Guy Trades Dream Of Making Millions Selling Herbalife For New Dream Of Making Millions Suing HerbalifeBy Matt Levine
It’s a little surprising that it took this long for someone to sue Herbalife, isn’t it? Whether or not Bill Ackman is right about Herbalife being an illegal pyramid scheme, he did take the trouble of writing like 300 pages about it, which is usually more than enough to inspire some intrepid class action lawyer to cut and paste the most damaging claims into a complaint and see where it goes. Perhaps they were stymied by converting from PowerPoint. Anyway here you go:
California resident Dana Bostick is suing Herbalife under racketeering and corruption laws, accusing the company of being an “inherently fraudulent pyramid scheme.” …
While Herbalife has settled suits brought by former distributors in the past, Bostick is the first to go to court since Herbalife became a battleground of hedge fund titans. Ackman has faced off against Dan Loeb and Carl Icahn, who owns a 15 percent stake in Herbalife. … The suit, which also seeks class-action status, claims around 88 percent of Herbalife’s 500,000 US distributors do not make any money.
The complaint is here and it’s … mostly it’s just sad. On a first reading it’s not entirely clear how you should apportion blame for the sadness; I don’t know if this says more about Herbalife or Dana Bostick: Read more »
That or he’s going to burn all his clothes and replace them exclusively with items exclusively purchased at the retailer, or hell, just move into the place. Whatever it takes to show he’s more committed to this place than ever. Read more »
Bill Ackman Is Saying This Because He Cares: Just Because They Make Pants With 52-Inch Waists Doesn’t Mean You Need To Aspire To Wear ThemBy Bess Levin
As has been discussed at length in the past, should hedge fund manager Bill Ackman ever decide to take up a new line of work, he would no doubt have a bright future hosting a guerrilla-style makeover show wherein he and a sidekick drive around in a van looking for people who could benefit from his discerning eye and then ambush them on the street and weigh in on what’s wrong with their [choose all that apply: bangs/clothes/arms/ass/life in general].1 Although not classically trained, the Pershing Square founder has years of experience, dating all the way back to his days as a Harvard Business School student, when fellow classmates were asked if streetwalker was the look they were going for.
One money manager said Mr. Ackman was a trustworthy and loyal friend, but also “an acquired taste” because of his tendency to speak very directly where others might tread gingerly—or not at all. When Mr. Ackman was a student at Harvard Business School, the friend recalled, he took it upon himself to tell at least one woman she was overly made up. The delivery: “You know, I’m just saying this because I have your best interests at heart, but you have too much makeup on.”
Those who can get past the bluntness to see that Ackman’s constructive criticism comes from a place of love ultimately benefit from his counsel. According to one testimonial: Read more »
Carl Icahn Just Wants To Reiterate That Bill Ackman Wouldn’t Want To Find Himself In Certain Parts Of Queens After DarkBy Bess Levin
Not back in the day, when Icahn was running the Southeastern Queens chapter of the Jewish Crips and not today, as the elder hedge fund manager presumably maintains ties with the organization, whose members stay current on his various investing nemeses and won’t hesitate to fuck someone up. Read more »
If you’re an activist investor your job is to (1) think of an idea for how to make a company’s stock go up, (2) buy stock in the company, (3) convince them to do your idea, and (4) sell high. Step 3 tends to involve lots of attention-seeking – it’s easier to wear a company down into doing your idea if they’re constantly hearing about it from other shareholders and reporters and stuff – but steps 1 and 2, importantly, don’t.1 If you tell everyone about your great idea for Apple to issue GO-UPS,2 then they’ll all realize that Apple will certainly do it and unlock tens of billions of dollars of value, so they’ll bid up the stock before you can buy it and you’ll lose the opportunity to benefit from all those gains. That may be a bad example but just work with me here.
There’s another way of putting that, which is: if you secretly conceive of an idea to make Apple a better company, and then secretly buy up a bunch of Apple stock, and then announce to the world “surprise! I have 12% of Apple’s stock, and a brilliant idea that starts with a thematically appropriate lowercase i!,” and the stock goes up, and you make a lot of money – isn’t that unfair? You got to buy stock at the low, pre-publication-of-your-idea price; the people who sold to you were bamboozled into selling out too low because they didn’t know about your great idea. It almost “smacks of insider trading.”
