Friday, July 25, 2014

Protection against floss

Earlier this week Maureen Farrell reported that William Kelly Jr., a VP at Hartford Financial Services Group had some choice words for Herbalife following Bill Ackman's death by 1,000 yawns presentation (excerpt below):

Speaking at the sidelines of Mr. Ackman’s latest presentation about Herbalife, Mr. Kelly said he had been wary about providing the coverage because of his skepticism about how Herbalife generated its revenue.

What I found particularly interesting about the brief report was the following comment posted the next morning:

In the above article, Mr. Kelly was speaking on his own behalf, not on behalf of The Hartford. 

As of today, Mr. Kelly has reportedly been released from his position at the Hartford for his comments about Herbalife. This report has not yet been confirmed by The Hartford or by Mr. Kelly although I attempted to reach both for comment.

If this report is in fact true it would lead me to believe that The Hartford not only views Herbalife as insurable, but probably as insured.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I almost wrote a blog on Tuesday

I almost wrote a blog on Tuesday, but then I read this instead:

The full release from Herbalife is HERE.

I thought it was an extremely interesting statement by the company and it immediately made me curious about Dr. Vandaele, so then I read this profile of him:
Walter Vandaele, Ph.D. Managing Director, Navigant

By the time I finished reading about Dr. Vandaele's impressive history at the FTC, Harvard and elsewhere (excluding his short fictitious stint under the aegis of George Costanza) I then turned my attention to the least interesting presentation I think I've ever seen. So uninteresting in fact, it de-snarked me. I can't even bring myself to describe how bad it was, much less how slanderous it was, particularly when so many others have already done so.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

It would be like beating a dead horse with a live one. What's the point? Luckily for Bill he had to fly to Canada as he's wont to do in times of embarrassed crisis. And while Bill was North of the border with his new besty Mike Pearson, apparently trying to be more helpful, I re-read Herbalife's study results.

Bears, Bulls and public servants alike should carefully read this report. Buried within some of the details of what should be a "deathblow" to Ackman's short thesis was a description of how how Dr. Vandaele performed his analysis:

in addition to survey results, Dr. Vandaele also obtained from Herbalife an extract of profile and financial data for all individuals enrolled as U.S. Herbalife Members at any time during calendar year 2012.

That's a pretty staggering figure. Herbalife doesn't just demonstrate that it isn't an illegal pyramid, it did this by providing information on EVERY SINGLE U.S. Herbalife member for all of 2012 for this study. For all the bears that decry the fact Herbalife has not publicly released this data, you have to wonder if they released this data to any agency other than the private consulting firm they engaged to analyze the data? The report came out of Herbalife IR, but I doubt that report and its underlying data was only prepared for investors. Herbalife IR isn't just IR after all; it is also Corporate Relations and Government Relations.

So why would Herbalife go through the trouble of opening up everything to Navigant & Vandaele if they weren't also going to provide that same data and the report to every single agency that would care about it? The short answer is they wouldn't. Say what you will about the twittersphere/blogosphere, but Vandaele is not some maligned hack cancer researcher or some fired Wall St. analyst and he didn't arrive at his conclusions by some back of the envelope exercise or some pre-packaged research report from Indago. That being said it is unclear how many state or federal agencies received this data and the report based on it prior to Herbalife's public disclosure on July 22nd, or just how many agencies have received it to date.

By Ackman's own admission Herbalife is pretty efficient at disseminating information, so at this point it is pretty safe to say that Vandaele's report, and the data supporting it, are at least in the hands of the FTC, the SEC and the NY & IL AG's offices.

Although I planned to write a blog I was so depressed by Ackman's presentation that I've moped around for a couple days. So, instead of writing a blog, I just wrote a really bad poem instead.

"Walking Across Russia 140 Years Ago"-by TheSkeptic21
On stage for three hours he loiters
While Mafia-Nazis reconnoitered
Fifty mil his investors supplied
Then Bill wiped a tear from his eye
And NY Post's coverage byline was from Reuters