Herbalife Ltd. (HLF) Blogger Unmasked; Tilson Weighs In

herbalifeBy Herbalife International of America, Inc. (http://www.herbalife.com) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Whitney Tilson, who has a short in Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) weighs in on the latest controversy regarding the ‘ousting’ of a Herbalife long by  Michelle Celarier of the NY Post. Tilson supports the action and  Tilson also responds to a critic who questions his support. Below are Tilson’s comments and his response to the critic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have been covering the Herbalife Ltd. (HLF) saga for a LONG time (mostly by Michelle Jones, who has provided excellent coverage of the long battle) and while I cannot speak for the company, I have to say I find the actions of Celarier to be disgusting IN THIS MANNER. I am friendly with her and think she is a good person, but did something very wrong here (this is not a secret so I can say it openly). I did not want to weigh in, but now I am forced to. Unless there is evidence of wrong doing (in which case Pershing can submit that to the SEC, FTC etc.) this seems like intimidation of someone who cures cancer for a living, solely because he is very bullish on Herbalife. I have interacted with many Herbalife ‘trolls’, and many of the longs are nasty and pathetic, The Skeptic is an exception, and I have always found him to be a gentleman.

 

This is also very disturbing for anyone who is covering news. I receive information which is highly confidential, and I am expected to protect sources to the best of my ability. I take this VERY seriously and have never provided any information even when threatened with lawsuits by certain financial firms. If anonymity is not respected, journalism dies and all you are left with are cat GIFs…..

Certain parties will be upset with this piece but I think its important. Nonetheless, the recent saga should not impact our coverage of the company. 

On a side note, I think I know how the IP address of the Skeptic was discovered. If anyone is interested in that topic contact me on Twitter (I get too many emails).

Tilson on Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)

My goodness, just when you think the Herbalife saga can’t get any more entertaining – it does! (It’s one of my largest short positions.)

 

Check out this story by Herbalife ax Michelle Celarier that she published today on the NY Post web site, in which she outs a formerly anonymous HLF-pumping blogger: “Jeffrey Gardner, 37, a cancer researcher at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering” and, according to one message board post (below), “a pompous belligerent cocky braggart.”

 

So why is Gardner pumping the stock and how does he have such (occasional) good information? Celarier writes:

 

“Chin, 40, is Gardner’s longtime girlfriend, domestic partner and, throughout most of Gardner’s 15-month tweet-athon, an equity analyst with Visium Asset Management, a Manhattan hedge fund that owned Herbalife stock…over this same time period, Chin was a prominent and visible Herbalife supporter. She was the only hedge fund analyst to ask questions on the company’s quarterly conference calls since its battle with Ackman began…“We have a strong history … You know us very well,” Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson said on the company’s July 30 call, in response to a question from Chin.”

Yet Gardner, in a pious, whining, self-pitying (yet also attacking) blog post (below), claims that his girlfriend had nothing to do with his posting on HLF:

(Note the careful phrasing – nobody is claiming that she posted anything – because she had her boyfriend do it!)

 

If you think this is mere coincidence, please contact me ASAP, as I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

 

Say what you will about Ackman, but at least he has the guts to stick his neck out and say what he believes and subject himself to all sorts of slings and arrows. I respect that, just as I respect others who do the same like (off the top of my head) Carl Icahn, Andrew Left, David Einhorn, John Hempton, Sahm Adrangi – and me for that matter. We don’t sling mud while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity like gutless weasels.

