Overstock has been stockpiling gold and food for a financial apocalypse

Jonathan Johnson, a chairman with foresight.
Jonathan Johnson, a chairman with foresight.
Image: Reuters/Eric Thayer
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Overstock.com, a Utah-based online retailer that started as a seller of excess inventory, has been doing some stockpiling of its own. Jonathan Johnson, the chairman of the board who is also running for Utah’s governor says the company has $10.9 million in gold and silver and a three-month food supply for each employee. These reserves, according to Johnson, are in preparation for an inevitable financial crisis.

Overstock keeps “small button-sized gold and silver coins outside the banking system,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Johnson mentioned the policy in a speech to the United Precious Metals Association in October 17.

“We expect when there is a financial crisis, there will be a banking holiday,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be two days or two weeks or two months. But we have $10 million in gold and silver in denominations small enough … that we can use it for payroll. We want to be able to keep our employees paid [and] safe and our site up and running.”

Johnson is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, a political powerhouse in Utah. Although he did not say that religion plays any part in the stockpiling, storing food and supplies for unforeseen circumstances is also part of Mormon teachings. Believers are required to maintain a three-month and “long-term” supply of food and water and “financial reserves.”

Johnson’s preparedness will surely resonate with his Mormon constituents, as well as his libertarian ones, distrustful of the Federal Reserve and Wall Street. Johnson has notably endorsed Ron Paul for president in 2012, and is a self-described “Republican with a libertarian bent.” Johnson said he would introduce similar contingency planning, though perhaps not storing gold, if he were elected governor.

He told the Financial Times that the board of Overstock.com approved the stockpile, which now makes up about 10% of Overstock’s liquid assets, after the last financial crisis. He says the Federal Reserve’s current monetary policy leaves him more relaxed, but is anxious about the country’s huge federal debt.

The company’s colorful, anti-Wall Street CEO Patrick Byrne is a vocal supporter of Bitcoin, which he told Wired could save the world from a zombie apocalypse.

Overstock.com has been embroiled in a long legal battle after it was sued for deceptive advertising.