Herbalife Lawsuit: Playing The Civil Rights Card For Billions

Here`s a rather overwrought article in the New York Times about hedge fund honcho William A. Ackman`s jihad against the notorious multi-level-marketing firm Herbalife. [After Big Bet, Hedge Fund Pulls the Levers of Power Staking $1 Billion That Herbalife Will Fail, Then Lobbying To Bring It Down, By Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Lipton and Alexandra Stevenson,  March 9, 2014]
Ackman has sold Herbalife short to the tune of a billion dollars and has been trying to get government regulators to go after it. Yet, Herbalife`s stock has supporters who are not without influence either, such as George Soros and Carl Icahn, which may help account for the negative tone of the article on Ackman.

Ackman has frequently played the civil rights card in trying to get regulators to crack down on Herbalife. Pyramid schemes tend to exploit people with two-digit IQs, and Herbalife, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1980 by the late supersalesman Mark Hughes (1956-2000), has always gone hard after the Diversity market.

Not surprisingly, a lot of civil rights organizations seem to exist mostly to be bought off by one side or another in these kind of struggles among the rich and powerful. For example:

Brent A. Wilkes, LULAC

Brent A. Wilkes, the national executive director of the Washington-based League of United Latin American Citizens, or Lulac, rejected any suggestion that he had become Mr. Ackman’s tool — even though his organization accepted a $10,000 contribution early last year, and since then has taken a position at the forefront of the anti-Herbalife campaign.

Instead, Mr. Ackman’s bet is just helping draw attention to longstanding abusive practices by Herbalife, said Mr. Wilkes, who acknowledged that he had never previously focused on the issue. 

“It’s not the Latino groups that are helping Bill Ackman,” Mr. Wilkes said. “Bill Ackman is helping the Latino groups. He has elevated this battle.” On Sunday evening, after questions from The Times, Mr. Wilkes said he had decided to return the donation, so there was no chance anyone could suspect he had undertaken the effort “for a mere $10,000 table purchase” at one of his fund-raising events.

In case you are wondering, LULAC`s national executive director Brent A. Wilkes is a graduate of Dartmouth, that hotbed of Latino-American culture.

One Latino civil rights organization`s brilliant strategy is that rather than be paid by one side or the other for their assistance, they`d rather be paid by both sides to do nada:

In recent weeks, the back-and-forth donations by the two sides have generated something of a bidding war. 

For example, a top executive at the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute informed a member of Mr. Ackman’s consulting team in late February that he had already received a $30,000 donation from Herbalife. He then solicited payment of the same amount from Pershing Square in exchange for the group remaining “neutral.”

That should be my career goal: to be paid by all sides on all issues to not do any work.