 

I think Celarier’s story is an outstanding piece of journalism, but to those who think it’s wrong to out a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous, read these four posts (on Gardner’s blog and http://brontecapital.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-lesson-of-todays-new-york-post-story.html):

 

Tom Salvatore May 8, 2014 at 3:17 PM

you should consider the implications of your position and relationships before holding yourself and your opinions out publicly. when you step into the arena, particularly when your commentary is sharp tongued, expect to get it back twice as hard. and any expectation you had of anonymity is an illusion. if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t need to hide. days ago, you had a swagger and hubris in your tone. today, you have a decidedly different tone as the veil of secrecy is about to be removed. sounds like guilt and regret, mixed with anger, bitterness and resentment, of course. i empathize…

…TheSkeptic21 was a pompous belligerent cocky braggart who deserved to be outed. And the fact that he was live in partner of a buy side ally of HLF and clearly getting fed info directly or indirectly from the company, he deserves NO anonymity. So, get over yourself and your argument.

And:

 

I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable to ask questions about a blogger who pumps the stock of a company his girlfriend invests in and somehow gets info before the rest of the world.

 

And:

 

Fred Schwed said…

Uh… journalists only have a professional obligation to respect anonymity when the anonymous source contacts them and provides information. Identifying a prominent anonymous blogger is a legitimate news story.

And:

From the mountain top the thin skinned speaks. Your dislike for those who disagree with you is evident. The arrogance in your replies speaks volumes about your character.

———————–

In response to my email last night, a friend wrote:

 

If someone is knowingly publishing false rumors, fine – out them.  Like if they were spreading M&A rumors that weren’t true to juice the stock.  But if someone wants to express opinions, analysis, and facts that they have every reason to believe are true but don’t want to be in the spotlight…what’s wrong with that?  The only people who can be in the spotlight are people whose names are on the door.  And there are plenty of people either running big money (some up to $1 billion) under someone else’s umbrella or doing tons of the heavy lifting on ideas whose hands are tied when it comes to going to the press.  This outing is going to totally stifle the flow of ideas and information, which had become so much more robust in the age of Web 2.0…

 

…[Publicly sharing one’s views] is a complete non-starter for 99% of the people in this business who don’t have their name on the door.  You cannot use your name or you will lose your job.  Period.  So should only the billionaires get a voice?  Half the reason that ValueInvestorsClub is so much higher quality than SumZero is because you can be anonymous on VIC but not SZ.  There are plenty of people with massive amounts of relevant information running money under someone else’s umbrella with strict rules.

I agree that Skeptic21sounded like a giant obnoxious a**hole but I have read large amounts of outstanding commentary that is anonymously generated and I fear it is going to go away now.  Some of the best info I’ve gotten on certain stocks was from anonymous bloggers.

I agree entirely. So why do I still support outing Chin and Gardner? Because they went way beyond publishing their own opinions and, it seems clear, on multiple occasions were getting info directly from Herbalife, making them, effectively, mouthpieces for the company (and, of course, neither they nor the company disclosed this; if the company was, in fact, leaking important information to anonymous bloggers, that’s the much bigger story here).

 

My comment about “gutless weasels” wasn’t directed at all people who post anonymously but rather just at people who “sling mud while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.” Having been occasionally subjected to vicious blog/message board attacks myself, I don’t have a lot of patience for this. If you want to say stuff like that, say it to my face.

 

As for Celarier, I’ve read criticism that she’s just a mouthpiece for Ackman. She has indeed used him as a source and quoted him, and her articles generally support his critical take on Herbalife. But so what if she thinks Ackman is correct? She doesn’t hide her connection to him or her viewpoint. I think her reporting has been accurate and courageous – she’s one of the very few journalists who’s actually done a lot of work on the merits of Ackman’s case against the company (vs. the vast majority of journalists who just mindlessly report on the Ackman-Icahn war, etc.). Celarier reminds me of Christine Richard, the Bloomberg reporter (and, later, author of Confidence Game: How Hedge Fund Manager Bill Ackman Called Wall Street’s Bluff, about whom many similar things were said as she covered Ackman favorably during the 5+ year MBIA saga. Needless to say, she and Ackman were both vindicated – and history will repeat itself here, mark my words.

