 12:00 am

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Overstock.com has dropped a defamation lawsuit against Gradient Analytics as part of a settlement after the securities research firm apologized for comments it made about Overstock's financial reporting practices.

On Monday, Gradient retracted allegations that Salt Lake City-based Overstock's reporting methods did not comply with rules established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which establishes accounting and reporting standards for U.S. companies.

"Gradient now believes that, to the best of its knowledge, Overstock's stated accounting policies did in fact conform to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and regrets any prior statements to the contrary," Gradient said in a statement.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Gradient also apologized for saying that Overstock directors Allison Abraham, John Fisher and Gordon Macklin were not outside directors.

"Gradient regrets that the parties have been embroiled in litigation over its reports and looks forward to both sides moving forward with their respective businesses," the company said.

Terms of the settlement were kept confidential by Gradient and Overstock, which sells discounted and close-out merchandise through the Internet.

"This is very, very positive for Overstock," CEO Patrick Byrne said. "This represents a great step forward in our case."

Overstock sued Gradient in 2005, alleging it issued false and misleading research reports about Overstock using information from hedge fund Rocker Partners LLC to help it benefit from short-selling, or bets that Overstock's shares would decline.

Byrne said his company will continue to pursue its claims against Rocker Partners, now known as Copper River Partners, and its principles, David Rocker and Mark Cohodes.

"We were suing them and Gradient together. If this were World War II, Germany has now been liberated and now we can focus on Japan," Byrne said.

Rocker and Cohodes could not be reached for comment.

Gradient spokeswoman Karen Hinton said a countersuit Gradient filed against Overstock in April was withdrawn under terms of the settlement.


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