Herbalife is a pyramid scheme worth zero dollars: Bill Ackman

Herbalife, a global MLM scheme also prevalent in India, is believed to be worthless according to hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who made a detailed presentation on why consumers should avoid buying the company’s products and stay away from the MLM. This is first part of a three-part series

On a warm Sunday afternoon, you may encounter a group of young and old people coddled together in, say, Café Coffee Day, listening to a very animated team leader, motivating and making a very passionate speech. Move closer, you will hear the team leader motivating all the members of the group to generate leads to create more ‘business’ and at  the same time ‘educate’ them about various (dubious) products to sell. What is this ‘business’ that they talk about? You approach and enquire. They will tout a nutrition powder, which you have not seen anywhere else and supposed to make you buff and strong. But there’s more to this than the nutrition supplement. This is Herbalife, a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme prevalent not just in India but all over the world. Along with QNet and SpeakAsia, Herbalife has been cast in the spotlight recently. Herbalife only sells its dubious products here. In the US it is a listed stock. If you believe the well-known hedge fund manager Bill Ackman,  the company runs  one of the largest pyramid schemes. Herbalife is just one of the hundreds of pyramid or MLM schemes. All of them will impoverish you. Pay attention to what the billionaire activist-hedge fund manager and his outstanding team of researchers have discovered.
 

After a whole year of research, Bill Ackman and his team at Pershing Square Capital Management have come to the conclusion that Herbalife is worthless as a company and one big “pyramid scheme” and “caused and continues to cause enormous harm to the most vulnerable communities in the US and around the world”. He gave a lengthy presentation (a whopping 342 slides were shown), at a conference in Manhattan recently, listing out reasons why Herbalife is worthless a company and warned investors and consumers alike to stay away from the company.  He has shorted the company and believes the company is worth $0. He has even put up a website warning consumers about Herbalife.
 

Regular readers may recall Moneylife is the only publication that has been single-handedly campaigning against MLMs and pyramid schemes for the past three years. Moneylife Foundation has hosted several financial literacy seminars (click here for one such seminar in which we warned discerning public last year itself) which has pointed out the dangers of such MLM and pyramid schemes, including Herbalife. We the first to blow the whistle on Speak Asia and also on stockguruIndia.com, apart from many other dubious schemes.
 

To read what Moneylife has written about Herbalife in the past, click here.
 

Herbalife is an MLM scheme, which ‘sells’ nutritional and weight-management products, in as many as 84 countries and has been doing this since 1980. It makes money not by selling product directly to you and me but by recruiting sales people, which recruits more sales people, which in turn recruits more sales people. The moment you buy its product, you become the sales person. In order to qualify for rewards or bonus, consumers (who become distributors automatically) must recruit (or ‘sell’ Herbalife’s products) so that they meet a stipulated target every month. Not many consumers or distributors get back their money’s worth. It is estimated that failed sales people, those at the bottom of the pyramid scheme, lost as much as $3.8 billion since 1980!
 

According to  Ackman, Herbalife, at a total enterprise value of $8.1 billion is reportedly more valued than other well known brands such as Energizer ($6.7 billion) and ChurCh and Dwight ($7.2 billion) . Its flagship product Formula1, sells more than Palmolive, Betty Crocker, Clorox, with nearly $2 billion in sales, bringing in 29% of the revenues.




Herbalife sells six times more nutrition powder that Abbott Labs, Unilever and GNC combined. What is the reaosn? Is it cheaper than other products, or is it too good to resist?
 

Neither. Indeed, Herbalife’s Formula1 is the costliest nutritional powder among six other brands. Formula1 power comes at $2.87 per 200 calorie serving, while all other powders are available between 88 cents to $1.74 per 200 calorie serving. This is just an example. All other products from Herbalife are overpriced compared with similar products.
 

So, how can Herbalife justify the premium pricing of its products, asks Ackman. How is it that Formula1, a $2 billion brand company that no one has heard of? This is because its lifestyle and nutritional products bypasses retail channels and instead sold through “distributors” and consumers in the pyramid. No one outside of the pyramid has heard of Formula1. Herbalife puts itself at par with Nike and Disneyland in brand recognition that too when its advertising expenses are miniscule compared with the other two giants.



In addition, Herbalife spends its budget on promoting itself and not the brands it is so proud of!
 

Yet despite the “big brand name and high sales, strangely it spends little on R&D too. Both are minute compared to total sales. Herbalife, claims to have the “highest standards in R&D” (another way of saying “lots of money spent on R&D”), but Ackman found out that it does not spend much “materially” on R&D.&nbs. Herbalife spent just 0.2% of its net sales on R&D.




Moreover, it claimed to be a ‘product innovator’ when it actually pays royalty to the patent owner—Unither Pharma—for its nitric oxide products. Herbalife owns just one patent in the healthcare/nutrition area!


 

How come it is able to sell a commoditised product that is rarely marketed at three times the price of its competitors. Why would consumers buy it when there are cheaper products out there? The answer lies in its ‘distributors’ and the way it sells a dream. It recruits ‘distributors’ in over 80 countries to buy its products and bundles it with a "business" proposition. More of this is explained in the second part of our story.



To lure distributors to buy its products and “business”, Herbalife needed a savior—a famous person. Typically, companies like Amway, Gold Quest, etc use film stars and have political connections, and they tie up with NGOs to gain popularity and legitimacy. In Herbalife's case, endorsements were made by a Nobel laureate. Louis Ignarro, the 1998 Nobel Laurete in medicine is used to create an invincible aura around  Herbalife and thus legitimize it. Louis Ignarro, PhD, is a member of the editorial board of the Herbalife Nutrition Institute and a member of Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board. He and his consulting companies have been paid more than $15 million to promote Herbalife’s products.
 


So, Herbalife’s commodity products priced at three times its competitors is merely a guise for recruiting more sales people, a hallmark of a pyramid orMLM scheme. In our second part, we will discuss the ‘business’ part of the Herbalife MLM/pyramid scheme and how it make people lose their life savings in pursuit of a dream.

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COMMENTS

Vikas Gupta

6 years ago

SEBI is requested to look into another Ponzy scheme INSTANT FOREX.

Delhi protests: Some defining moments at Raisina Hill and India Gate

Delhi protests: Some defining moments at Raisina Hill and India Gate, when tear gas shells and water failed to deter the protesters who refused to vacate the area that houses the North and South Blocks including the Prime Minister's office and turned the area into a virtual battleground

They say one image is equivalent to more than thousand words....

Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,


Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,

Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,


Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,


Delhi, India Gate, