As a whistleblower, I'm very much aware of the negative connotations that surround the term. I spend a lot of my time fighting corruption, and I've learned through my yoga and meditation practice that balance is important. I'm a freelance writer and consultant who actively works with Occupy and Anonymous. I make less than $20k per year and have no health insurance, as I've been rejected for ObamaCare.
Instead of ostracizing the financial CEOs that crippled our economy, I want to spotlight one of the good CEOs that takes a modest salary. Rather than condemning the tech companies that sell us all out to the NSA, I'd like to showcase honest businesses. This is how I started researching Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock.com and a man who hates Wall Street almost as much as I do and makes far less than they do.
Good Recognizes Good
You've likely heard of Overstock.com since you're reading this online, but, unless you're part of the one percent, you may not be familiar with Byrne, its outspoken CEO. Reading his page on Overstock's website, you quickly learn he's not only a CEO; he's a man fighting Wall Street while keeping art alive in impoverished nations where hungry entrepreneurs are more likely to be involved in violence than keeping hope alive.
Although Byrne is very much a one-percenter who counts Warren Buffet among his friends, he's fighting on our side of the class war -- in fact, much of his philosophy comes from Buffet himself.
A Down-to-Earth Doctor
Despite his background, Byrne is actually a very down-to-earth person. In a podcast discussion he had with tech-development company Zurb, Byrne outlines Buffet's philosophy, while also describing how he was able to create Overstock during the infamous Dot Com bust.
The long story short is both men believe you only get so many shots in life, so you need to pick your battles wisely and be willing to act when necessary. Although Buffet and I have philosophical differences over force-placed insurance, I have to agree with both men in matters much more important than money or economics.
Respect for the Tech Community
In the Big Think forums (which is essentially a hybrid of TED and Quora), Byrne opens up about a lot of issues, explaining how fixing our education system is the key to fixing America -- stressing the value that competition would bring to the sector. The forum is filled with videos that allow you to get to know straight answers from a man who would otherwise be unapproachable.
If the NSA, banking CEOs, and greedy investors that corrupted Wall Street were as transparent with the public as men like Byrne, the world could be a much better place. I've stressed it time and time again; transparency is always the key.
A CEO Stands Up to Wall Street
Byrne isn't the only wealthy person who contributes to society and understands the tech community, however. Where he stands out among tech CEOs is his stance against Wall Street and their shady practices. Much like myself, Byrne was involved in a complicated corner of investment and found corruption. He didn't just comply like everyone else; he stood up.
When Lavabit CEO Ladar Levison stood up to the NSA and their illegal monitoring (Google and Facebook sold us out, I remind you), the media was spotlighting whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Levison was able to garner support. As a bank whistleblower that's had my share of battles in the class war, I understand the stance Dr. Byrne has taken against the banks.
Patrick Byrne may be a CEO in charge of a faceless corporation who makes more in a month than I do in a year, but he makes much less than most CEOs, contributes good to the world, and stood up to Wall Street. That's the spirit of Occupy at work...
Brian Penny is a former Bank of America business analyst turned force-placed insurance whistleblower, ghostwriter, blogger, and freelance SEO consultant.