Diebold, notorious voting firm, rejects $2.6 billion takeover

The company says that it's worth way, way more.

Published March 3, 2008 8:12PM (EST)

On Sunday, the conglomerate United Technologies announced that it would make a $2.6 billion offer for Diebold, the beleaguered maker of ATM machines, corporate security systems, and, most notoriously, easily-hackable, poorly protected, and inherently risky touch-screen electronic voting machines.

The news surprised the market -- Diebold's shares closed Friday at $24.12, substantially below UT's offer of $40 per share -- and Diebold's stock surged today.

But Diebold quickly rejected UT's offer. Diebold, said John Lauer, the company's chairman, is worth a great deal more than $40 a share.

Observers of the voting industry would differ on that score. Indeed, to those who know Diebold's record as a voting company, its rejection of $40 a share seems an act of delusional self-confidence.

It's true that voting is something of a sideline for Diebold. But as I wrote last summer -- when the company removed the Diebold name from its election subsidiary -- Diebold pursued failure in the voting business with determined flourish, "letting its code and internal communication leak out onto the Web; employing as a chief executive a man who declared he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year"; abusing copyright law in an attempt to quell its critics; and, among many other caught-red-handed indiscretions, deleting criticism of itself from Wikipedia."

And that's not even considering the SEC's investigation into accounting irregularities at the firm.

Seriously, they want more than $2.6 billion for that company? Diebold should take the money and run -- probably most folks wouldn't offer $40 for the whole company, let alone for each measly share!

[Flickr photo by joebeone.]

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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