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Overstock Shares Pop As Company Sets Date For ICO

Shares of cryptocurrency pioneer Overstock.com climbed more than 5% on Tuesday after the company revealed that it will launch an ICO on Nov. 1 using its proprietary tZERO platform, a strategy that will allow Overstock to raise capital without diluting its float.

As far as we can tell, the Overstock ICO would be the first conducted by a large, publicly traded US company, and could potentially open the door for other corporations to utilize the ICO as an alternative means of raising capital.

The offering will will run through Nov. 15, Overstock said.

Overstock grabbed headlines last week when shares of the “obscure e-commerce stock” soared 14% to their highest level in four years, purportedly driven by excitement surrounding the company’s blockchain investments. The share-price pop occurred as IBM and JP Morgan Chase & Co. revealed they were working with banks to create blockchain-based platforms to facilitate global payments.

Similarly, its shares soared in September after the company unveiled what it billed as the “first SEC-compliant” trading venue for ICO tokens. In a ruling issued over the summer, the SEC declared that all digital tokens must be treated like traditional securities and registered with the agency.

The company also revealed Tuesday that it has developed a blockchain-based tool aimed at curbing “naked” short selling – when brokers allow investors to bet against a stock without first obtaining shares to borrow and sell. Like the ICO, this tool will operate atop the company’s tZERO blockchain platform. According to Overstock’s Medici Ventures unit, which developed what it’s calling the “Digital Locate Receipt” tool, the DLR will allow short sellers to more easily locate shares to borrow and sell short.

Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne has spent decades fighting naked short selling, even instigating a feud with the SEC ten years ago over his claims that naked short sellers were illegally targeting his company.

As CoinDesk points out, the DLR, which is expected to be formally revealed at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas this week, is designed to be a blockchain-based versions of Regulation SHO "locates," which were introduced in 2005 to cut down on investors trading against other people’s stocks during off-hours trading. The regulation was meant to give stock owners the assurance that they could reap rewards from this off-hours trading by formally lending the stock – and thus to discourage short sellers from merely promising to borrow the stocks that they wanted to bet against.

Overstock’s ICO will add to the more than $3 billion raised by ICOs since the beginning of the year. However, the ICO market – which has been widely acknowledged as a cesspool of fraud and abuse – has recently encountered some notable setbacks. For example, Tezos, one of the highest selling and most hyped ICOs of the year, recently disclosed that progress on its promised product has stalled, meaning investors likely won’t receive their Tezos tokens by the company’s year-end deadline.

Elsewhere, crackdowns on ICOs in the US have led to the first civil actions against alleged fraudsters using the technology to solicit money from gullible investors.

But given Overstock’s longtime involvement in the space, it’s ICO will likely attract a modest amount of attention.