Bob Chapman needs no introduction to readers of VW. Although the Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) bull does not file a 13F he makes a lot of rounds in the media. Anyway, below is a letter to Herbalife regulators from Chapman. Chapman refused to speak VW about the topic, as we are apparently on his ‘blacklist’. Memo via Thompson Burton
DATE: August 8, 2014
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TO: Herbalife Regulators and Related Parties
RE: Bill Ackman’s Attempt to Goad Regulators Into a Baseless, Unnecessary Legal Battle
Ackman’s Final, Desperate Strategy: Goad/Shame the FTC into a Self Serving, Baseless Legal Battle
- Goading/Prodding Just the Latest Tactic at Manipulating Regulators: It is no coincidence that Bill Ackman kick started his July 22nd Herbalife-bashing presentation with John Hempton’s thoughtless categorization of the global nutrition products company Herbalife as “scumbags” in a 2012 CNBC interview. Ackman’s nutrition club presentation followed Bruce Craig’s letter from the day earlier to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, in which the anti-MLM campaigner went over the heads of both FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection (CPB) Director Jessica Rich and FTC CPB Marketing Practices Director Lois Greisman in an overtly hostile attack. Essentially, Craig publicly accused Ramirez subordinate Jessica Rich of having the wrong priorities (based on a March 2014 speech whereof in a MLM clampdown was not highlighted) and preposterously seemed to categorize her subordinate Lois Greisman as a feckless shill for the MLM industry, based apparently on the absurd theory that since her prior boss at the FTC was Amway’s lawyer, she must be aligned with the MLM industry herself. I can only imagine how Ms. Rich and Ms. Greisman felt when they read how they were being depicted by Ackman ally Mr. Craig to their own common boss.
- The Order Apparently Has Been Sent Down from Pershing Square: Very recently and non-coincidentally, one can hardly read any of the myriad Seeking Alpha “articles” or other short seller propaganda without recognizing an obvious pattern of the short sellers trying to shame the FTC into shutting down or otherwise impairing Herbalife. In the most recent post by Bill Ackman’s close personal friend and Herbalife short seller Whitney Tilson, Tilson claimed that many of Herbalife’s investors “concede the company is deceptive, but invest because they think regulators are spineless.” Tilson is surprisingly shameless in displaying his coopting of Ackman’s “goad the FTC” tactic. As one of his correspondents (per Tilson’s own concession) wrote to him on July 26 and then published proudly by Tilson, “I believe you are correct that the regulators will ultimately be goaded into action.” Tilson’s correspondent then took a shot at goading the regulators himself: “Many of our regulators are not fond of complex cases and hard work.” One can expect more disrespectful propaganda like this coming from those who stand to strike it rich by maiming or dealing a “death blow” to Herbalife. They indeed seem willing to try virtually any tactic to manipulate the markets, media or regulators to that dire end.
- Short Sellers Must Know Their Claims Are False: The short sellers are spreading these transparently manipulative and, in my view, knowingly false depictions of the true investment thesis of Herbalife’s investors. The true long/bullish thesis I actually do hear is that the Company is a legitimate, legally operating global MLM selling products desired and purchased by ultimate consumers, both internally and externally. Again, whether it be D.A. Davidson’s (Tim Ramey) or Barclays (Meredith Adler) with their in-depth sell-side research, or 19% Herbalife owner Carl Icahn’s repeated public statements that he believes Herbalife is a legitimate, legally run company selling products that help people worldwide, there is not a single Herbalife investor amongst the many with whom I have spoken who ever has indicated in any way that Herbalife is ‘deceptive’ or ‘fraudulent’. Even John Hempton’s careless choice of words in 2012 was intended to convey his view that the MLM industry has participants, including some distributers of Herbalife products, who are overly aggressive and opportunistic. Moreover, that singular statement, no matter how taken out of context by Bill Ackman, did not represent anyone but John Hempton’s apparent view at that particular time.
- Short Sellers Insult the Regulators’ Collective Intelligence: The irony and hypocrisy of the Herbalife Short sellers vis-à-vis the MLM’s regulators is nothing short of astounding. Ackman and his cabal of profiteers are not dissimilar to a small but high pitched gang of school yard bullies who repeatedly egg on an honors student to start a fight by shouting, “Come on! He called you a wimp! You really gonna take that?” As I shake my head in disbelief, I wonder how Ackman & Co. actually believe that these truly sedulous regulators, who have a history of taking on the likes of the Mafia, international drug dealers and money launderers, possibly could be goaded into doing the short sellers’ bidding with this patently obvious shaming tactic.
