AdSurfDaily: Checking The Conventional Wisdom

Andy Bowdoin.

Andy Bowdoin.

One of the theories about ASD President Andy Bowdoin’s recent series of pro se legal filings in the August civil-forfeiture case is that he is trying to stave the filing of criminal charges by slowing the civil case to a crawl.

Could it be true? Sure. Bowdoin’s pro se pleadings, however, also could be a response to pressure applied by others.

Bowdoin, while still working with paid counsel in January, threw in the towel and submitted to the August forfeiture. He told the court that he did not intend to raise the forfeiture at a later time. Basically he ceded tens of millions of dollars to the government. Bowdoin did not tell the membership at large about his decision. He then vanished from the stage for weeks.

What happened during Bowdoin’s weeks of absence is not a matter of public record, but could be telling.

In late February, Bowdoin suddenly reemerged. He blamed his paid attorneys for poor lawyering, and then proceeded to act as his own attorney. Bowdoin says he now has rescinded his decision to submit to the forfeiture. His paid lawyers, who never withdrew from the case even as Bowdoin was filing pro se pleadings, now have asked the court to withdraw, saying their representation of Bowdoin had become unreasonably difficult. The court has not yet issued an order that permits the paid lawyers to leave the case.

The conventional wisdom that Bowdoin’s pro se reemergence was a bid to delay a criminal indictment could be true — but it could be that and more.

It’s not a stretch to think that some ASD members — perhaps particularly insiders and people who view Bowdoin as a person who owes them a pile of money — were unhappy about his decision to submit to the forfeiture and then keep the news of his decision to himself. Some of these people may view themselves as being at risk of indictment and see Bowdoin’s move as the move of a turncoat.

By pressuring Bowdoin to climb back on the horse, they could be trying to stave off indictments against themselves. There is no doubt that criminals were involved in ASD. What’s not known is just how much leverage criminals could apply to Bowdoin.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say ASD had 50,000 paying members. With an organization of that size, Bowdoin would know very little about the motivations of individual members — and the people who sponsored them into the program. One of the core risks of running an autosurf is not knowing who your neighbors are and how they are capable of behaving.

One piece of wishful thinking often shared by ASD members was that ASD was just one, big, happy family. This notion always struck us as fanciful. If ASD’s paid members were assembled in a 50,000-seat stadium,  there is no reason to believe they wouldn’t reflect the best and worst of society — as is typical of large crowds, whether the sport is baseball, football or autosurfing.

Bowdoin is 74. There is a chance that he believes he has more things to fear than just what the government can do to him personally. It is possible that Bowdoin family members could be indicted, for instance. At the same time, it is possible that Bowdoin perceives a threat from some ASD members and has safety concerns.

Would you fear for your safety if you were the public face of a $100 million Ponzi scheme that collected money from all over the world — and you knew only a very small fraction of the people who were sending you all that money? Bowdoin has no real way of knowing if he’s doing business with thugs unknown, criminal gangs or even terrorists.

No one seems to know why Bowdoin hasn’t been served a lawsuit filed in January that alleges racketeering. If it’s a clerical snafu of some sort, it would have to be one that also is affecting the plaintiffs’ ability to serve Bowdoin’s two RICO co-defendants, attorney Robert Garner and Golden Panda Ad Builder President Clarence Busby.

With large sums of money involved, it’s not a stretch to believe that some people owed large sums would not be inclined to accept “rebates aren’t guaranteed” or “the evil government took the money” as excuses.

“Pay up” could be the policy in certain circles.

The conventional wisdom also has held that only traditional autosurf players and people new to Web commerce were players in ASD. That could be largely true, but not universally true. ASD was gaining a head of steam as the U.S. economy was going into steep decline. Legitimate securities brokers could have been using the company to generate cash to hide losses.

We’re not saying that occurred, mind you. At the same time, if legitimate brokers had been stealing from clients and knew those clients were due redemptions, they could have turned to ASD to generate cash flow. If such a group exists, it means clients of legitimate brokers also lost money in ASD — without their knowledge, as was the case with Bernard Madoff.

Some of the amounts reportedly directed at ASD were huge amounts for an ordinary autosurf player. It is possible that investment combines and criminal brokers were using ASD to stave off a Madoff-like day of reckoning.

You’ve likely noticed that AdViewGlobal, a surf with Bowdoin family ties and management in common with ASD, was promoting a 200-percent, matching-bonus program. It very much looks like a cynical bid to raise cash in volume to pay off ASD insiders and strategic shills. ASD did the same thing when it morphed into ASD Cash Generator.

Bowdoin has engaged in behavior that suggests he’ll do almost anything for cash. In the fall, after a judge ruled ASD hadn’t demonstrated it was a legal enterprise, Bowdoin pitched VOIP service to members.

Recently he appeared in a video for Paperless Access, which appears to be an upstart surf firm. Bowdoin told viewers they could use Paperless Access to recapture money seized by the government last year in the ASD probe.

There obviously is no arm’s-length distance between ASD and AVG, despite AVG’s tortured claims to the contrary. What’s less clear is the precise reason AVG exists.

One reason might be as a means to pay off debt racked up by ASD. Another reason might be because the people who are running it are monumentally stupid. It launched while an active criminal investigation and a RICO probe were under way, with Bowdoin and other ASD insiders, including Bowdoin family members and ASD executives, as likely targets.

AVG’s launch happened in full public view. Known ASD participants were pushing it. Suggestions were made that ASD accounts might get ported over to AVG. Bowdoin might as well have taken out an ad in the New York Times to announce he had decided to commit himself to a life of crime.

So much about ASD boggles the mind — and yet so much is not known.

What is known is that tens of millions of dollars are involved. And it’s also known that large sums of money can make people do crazy things.

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One Response to “AdSurfDaily: Checking The Conventional Wisdom”

  1. Exactly my thought all along Patrick. My sponsors had a huge down line. They have been threatened physically and legally. They actually paid back people from thier own pocket to avoid “whatever.” One person refinanced several houses, invested a total of $80,000 with asd. That person mentiond to our “sponsors,” That the bank was looking at this as fraud because he stopped making payments on the properties, he is going to tell the bank the truth what he did with the monies. Andy Bowdoin is running scared, in so many ways, trust me.