Both Bill Ackman and Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) have spent a lot of money on lobbying efforts aimed to help them get their way. Ackman wants to discredit Herbalife as a pyramid scheme, while Herbalife is trying to convince regulators, lawmakers and consumer advocates that it isn’t a pyramid scheme. So far as Herbalife shares have risen, Ackman’s bet against the company got him into the red there. However, CNBC reports that he’s spent less on lobbying than Herbalife has. But then as they say, money talks, and of course there’s also the fact that Herbalife has—so far anyway—been winning the lobbying battle.
Ackman spends thousands, Herbalife spends millions
The network reports that Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) spent almost $2 million in its lobbying efforts last year. Bill Ackman, on the other hand, spent $264,000 last year to lobby against the company. Herbalife Ltd (NYSE:HLF) is trying to convince policy makers that it isn’t a pyramid scheme, which is defined as a company in which distributors make more money for recruiting new distributors that they do for actually selling the company’s products.
Ackman reportedly hired three Washington lobbyists last year, making it the first time the fund has ever hired lobbyists, according to the U.S. Senate Disclosure Act Database. The filing indicates that Ibarra Strategy Group earned $30,000 from Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management fund during 2013. That firm specializes in outreach to the Latino community. The activist investor maintains that Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) unfairly targets minorities and low income communities, although the company says it does not. The Moffett Group earned $84,000 from Pershing Square, while Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates earned $150,000 from the firm.
Pershing may be stepping up its lobbying efforts this year, as the firm’s latest attempts have focused on discrediting Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)’s top distributors.
Will U.S. regulators investigate Herbalife?
Consumer advocates, including at least one Latina organization, have called for an investigation into Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)’s business practices. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey also called for a probe, sending letters to the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both agencies refused to give a definitive answer on whether they were investigating, although the FTC said it was considering Sen. Markey’s request for an investigation.