- Charming, Cajoling, Overwhelming, Bullying and Now Goading and Shaming Regulators: In mid-late 2012, nearly two years ago, it appeared that Bill Ackman began his version of a charm offensive with the FTC, SEC and other state regulators. Exhibiting a typical lack self-awareness, Ackman essentially told the FTC, the SEC, and state regulators that Pershing Square was doing these regulators a huge favor by blessing them with his propriety analysis that supposedly proved Herbalife to be a “criminal enterprise.” Again, allow me to emphasize, Ackman essentially accused these regulators of having been asleep at the switch for nothing short of decades, and, as such delinquents, they all require Pershing Square’s collective perspicacity to finally do their regulatory jobs. When his unique form of enchantment predictably failed, Ackman moved on to overwhelming the regulators with a deluge of documentation estimated into the thousands of pages. As that tactic did not attain the immediate prosecution Ackman sought, Ackman moved onto his well-practiced approach of bullying, enlisting a relatively small segment of LULAC and a U.S. Senator to replace his own public face of his war. In March this year, some 15 months after his first public presentation, Ackman’s final bullying thrust seemed to pay dividends when the FTC launched the formal investigation for which Ackman had agitated. However, there is a great distance between the investigation and shutting down of Herbalife, as the now 1.5 year SEC investigation exhibits. One may want to ask the following hypothetical: “What might Ackman do if the SEC has turned its focus on Pershing Square and/or one of its current or former employees involved in Herbalife? What theoretically might Ackman do if he begins to sense that the results of the FTC investigation were heading toward actuallyvindicating rather than crucifying Herbalife? Might Ackman and his gang then begin to goad, prod and attempt to shame the FTC into a fight that was baseless and solely served the interests of those who have sold short Herbalife’s stock?” This is precisely what I believe is happening.
- Regulators of Herbalife are Diligent, Not Spineless: At the risk of stating the obvious, every bull on Herbalife shares I know thinks the FTC/SEC/AGs/DOJ are anything but spineless. Instead, they are extremely diligent in prosecuting truly illegal, endless chain pyramid schemes that primarily compensate distributers for ENROLLING their downline (vs. selling product/inventory to that down line). The FTC, and the Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina attorneys general hardly were “spineless when they worked for years together ahead of halting truly illegal pyramid scheme Fortune High Tech Marketing. For over half a decade, the FTC investigated and thenprosecuted truly illegal pyramid scheme BurnLounge, successfully pursuing justice through 2014 all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The diligently laboring Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hardly was “spineless” when it slapped TelexFree with a lawsuit on charges it sold fraudulent and unregistered securities to mostly Brazilian and Dominican immigrants, who served as its promoters. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, amongst a plethora of other effective and legitimate law enforcement, ferociously has pursued enforcement against the High Frequency Trading players, whose business model involves front running the investments made indirectly and directly by America’s hard working citizens. California Attorney General Kamala Harris has risen to superhero status on a national scale for her hard charging battle against the nation’s top banks to win a $20 billion settlement for mortgage fraud. This is but a tiny sample of many examples of strict, appropriate enforcement. The list of “fully spined” regulators and their persistent pursuit of justice via the prosecution of legitimate, non-falsified or fabricated cases is truly endless. Therefore, I apologize for the many I failed to include in my list above.
Conclusion. That regulators refuse to be cajoled, bullied, prodded, goaded and “shamed” into pursuing Bill Ackman’s profiteering and self- aggrandizing agenda does notcome anywhere close to making them “spineless.” This is so obvious that any reasonable observer, Herbalife investor or otherwise, would have to agree. Bill Ackman and his compliant operatives should feel ashamed for their transparent attempts to manipulate not only the markets, but those who assiduously and honorably have been regulating them for decades.
 Herbalife’s illiquid convertible bonds (2’s of 2019) in the past few weeks have been sold down aggressively and disproportionately to the common stock, with some speculating that Pershing Square directly or indirectly (via CDS bidding) having influenced their lower pricing to create the appearance and related media “reporting” of a symptom of financial distress, despite the company’s healthy debt service coverage.