KPMG resigns as auditor for Herbalife, Skechers

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 9, 2013 at 8:26 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013
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Investors knew something was wrong when Herbalife shares failed to open along with the rest of the stock market Tuesday morning. Skechers did open as normal, but it was halted later in the morning.

Both stocks resumed trading later Tuesday, but with disparate results. Herbalife fell $1.44, or nearly 4 percent, to $36.95. Skechers rose 40 cents, or nearly 2 percent, to $21.91.

The development comes at an especially awkward time for Herbalife. Activist investor Bill Ackman has publicly attacked Herbalife, saying it distorts the financial information it gives to investors. His rival Carl Icahn has vehemently disagreed and has increased his stake in the company. In February, the dogfight boiled over into the public arena as Ackman and Icahn got in a shouting match on live television.

Herbalife has gone on the defensive against Ackman, disputing his characterization of the company and saying that Ackman wants to push the stock down for his own benefit.

Timothy Ramey, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co., downgraded Herbalife to neutral from buy. He noted that Tuesday's development was not Herbalife's fault, and said the fundamentals of the business were unchanged. Still, he said, the KPMG development could cause "heightened risk and volatility near-term."

"We assume the process of hiring a new auditor will go quickly - maybe days or weeks," Ramey wrote. "However, the new auditor will have to perform its own audit and re-establish its own review of financial controls. We estimate this process could take as long as a year - we guess HLF would be lucky to file their 2013 10-K on time."

Late Tuesday, Herbalife issued a statement saying it believes it is in compliance with New York Stock Exchange listing requirements and that it does not expect the exchange to take any actions toward delisting the company. It said it contacted the NYSE about its plans for replacing KPMG.

Los Angeles-based Herbalife sells energy drinks and stress management pills and recruits people to work as independent sales staffers. On its website, it promises to "change people's lives" either by the chance to sell Herbalife products, or the chance to take them.

Skechers, which is based outside of Los Angeles, is a well-known shoe seller.

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AP Business Writers Marcy Gordon and Michelle Chapman contributed.