Earlier this week, Bill Ackman said he would give "the most important presentation" of his career, promising to deliver a "death blow" to health systems company Herbalife. Well, the presentation has come and gone, and while some tears were shed, Herbalife is still standing. In fact, their stock had a nice increase after Ackman's presentation.
Ackman, head of Pershing Square Capital Management and self proclaimed activist-investor, put together a 250-ish slide deck about Herbalife. Pershing Square spent $50 million on the investigation, infiltrating 240 of Herbalife's health clubs. His investigation and presentation set about proving Herbalife is running a pyramid scheme with no real customers, only "phantom, fictitious customers."
While Ackman heavily attacked the Herbalife clubs, where representatives attempt to sell their products, and in turn, sign up more representatives. His attack went after this process, which he said required the reps to sign up for classes before distributing products, spending much of their own money without being able to earn anything for a long time. He said their recruitment process "creates this tendency to want to stay, because you're almost going to make it."
As for the people who are signing up, Ackman said, "It's a tragedy because they don't know they're being defrauded." He also accused the clubs of violating labor laws, again linked to need do lots of work for no pay at first setup.
Then, later on, the tears started. Ackman began discussing the "American Dream," saying "I'm a huge beneficiary of this country. [Herbalife CEO] Michael Johnson is a predator ... It's criminal. It's time to shut [Herbalife] down." He was certainly choked up and maybe shed a few tears, according to those in attendance:
Ackman tearing up (crying) using all the tricks in his bag.— DennisM (@newsagg) July 22, 2014
This is all part of Ackman's $1 billion bet against Herbalife, which he made in December 2012. At that time, he publicly launched an attack on Herbalife, saying he was shorting their stock. Of course, this spurred other investors to go long. Carl Icahn, with whom Ackman has had a long, but now resolved feud, went long and now holds 17 percent of Herbalife's stock.
Herbalife also offered a strong statement, responding directly to Ackman's attempt to ruin them:
Once again, Bill Ackman has over-promised and under-delivered on his $1 billion bet against our company. After spending $50 million, two years and tens of thousands of man-hours, Bill Ackman further demonstrated today that the facts are on our side.
We will continue to focus on our mission of bringing good nutrition and economic opportunities to communities across the globe. We recognize that he is running out of time to make good on his bad bet against Herbalife, with the equivalent of 25.7 million shares in put options that expire on January 17, 2015. Today is evidence that Bill Ackman will not succeed.
According to a recent study commission by the company, 87.5% of nutrition club operators feel good about the money they earn and 92% want to continue with their club. We are confident that the facts are on our side and look forward to fighting back."
The company is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, so perhaps the $50 million investigation was not all in vain. But for now, Herbalife is up 25.45 percent today.