 

I think once you do the work on HLF, it becomes blindingly obvious that the company is areally bad actor in many, many ways, so the investment case, long or short, really just boils down to what the regulators might do. My general view is that regulators, having been shamed by their ineptness leading up to (and enabling) the financial crisis, are now getting a spine, so I have a Revenge of the Regulators theme across maybe 20% of my short book in stocks such as K-12, Questcor, World Acceptance, Lumber Liquidators, Neustar, Chemed, Lifelock and, of course, Herbalife.

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46 Comments on "Herbalife Ltd. (HLF) Blogger Unmasked; Tilson Weighs In"

  1. You’re welcome.

  2. When you watch the level 2 it’s obvious that billionaires (or hedgies) just drive this price up with 1 share prints. It’s really blatant manipulation. I won’t go long or short because this is a binary stock, one piece of news can make it drop 10 bucks or the billionaire boys club will make it rise 10 bucks on a few thousand shares with 1 prints all day long. But we all know the markets rigged anyways….

  3. Ackman has already blunted a short squeeze attempt, he’ snot stupid. HLF will be up some days, down others, until the regulators start to make some conclusions, then it will drop like a rock with a thud. LOL

    Great, more illegal medical claims! LOL

    Show me the links to Soros, Woods, Jordan, etc. LOL

    I wouldn’t overpay for a commodity, chalk tasting shake. LOL

  4. as soon as the short squeeeeeze is over and ackman loses a cool billion he will be looking everywhere for something that does cure stupid…meanwhile hlf is up again today..herbalife is a miracle company..curing cancer ain’t nothing for hlf, it will make your Johnson so hard a cat can’t scratch it..it is truly a miracle company with many miracle products.soros has been using it for 30 years and he attributes herbalife to his amazing trading ability, and tiger woods began the shakes at age 7 and the rest is history, his wife made him quit using it and look what happened to him.bill gates used it during high school and his brief stint at Harvard…and them ain’t cherry cokes buffet drinks it is herbalife . get you some it sure couldn’t hurt you any.

  5. It’s been over 2 years since HLF hasn’t been able to answer David Einhorn’s simple retail question, and there is no question the “lead generation” business is RICO fraud. I doubt the regulators will be impacted very much by Soros, there’s far too much visibility to the issues, thanks to Ackman. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it. LOL

  6. I’m sure Bill Ackman will be interested in seeing the cancer cure claim. LOL

    It’s obvious HLF doesn’t cure stupid….LOL

  7. FACT IS HERBALIFE IS LEGAL TODAY. there are very few facts any of us ever know in life. we believe things but very seldom know the facts. example; you think you know for a fact they day, year, and month you were born but you do not. if someone like your mother or father came to you today and explained you were born on a different day then what you believed as fact would instantly change…what you believe has nothing to do with the facts..here is a fact..George soros has donated more money to political campaigns than any human being in history and he is long herbalife and this is an election year. put that in your fact pipe and smoke it.

  8. Michael used herbalife too..my aunt was cured of cancer using herbalife.. it is some good stuff…sorry but it will not cure STUPID

  9. Wow, I’ll bet Kevin could have stopped Michael Jordan during the Space Jam movie! LOL

    Econ 101 should have been a freshman class, are you sure he didn’t take it? LOL

    Of course, none of this has anything to do with the FACT that HLF is an illegal pyramid and RICO fraud scam. LOL

  10. kevin uses herbalife everyday, he says makes the hoop look bigger and gives him more energy, plus he makes over 50 million a year he skipped econ 101 and went straight to nba.

  11. What does Kevin Durant have to say about econ 101? LOL

  12. economics 101 teaches ” A FOOL AND HIS MONEY ARE SOON PARTED” same goes for dummies….if amway had not got your money someone else would have,,,there is no cure for stupid….

  13. I would say you are wrong, but at least you’re consistent. LOL

  14. I read recently that 3 million americans believe that kevin durants comments about a gay basketball player caused several tornados to strike Oklahoma and injure and kill thousands of people. I would say that those 3 million people are DUMB, but I bet you none of them believe they are dumb.. I would say you fit in the same box.

