Finally talked yesterday with Simon Lermer, the sole shareholder in
Lermer Overseas Telecommunications
, which as this column pointed out
Wednesday failed to technically exist in New York
it received a $25 million loan from
. Also on the call were Michael Partem, an attorney for Lermer Overseas, and Lermer CEO Nissan Crespi.
Partem first wanted to make it clear that contrary to Thursday morning's
return my call. (Indeed he did: At 7:14 p.m. Wednesday night -- after the column was written and after I had left the office.)
Partem also wanted to emphasize that contrary to this column's suggestion, "Lermer overseas does indeed exist." He added (the obvious) that it's a private company and as such has a policy of nondisclosure. He said Lermer Overseas does have a contract with IDT, but that it includes a confidentiality agreement, which means it's not at liberty to disclose the details of its relationship with IDT.
He added that Lermer "is expanding from self-generated income."
What about the $25 million loan? "There is a loan," he said, "and it's being paid off."
What was the loan for? "That's not a matter of public record," Lermer said.
Why did Lermer Overseas allow its incorporation in New York to lapse two years ago by not paying its franchise tax? "The franchise tax situation with the State of New York is an unfortunate oversight," Partem said. "It is being acted on; it is being taken care of." Lermer added: "Taxwise, I leave that to my legal staff, and they didn't do a good job on that. They messed up."
As this column
reported, Partem says Lermer has received an ultimatum from IDT to either reincorporate in New York or have its loan immediately called. "However," he added, "from what I understand, reinstatement is fairly routine matter and will take place automatically when we file and pay our delinquent fees."
One other thing, Partem said: "Nobody from IDT is an officer or executive of Lermer," including Howard Balter, the CEO of IDT's soon-to-be-public
subsidiary. (Balter -- actually someone named Howard
, with an "o" -- was listed as Lermer's president on a recent
Dun & Bradstreet
How many employees work for Lermer? "That's privileged information," Lermer said.
Does he have an office at IDT, given that his name is included in the company's dial-by-name directory? "No." How about Jonas Publishing, whose phone number is one digit away from IDT's? Lermer didn't answer directly other than to say, "I am a self-employed businessman and I may use their facilities." IDT President James Courter actually told me that Lermer had "a desk" at Jonas.
This column's Hostile React-O-Meter has never spun
much out of control. (Of course, the posting of my email address by some IDT-iot added to the fury.) Historically, the faster the react-o-meter spins and the greater the attempt at intimidation, the more cultish a company's following and the more something is amiss. Will that be the case this time? Hard to say, but you gotta see what some of these IDT-iots -- most of whom apparently have never read this column -- are saying. A real eye-opener.
Some of my favorites (not to mention the ones
posted on the site Thursday) include this one, from
, who writes: "I hope you sleep well tonight, knowing that you have destroyed my children's education fund. I will not forget this!"
: "You certainly picked on the wrong target and made many enemies. I pity you." And from
: "I hope the f****n SEC fries your short a**. No articles on IDT for
, then two weeks before the IPO -- this s**t. How come no reputable
agency went along with this? How much were you
to do this?"
adds: "Without a doubt you are a scuzzwad and I now understand why Cramer encourages you to wear that coat of slime when he picks a company to crucify! Water always seeks its own level and now I understand your association with 'yellow journalism.' By the way, I hope you get your 'more attractive' end burned shorting."
But my favorite is from
, who writes: "You are a SOB and I hope you go to hell for your short interest in a company and trying to bring it down by playing dirty tricks. I will be praying very hard that bad things will happen to you. Bad karma is very bad."
Thanks, I'll remember that. And I'll say it again, for the umpteenth time. I don't hold positions in individual stocks, other than that of
, publisher of this Web site. Which means derogatory statements to the contrary reek of libel.
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at
email@example.com. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.