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FTC investigates Herbalife’s operations after months of Ackman complaints

William Ackman’s hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, has been shorting Herbalife stock since 2012

After months of lobbying the U.S. government for an inquiry of marketing and distributing company Herbalife Ltd., it seems that billionaire investor William Ackman is finally receiving his wish.

On March 12, Herbalife announced that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened an investigation into the company’s operations. The FTC will determine whether Herbalife’s business practices are deceptive.

Ackman has accused Herbalife’s business practices of being a “pyramid scheme,” claiming that the company makes money recruiting new distributors to sell its products rather than actually through the products themselves. According to Reuters, Ackman currently has a $1.16 billion short bet on Herbalife.

Herbalife says that it will fully cooperate with the FTC’s investigation. It also claims that Ackman’s public statements about the company are “an unfounded, relentless and fraudulent public attack on Herbalife's business model.”

“Herbalife welcomes the inquiry given the tremendous amount of misinformation in the marketplace,” the company said in a statement. “We are confident that Herbalife is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”

Ackman’s hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, has been shorting Herbalife stock since 2012. However, he has lost money as others such as Carl Icahn have taken the other side.

As it turns out, the billionaire investor was not the only major voice pushing for an investigation Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts asked the FTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Herbalife in early 2014 after receiving word that constituents were losing thousands of dollars to the company.

Although Herbalife claims to welcome the probe with open arms, other companies have claimed that FTC probes have crippled company operations. Medical testing supplier LabMD claimed in January that an FTC probe into a potential data breach had forced overhauls that had essentially shut down company operations.

“This action is in large part due to the conduct of the Federal Trade Commission,” LabMD President and Chief Executive Michael J. Daugherty wrote in a letter. “The FTC has subjected LabMD to years of debilitating investigation and litigation regarding alleged patient-information data-security vulnerability.”


For more on FTC probes, check out these recent InsideCounsel articles:

Is antitrust analysis different for high-tech industries?

Western Union under investigation for possible connection to fraud

What credit unions need to know about patent trolls

A step-by-step guide to addressing corporate data privacy and security (Part 1)

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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