  15. That must be right, if I don’t answer the question, you get to choose the answer. LOL

    Many people lost less than me, some people lost more. We lose it because we were lied to, and unknowingly got involved in an illegal pyramid and RICO fraud. I am not at “war” against them, I am bringing them to justice, and am not mad at myself, as I am not dumb, nor are most of the other 10s of millions who have been ripped off for 100s of billions of dollars.

  16. looks like you have answered it if you had not you would say so. how can anyone lose that much. I guess that explains your war against them. you are mad at yourself for being so dumb.

  17. I think you owe me an answer first. Where did you hear that? LOL

  18. DID YOU LOSE 100,000 WITH AMWAY OR NOT???

  19. Really? Where did you hear that? LOL

  20. I HEAR YOU LOST 100 K IN AMWAY

  21. People have lost far more than $100,000 doing Amway, and hardly anybody tries to sell Amway, the products are too overpriced! LOL

  22. SENILE would be someone who loses over 100,000 dollars messing with amway…or dumb..do you know someone who lost 100 k trying to sell AMWAY???

  23. With Herbalife the longs 4 r winning! The shorts have to do something so they come up with fantasies like there r millions of shakes in peoples garages. I roll on the floor with laughter with that one.

  24. YEP THAT MUST BE IT..HE MADE OVER 3 BILLION LAST YEAR ALONE..HOW MUCH DID YOU MAKE???

  25. Soros is senile. LOL

  26. after all the above you mention announced their investigations soros buys another 100 million dollars worth of hlf stock. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU????

  27. the shorts keep writing articles and the stock keeps going up

  28. It’s not just the shorts getting involved, it’s also the FBI, DOJ, SEC, FTC, and the AGs from at least 2 states, Illinois and New York, and who knows how many that haven’t announced yet.

  29. Another biased article written by a short. What would u expect from a short? All emotion & no thought. U will see more junk coming from the shorts the higher the stock goes.

  30. Thank again for the update. LOL

  31. Thanks for the update. LOL

  32. tartol called me back….he is buying an island in Greece, but he reminded me he still owns over 11 million dollars worth of hlf. he is sending me some pictures of the beach from his island.

  33. I tried to call tartol and talked to his butler he said he sold those shares to be able to spend more on women and alcohol plus he is going to just waste some of it…johnson still owns 60 million dollars worth of stock,sounds like he is real scared.

  34. I’m sure that’s it. LOL

  35. herbalife keeps going up each week, that’s a funny way to implode..tartol may have sold his stock to raise money to sell puts, herbalife not likely to go above 100 til investigation is over which could be years, meanwhile each month the puts at 55 or less will continue to expire worthless, so he may be using his money for other purposes for the next year or so.

  36. The regulators don’t have to have any balls to shut down HLF, just let the facts lead them to this conclusion. LOL

    Is Herbalife imploding? A high level Herbalife distributor sells a huge chunk of stock right smack-dab in the middle of investigations by the FTC, SEC, DOJ, FBI, and at least 2 state AG (Illinois and New York) investigations: http://www.mideasttime.com/insider-selling-john-tartol-unloads-50000-shares-of-herbalife-stock-hlf/149116/ Has his business cratered, and now he needs some quick cash? Has he lost confidence in the Herbalife business going forward? Who knows, but it comes on the heels of the CEO cashing out on a large chunk as well: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-05-08/herbalife-s-johnson-pockets-13-million-after-exercising-options Time will tell, meanwhile, the Herbalife and Amway businesses are strikingly similar, so hopefully the regulators’ next target will be the largest MLM scam on the planet, AMWAY.

    What about John Tartol selling 50,000 shares last week – he’s going to let you and the other HLF sycophants holding the bag – and it won’t be one with balls in it! LOL

  37. I keep reading herbalife is a BAD ACTOR, what about banks, porn, gambling, etc etc. are we not supposed to invest in bad actors. should we only buy Disney???