Or something. I may not be doing this theory justice because I think it’s silly: that great idea is your idea; why shouldn’t you be able to make money off of it? (And why should anyone else?) The money is your incentive to come up with the idea in the first place, and do the hard ego-stroking work of pitching it to CNBC and the target company; if you had to share it with free-riders why would you take on the responsibility? We talked about this a little last year when there were vague rumors that the SEC was buying into it, and that they might require investors to disclose 5% stakes within 1 day of acquiring them (instead of the current 10 days), and include synthetic share ownership in computing the 5%, in order to make it harder for activists to secretly accumulate shares. I have not heard much about that proposal since, though I hesitate to assign any causality.
Guy Who’s Short Herbalife Says Guy Who’s Long Herbalife Saying Guy Who’s Short Herbalife Saying Herbalife Is A Fraud Is A Fraud Is A FraudBy Matt Levine
One day Herbalife will either be put out of business by consumer-protection regulators or it won’t. If it is then Bill Ackman will make a lot of money and Carl Icahn will lose a lot of money, and if it isn’t Ackman will lose a lot of money and Icahn will make a lot of money, and in the meantime everyone will shout that everybody else should be investigated.
That’s proceeding apace. Ackman yesterday:
In a statement late Tuesday, Pershing Square Capital Management’s Ackman said that he was pleased that the NCL was requesting an FTC investigation and believes it will show that the company is a pyramid scheme.
We regret that the National Consumers League has permitted itself to be the mechanism by which Pershing Square continues its attack on Herbalife. If anything, it is Pershing Square that should be investigated by appropriate authorities. Its actions are motivated by a reckless $1 billion bet against the company based on knowingly false statements about Herbalife.
Now Herbalife may or may not be a pyramid scheme but I’ve always thought that demands to investigate short sellers are unfair and one-sided. People who say mean things about stocks they’re short are always accused of manipulation. People who say nice things about stocks they’re long – which happens all the time – are rarely accused of market manipulation.1
Bill Ackman And David Einhorn’s Love Blossomed On A Subway Platform But Now They Might Not Even Give Up Their Seat If The Other One Was PregnantBy Bess Levin
Henry Winkler once said, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”1 In 2011, Bill Ackman assumed it was okay to talk to The New York Times about David Einhorn’s business and, like a homeowner forced to move out for three days while a pest control company sprays the place, he’s been forced to pay. Big time. Read more »
If it ever looks like I’m trying to tell you what Carl Icahn is up to with Herbalife, don’t listen to me. I have no idea. How could you? Icahn now owns ~13% of Herbalife’s stock with a ~$36 basis, and he is somewhat constrained from selling it in the next six months by short-swing profit rules. So he can’t sell. He can buy, of course. But after today he can’t buy more than 25%:
Herbalife today announced that it has reached an agreement with Carl C. Icahn …. As part of the agreement, Herbalife will increase the size of its Board of Directors from nine to eleven members immediately before the 2013 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders [and] will nominate two individuals to the Company’s Board of Directors, designated by the Icahn Parties and approved by the Company’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Icahn Parties have agreed to, among other things, abide by certain standstill provisions and vote their shares in support of all of the Board’s director nominees. The Icahn Parties have the right to increase the size of their ownership position in Herbalife up to 25% of the outstanding common stock.
The standstill is for real; Icahn filed the agreement with his 13D/A and it’s an amusingly strong-form standstill that prohibits him from buying more than 25% of the stock, launching a tender offer, proposing a merger, ” encourag[ing] or facilitat[ing]” anyone else doing the same, or, my favorite, “request[ing] that the Company or any Representative of the Company, directly or indirectly, amend or waive any provision of this [standstill] (including this clause (g) [the one that says he can't ask]).” He can’t even ask to be allowed to ask to buy Herbalife!1 Read more »
Bloomberg: Do you think he’s made a mistake on this one? Icahn: Well, if you look at his record lately, he has made a few very big mistakes. I am not going to say just this one. I am not here to question Ackman. I do not want to get pulled into that again…I look at it as a great opportunity. Ironically, I thank him for giving it to me. Does not mean I like him…I do not respect him. I do not like him. [BloombergTV, earlier]