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After Lawsuits and Delays, Overstock Hands Shareholders Digital Dividend

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Online retailer Overstock has finally distributed its digital dividend to shareholders.

The digital security was issued as Series A-1 shares on a 1:10 basis to all Overstock shareholders with a record date of April 27, 2020, according to a press release Tuesday. Called OSKTO, the dividend can now be freely traded, but only on Overstock subsidiary tZERO’s blockchain-underpinned platform. Shareholders will need to open a brokerage account with a broker-dealer that subscribes to the tZERO ATS to trade the securities, the firm said.

“I’m pleased we have paid this innovative dividend to our shareholders,” said Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson. “These preferred shares have real value, and have been paid a cash dividend in each of the last three years.”

The concept of the digital dividend was the brainchild of former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who has long been a fan of crypto and blockchain, and started accepting bitcoin for retail sales as far back as January 2014. Byrne had apparently seen OSKTO as a way to both bolster tZERO and to flick sand in the face of short sellers whose trading strategies he had long objected to.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Johnson said “We believe [the digital dividend] will increase participation and long-term liquidity on the tZERO ATS platform. I appreciate the support and cooperation of the investment community and regulators in our efforts to innovate in the capital markets through new technology.”

OSKTO had first been announced in July 2019, with the firm expecting a record date of Sept. 23 2019.

After the departure of Byrne, though, Overstock put the effort on hold as it sought to restructure the dividend, making the stock freely tradeable and doing away with a six-month lockup that had previously been planned. A report at the time suggested Byrne had structured the digital dividend specifically to block short selling.

That didn’t sit well with some investors who launched a class action lawsuit against Overstock in September, alleging the firm violated securities rules by making false statements to manipulate the firm’s stock price. Last week, Overstock filed to dismiss the “meritless” suit, saying in effect that the short-seller lead plaintiff had not actually provided any evidence of wrongdoing.

Byrne left the company last August, and dumped his stock, after disclosing he’d been in a three-year affair with a Russian agent and claiming that he’d acted as a confidential informant for law enforcement agencies.

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