It has been just days since I broke the news that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is married to the partner of a firm called Venable, LLP, which has been retained on numerous occasions to represent Herbalife. Since then, that news has been mentioned in several Seeking Alpha articles and today’s NY Post article.
The heat is being turned up on Harris with regard to this possible conflict of interest – and now the Nevada Attorney General is being urged to take action against Herbalife, as well.
My post could have been a de facto straw that has broken the camel’s back with regard to Herbalife blatantly and egregiously violating the 1986 permanent injunction against the company signed into law in the state of California. If you’re not familiar with the injunction, click the above link and peruse my last article, which offers an explanation.
Today, Pershing Square took it among themselves to make the case as simple and easy to follow as one possibly could. They released a 7 minute video that carefully lays out the terms of the ’86 injunction – and then they systematically show primary source evidence and proof of Herbalife raping and pillaging these terms when they show video after video – after video of top distributors and even CEO Michael Johnson telling viewers and audience members that Herbalife products can help ailments from acne to lupus to diabetes to high blood pressure.
The old lupus acting up? Have a protein shake! You don’t need to be a J.D. from Yale to understand that this is fraud, any way you slice it. Medical claims fraud on top of income claims fraud on top of pyramid scheme fraud. Yuck. How in God’s name is this company still operating?
You can view the video here – try not to watch it on a full stomach.
The most malicious – almost downright evil – part of this video comes when Chris Carley, a Chairman’s Club Member, is seen giving a presentation urging attendees to find out what ailments are bothering people and their relatives. She then basically instructs people to hone in on that, and tell the customer that whatever specific ailment they’ve listed is what Herbalife can help treat. She teaches you how to deceive and use confidence to gain someone’s trust, then she tells you how to try and close them on the sale. It is, after all, a confidence game.
Another wicked item in the video is reference to some of the adverse effects reported from people using Herbalife’s products. Shots of the FDA’s CEARS database show that there’s a fair amount of alleged adverse effects that have been reported.
As a reminder, we are still left with questions about a death in Mexico just months ago. For a while, the lead content in Herbalife’s products has been in question – recently, an article surfaced online that bore this headline:
The company’s “official” response to Pershing’s video, which looks like it was written by an 11 year old in Microsoft Paint, was as follows:
The correct PR response here would have been to say that “We’re investigating these single acts and looking to take action and move forward.” Instead, we get the argument that Ackman is “Selectively picking out a few anecdotes?” They have the fucking CEO on video, for Christ’s sake. John Tartol told me “every extra million he makes comes in handy” and he’s on the Board of Directors. He sits across from Icahn’s guys, and next to the guy that’s currently wanted for fraud in Brazil.
What a lovely little Herbalife family.
To break the news of Pershing’s video, Dan McCrum over at Financial Times wrote a piece this morning that laid out the details. Dan did not, to my disappointment, touch on the potential Kamala Harris conflict of interest. In addition, Pershing released their own strongly worded press release this morning that read, among other things:
“Herbalife infringes on the responsibility doctors have in the State of California to provide appropriate preventative care for our patients to the highest standard possible. By falsely claiming that Herbalife products are not only benefitting consumers health, but they are also allegedly able to cure chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or even migraines, Herbalife is placing the people in imminent peril. Herbalife must be stopped before they spread more lies and hence hurt people. Stop Herbalife, and let medical providers do their job in ameliorating health disparities,” said Dr. Sandra Salazar, a California family physician serving seniors, youth and families from Norwalk and neighboring communities also served by the Cerritos Community College District.
Finally, toward the end of the day on Thursday, I came across this piece (in its entirety here) that highlights Nevada residents putting pressure on their local Attorney General to act. It would seem that word is starting to get out – as I’ve stated in the past, distributor confidence has been shredded to bits.
As a reminder, Nevada would be added to the list of the SEC, FBI, DOJ, FTC, Illinois and NY Attorney Generals that are already investigating Herbalife. Canadian authorities have also been reported to be investigating the company.
For now though – Kamala Harris, it’s still your move. We’re willing to forgive months of inaction if you simply come out and do the right thing – represent your constituency the right way and help bring this fraud to justice.