Overstock CEO makes blistering speech in New York

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Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock, concluded his keynote about investing in blockchain at a Wednesday event in New York hosted by investment bank and brokerage Oppenheimer & Co. with ““Warning! This is all risky, it may all fail.”

The CEO was giving a speech about the transformative potential of blockchain technology to an enthusiastic audience, including 150 Oppenheimer clients.

He began by going through a brief overview of traditional securities trading and its pitfalls — highlighting the fact that due to the arcane structure of today’s market, the ownership of stocks is indirect and somehow dubious, a message he has been trying to drive home for some time.

He had the crowd in fits of laughter when he said: “All the corporate shares in America are owned by the company called Cede & Co, and what you actually have is a contractual claim against a corporation, that has a contractual claim against another corporation, that has a contractual claim against DTCC, that has a contractual claim against Cede & Co. What can go wrong?”

Offering support for the blockchain, he went to talk about the benefits’ of the technology’s transparency and the way in which it minimises the need for trust. He also talked up the fact that blockchain can bring capital markets to a position where “all kinds of systemic risks go away,” such as people meddling with the system or using it dishonestly.

Byrne also reiterated his view that in the course of the next decade all types of securities can be tokenised and even put a figure on the value of new blockchain securities at $914.4 billion.

Nor did he forget to mention tZERO, a security token trading platform that he has long been a fan of. “In December 2015, we applied to issue a public blockchain security — it took one year and $10 million of legal wranglings [but] we issued it,” he said. Overstock has always been ‘SEC-conscious” in its development of tZERO and Byrne said he wants to continue to focus on building tZERO out without violating regulations or otherwise harming his potential users.

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