Ackman: Herbalife Could Be FTC's Madoff

Feb 14 2013 | 12:11pm ET

Pershing Square Capital Management's William Ackman continued his offensive against Herbalife yesterday, warning the Federal Trade Commission that failing to act on the nutritional supplements company could prove a major embarrassment.

"If the FTC misses Herbalife, it's the equivalent of the SEC missing Madoff," Ackman said at the Harbor Investment Conference in New York, referring to the $65 billion Ponzi schemer.

Ackman launched his attack on Herbalife two months ago, calling the company a pyramid scheme. He said that at least some authorities are now looking into the company, noting that he and his law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, have "received inbound requests from regulators around the country," although he refused to elaborate when asked by an audience member.

Ackman also took aim at Herbalife's auditors, warning, "if I were KPMG, I'd take a very, very careful look at that financial statement before I slap my brand on it."

The hedge fund chief also referred to his high-profile feud with Carl Icahn, renewed on live television last month over the Herbalife matter.

"Anytime anyone in the investment community calls something a certainty, as Carl Icahn would say, this guy is extremely arrogant or sanctimonious," Ackman said. "Or, everyone once in awhile, he's right."

Ackman also thanked Icahn and Third Point's Dan Loeb, who publicly announced a long position in Herbalife after Ackman's initial presentation on the company, for helping focus on Herbalife's business.

"I had no idea how much attention we'd attract," Ackman said.

"Mr. Ackman clearly lacks a basic understanding of the direct selling industry in general and Herbalife in particular," Herbalife said in response to Ackman's presentation.

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