  38. if your aunt had balls she would be your uncle..if if if

  39. If the regulators disgorge the company, including corporate, officer, and net winning distributors, there won’t be anything left. LOL

  40. meanwhile back at the ranch THE STOCK IS UP THIS MONTH…..bill stiritz, carl Icahn, George soros and several other billionaires who are long the stock and selling puts have done their own investigation…this group of billionaires have a lot better investigators, lawyers, and analysts than the government could ever hire.. do you think Icahn would have put so many on the hlf board if he had not done a thorough investigation…DUE DILIGENCE..it is what these billionaires do and they do it very well, ackman on the other hand NOT SO MUCH I use j c penny , target. and now hlf as my examples…these billionaires just keep selling puts and the puts just keep expiring worthless.. and once these investigations end and hlf gets a fine and a slap on the wrist the stock goes to 100 bucks a share and all the shorts will be SQUEEEEEZED like volkswagon was..this is going to make a great movie once it is over….one more thing…only 18 percent of hlf sales are in the united states so WHAT IS THE WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOME?? they lose 18 percent of there sales…IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR IT TO GO TO ZERO…

  41. No, I don’t have anything, just pointing out various felony crimes that go unanswered by you or any other HLF sycophant. LOL

    Enjoy your limited time over there, because when the regulators disgorge HLF for everything it owns, including corporate, officers, and high level net winners, there won’t be anything left. LOL

    Belgium has different laws than the U.S., so the Belgium ruling is meaningless. LOL

    Making money illegally may work overseas, but it won’t over here. LOL

    Have fun with all of your foreign honeys, I’m sure you won’t catch any diseases over there! LOL

  42. That’s your comeback. I guess you Ackmanoholics really don’t have anything do ya. By the way, I’m here in Thailand doing Herbalife and having fun….. Herbalife Thailand, Herbalife Malaysia, and Herbalife Vietnam is where my business is based; Supported by the EU ruling in Belgium concerning how Herbalife is a legal MLM, Herbalife overseas isn’t going anywhere. These countries are making good tax revenue on income taxes, VAT tax, import tax, and employee income tax from Herbalife and it’s distributors. Enjoy being a grumpy old bastard. I’m enjoying the beauties of life. And there are a lot of beauties over here.

  43. Jacob, please describe your credentials for writing such a stupid article, thanks. LOL

  44. We know you don’t sell products, that’s why it’s an illegal pyramid. LOL

    Also, it’s a RICO fraud, because of the LOADS of money made from the “lead generation” and other tools. LOL

    Too bad you wasted so much ink defending this scam. LOL

    Looks like John Tartol is bailing out just like Mikey did recently, and YOU will be left holding the bag. LOL

