Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) is indeed a pyramid scheme—at least according to a Belgium court, although the company’s CEO assures investors and shareholders that it isn’t. The ruling was handed down in “a commercial business court in Belgium” in 2011. However, this legal document discovered by CNBC’s Maneet Ahuja seems to indicate that the public hearing at the Commercial Court in Brussels was held Sept. 3, 2004. Either way, it does appear that a court in Belgium referred to Herbalife as a “pyramid scheme,” quite a bit before Bill Ackman called the company that.
Ackman, the hedge fund manager whose rare short of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)’s stock started the company’s latest round of problems is scheduled to appear on CNBC at 12:01 p.m. EST and Bloomberg TV at 12:30 p.m. EST today. He is expected to release further details of his short thesis on the company, and why he referred to it as a pyramid scheme and even went so far as to say that the U.S. would be better after the company disappeared.
On Wednesday Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) Michael Johnson appeared on CNBC and addressed other media outlets in defense of hits company. “We’re not a pyramid scheme,” He told CNBC’s Kate Kelly. “That’s a bogus accusation.”
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Johnson also made allegations against Ackman. He said the issue isn’t Herbalife’s business model, but rather, Ackman’s business model. He called Ackman’s words “blatant market manipulation” and “another attempt to illegally manipulate the market by a group of short sellers.” He also fired back at Ackman himself, saying, “The United States will be better when Bill Ackman is gone.”
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) shares continued to drop significantly in early morning trading, losing another 5 percent in just one hour.
We will bring you later coverage of Ackman’s interviews on Bloomberg TV and CNBC this afternoon.