11|04|2009 05:09 pm EDT
When I read the news today from Oversee and SnapNames stating that an employee had been bidding on domains, I knew. . . I knew who it was. I didn’t want to hear it but I knew. Like many of my colleagues who frequented SnapNames auctions over the years, the first name that came to mind was “Halvarez” . To confirm from SnapNames sources later that it was indeed Nelson Brady really was more disheartening.
For those that never worked directly with SnapNames or Nelson, he was the kind of guy that you could email day or night and he’d respond almost instantaneously. He was the kind of guy that you wanted working on the other end of the phone; fast, courteous and intelligent. To find out now that he was lying and betraying not only me, but everyone that he worked with leaves me speechless. It left a fellow employee I spoke with at SnapNames speechless as well. With such a small organization, I can only imagine the feeling of betrayal.
This is a tough day for Oversee. The aftermath of this news will leave a cloud of doubt over SnapNames for years to come. This isn’t the only problem that this issue created though. Every Tom, Dick and Harry with a conspiracy theory about any domain company will come out of the woodwork now claiming “I told you so” or bringing up more cases of strange behavior that they believe could only be attributed to a nefarious company or individual.
We’re already seeing new theories today with posts in DNN comments citing other SnapNames users such as “Vaxis” may have also shills (most insiders know this was Kevin Ham’s user name). Other conspiracies popping up include that the company knew about this and Brady is being thrown under the bus. The domain business has always had an unusually high amount of conspiracy theorists, but a conspiracy being proven true is harmful enough to beginning casting a shadow of doubt big enough to cover all in the domain industry.
Take the quote from Michael Arrington, former CEO of Pool.com (another expiring name aftermarket with conspiracy rumors of their own) comment on the Tech Crunch coverage of the SnapNames story :
Anyone who doesn’t know how dirty the domain name business is just doesn’t know the domain name business.
Arrington has taken plenty of stabs at the domain space since his departure, calling ICANN corrupt and domainers equivalent to the mafia. This time though the dirty laundry is out and you’d have to say his name calling seems justifiable. Arrington’s mainstream audience which likely knows little about domains now gets to read about the confirmation of how dirty it can be and how right Michael can be as well.
The domain aftermarket business needs to take a step back and really think about the things that went haywire here and what exactly should be done. SnapNames had internal policies prohibiting this (as do other auction houses), but the reality is that no internal policy is going to keep a rogue employee with dollar signs in their eyes from going after that “golden goose”. Employees at domain aftermaket and parking companies deal with multi-millionaire clients and I’m sure the lure of the easy buck is hard to resist. If someone wants to bid on domains and the policy says they can’t, they’ll find a way around it. Policies like this won’t prevent it, they’ll just slow the person down or create a situation where the employee becomes more “resourceful” and goes further “underground”.
It’s not hard for any employee to create a new identity and run everything through that identity or hire someone to bid on domains on your behalf ? This becomes an extremely difficult policy for a company to enforce, but clearly one that needs to be addressed. We’re relying on the company to police itself in these cases. It took Oversee over 4 years to figure this out so what does that say about policing their own company
The industry needs to get a grip on this stuff . We need a code of conduct, outside audits or some sort of layer of trust built in to these auctions. The accusations of shill bidding are not new. Every auction house has been accused of it before. Now it’s real. We need audits and policies that insure that everything is being run right. If we don’t I think you can rest assured that someone else will step in and create rules for us or settle these issues with lawsuits.
Let’s get it together domain companies!