  45. It’s amazing how some people come to their conclusions that Herbalife is illegal or bad. They have never been in Herbalife. They have never tried the Herbalife products. They have never been under my support system to take the Herbalife product. They have NO IDEA why Herbalife is the #1 Weight management company with the #1 weight management product in the entire world. They just have no idea. But because it’s MLM. It’s just got to be bad. For the $65 it takes to get started, and that’s all it takes, you can work and earn an income out of 90+ countries. How much money do you think it would take to bring a food product to Japan’s health ministry to get approved by the Japanese Government? How much will the Japanese laboratories charge you to test your product? How much money do you think it would take to modify the Herbalife product to comply with Japanese food laws? How much money would it take to get all the labeling and distribution done? An Herbalife distributor gets all this (times 90 countries) done a for $65 sign up and menial annual fee. By the way, I have lived in Japan, and imported materials (crystal, mugs, wood, gifts, etc) into that country. Just to get anything, like cups, that would touch a human’s lips must meet specific laboratory testing that is extremely cost prohibitive. As for the Herbalife products and the way they are distributed. I realize that most people don’t know why Herbalife wouldn’t just put the shake on the shelf. But those are the same people that can’t stop talking ignorantly. Please entertain my question for you….. Remember the last time you bought a weight loss product from the grocery store (like slim fast) or a GNC product? My question for you is, did the retailer demonstrate to you how to use the product? Did the retailer call you up the next morning and ask you whether you took your product that you spent money on so that they can ensure you are going to get your results (get your money’s worth)? If they called you the next morning, did the retailer ask you if you felt ok on the product you purchased from them yesterday? Did the retailer call you up on the 3rd day and ask you how you are progressing on their product and if you had any issues? Did the retailer make a scheduled house call to your home to weigh and tape you to monitor your progress on the product? You don’t have to tell me. I know, they didn’t do anything for you except say thank you when you left their store. That’s why store bought products are LOSING market share to companies like and including Herbalife. Now you know why Herbalife is doing so well. Every Herbalife distributor is supposed to do these things if possible. And I have this saying that goes like this. When you buy a stores product and you hand them your money, they say thank you and their job is done. When you buy the Herbalife product from a distributor, when you hand them your money, they say Thank you and their job has just begun. Herbalife does NOT sell products; I sell results. And this type of support system breeds successful weight loss stories. And people can “round the bush” criticize Herbalife for being an MLM style business. However, nobody can question all the powerful results that the Herbalife products with the support of the Independent Herbalife distributors has delivered over the past 34 year. And because of the legacy of all these positive results, it takes a billionaire investing a lot of money to try to unfairly discredit Herbalife. We all know if Herbalife was a private company, none of this controversy would be taking place. This was a greed driven Bill Ackman (now face saving). And we all know why Bill Ackman has done this. His analyst Shane Dinneen had an analysis that should have been double checked by an MLM specialist, but wasn’t. So when Professional MLM analysts like Fusion research got a hold of Shane’s work in what was like a post “peer review”, they totally busted it out and discredited it, and Ackman’s thesis went down the toilet with it. Ackman realizing that Dinneen was wrong has unemployed Shane from Pershing Square. But Ackman, after being so wrong on JC Penny’s doesn’t want to lose face so badly again. So he is using all forms of questionable tactics, as the NY Times wrote about a few months ago, to try and bring the stock price down far enough so he can get out alive without losing the credibility of his investors/supporters. And it shows in his attacks….. He attacks distributors now, because that is all he can do. He now knows Shane’s work stating that Herbalife distributors earn recruiting rewards was faulty. Herbalife falls well within the confines of a legal MLM as defined by the VanderNat Keep paper. Herbalife has hired two VERY independent companies; one, Neilsen’s, that proved in a 10,000 person sample, that Herbalife has almost 8 million unique end-user customers every 3 months. Herbalife follows the law concerning the 10/70 rule. Herbalife has one of the, if not THE best anti-inventory loading policies in place. On this note, I know of no other business, where one can buy the license and buy a small amount of inventory, like every retail outlet does on a start up, and if it doesn’t work for them, they can refund it all back. Any business person with any retail experience at all realizes what a great deal this is. Because as I said, I have imported before. And once I bought product for that business, it was mine, no matter what happened…. to include shipping mishaps. In summary, Herbalife is an all around great opportunity for anybody that is an existing Herbalife customer that has gotten results on the product. Because people can talk bad about Herbalife all day long. But NOBODY can deny Laura, my personal customer, a teacher, lost over 100 pounds (And was pinned by Mark Hughes for that) while using the Herbalife products. NOBODY can deny great weight loss results, So as Herbalife continues to march through all societies that are stricken with an obesity epidemic, many people of all races and creeds will continue to jump on the Herbalife bandwagon. 1st as a customer, then as a member, then a few as a distributor. Why? cause I and many others have “before and afters” of themselves or loved ones that shows/proves what happened while we were drinking the Herbalife product. And people wants results. And as I said before, I don’t sell products; I sell results!

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