“HERBALIFE SHARES HALTED; REASONS UNCLEAR”
There aren’t many bulletins that move Wall Street to the edge of its seat faster than news on Herbalife (HLF), the nutritional supplement marketer that has become a tetherball slapped back and forth between billionaire hedge fund managers. The stock has swung wildly for almost a full year, first when David Einhorn raised questions about its accounting methods, then when Bill Ackman declared that the company is no more than a pyramid scheme, and then when Carl Icahn and Daniel Loeb took the opposite view. Big announcements of the kind that temporarily halt Herbalife’s stock from trading, like the one that hit early today, could add or wipe out billions in market cap—and more entertainingly, make or ruin the morning of these financial titans.
The excitement turned out to be short lived, in terms of immediate impact. Dealbook reports that KPMG is resigning as Herbalife’s auditor—not because of any problems at Herbalife but because a senior partner at the inspector has been fired on suspicion of insider trading. The alleged activity was said to include several West Coast corporations. Herbalife’s offices are in Los Angeles.
Based in the Netherlands, KPMG is one of the largest auditors in the world. In a statement (pdf), Herbalife said that the firm had withdrawn its reports for the last three fiscal years—meaning that there is currently no independent audit information on what is arguably the single most controversial equity traded in America today.