His beef with the nutritional company is in regards to their dishonest business practices, as he’s accused them of profiting from a pyramid scheme. The idea of a hedge fund manager being disgusted by a company’s business practices is equivalent to the pot calling the kettle black. Mr. Ackman will stop at nothing to ensure Herbalife’s stock drops. The measures he’s taking this far could be considered unscrupulous and worthy of investigation.
When a company comes under investigation for deceptive practices, investors are likely to be detoured causing a drop in price. Doing his due diligence to ensure the stock’s decline, Mr. Ackman has persuaded members of congress to join him in this crusade, placed pressure on government regulators, organized protests, and paid civil rights groups for assistance in obtaining names of the pyramid scheme victims.
A former S.E.C. chairman suggests that his efforts are taking on the appearance of one manipulating a stock’s price. When Mr. Ackman announced to a group of hedge fund managers that the stock price was sure to drop, he was drawing from information that congresswoman, Linda T Sanchez, had sent a letter to the F.T.C. requesting an investigation. The letter had not yet been received by the F.T.C. at the time of Mr. Ackman’s announcement, or even made public. The congresswoman issued a news release that was backdated to the day prior to his announcement to give the appearance that it was public information. She indicated that it was ok to backdate, since she considered the letter public information the day that she sent it whether or not it had been received. (Michael S. Schmidt, 2014) A meeting between hedge fund managers discussing knowledge that is not available to the general public that can sway the price of stock sounds a lot like insider trading.
Another billionaire, one in favor of Herbalife stepped up to the plate. Carl C. Icahn, has kept the stock price high by announcing his stake in Herbalife in January 2013, a month after Mr. Ackman made public his bet they would fail. (Dealbook, 2014) Observing this behavior of two “rivals”, one might almost think they were working together. One drives the price down right before the other swoops in and buys up enough of the company to be on the board.
The wrecking ball approach may allow a greater profit to be made than what could have been obtained in dismantling Herbalife with a blast. Mr. Ackman recently advised a group of investors that “if Herbalife ‘were to disappear tomorrow, we’d make a lot more than had it just blown up the day after I gave my last presentation — although life would be a little easier.”’ (Michael S. Schmidt, 2014) Mr. Ackman claims he’s not in it for profits though, and any profit made from this billion-dollar bet will be donated to charity. Well — now he’s just playing with the heartstrings.
Dealbook. (2014, 03 10). Ackman vs. Herbalife, a History. Retrieved 03 12, 2014, from New York Times: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/03/10/ackman-versus-herbalife-a-history/
Michael S. Schmidt, E. L. (2014, 03 09). After Big Bet, Hedge Fund Pulls the Levers of Power. Retrieved 03 12, 2014, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/10/business/staking-1-billion-that-herbalife-will-fail-then-ackman-lobbying-to-bring-it-down.html?emc=edit_th_20140310&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=58197310&_r=0