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Herbalife defends itself against Ackman's claims

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm •  Published: January 10, 2013

In defense against claims that Herbalife has few customers outside its distributor network, Walsh said the company has functioned primarily as a business-to-business seller and had not tracked its retail customer base.

To dispel Ackman's claims, Herbalife hired Lieberman Research to study its customers. A representative of the firm said that two of the studies, which were conducted among a sample of 2,000 adults over the age of 18, found that more than 5 million households purchased Herbalife products in the past three months.

Walsh added that 31 percent of Herbalife's orders in the U.S. were directly sent to non-distributor customers in 2012.

Herbalife, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and based in Los Angeles, also maintained that it complies with the appropriate Federal Trade Commission standards and that its financial disclosures meet guidelines of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ackman said Thursday that Pershing will respond to every issue Herbalife raised during its analyst and investor meeting, but did not disclose when its next presentation would be.

He also said that Pershing has been contacted by "numerous interested parties" over the past three weeks that have given additional insight into Herbalife's business practices and that those new issues will be addressed when it gives an updated presentation.

Herbalife's meeting Thursday comes one day after Herbalife announced that well-known investor Dan Loeb's Third Point LLC purchased 8.9 million shares in the company. This amounts to an 8.2 percent stake.

Third Point's stake in Herbalife, a vote of confidence the business, was disclosed in a regulatory filing Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Wednesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an inquiry into Herbalife. The Journal cited an unidentified person familiar with the matter. Representatives for the SEC and Herbalife both declined to comment.

Herbalife's stock hit a low of $24.24 in late December as a result of Ackman's allegations, their lowest point since July 2010. Shares have lost close to half their value since the end of April.

The company's stock fell $1.84, or 4.4 percent, to $38.11 in afternoon trading Thursday.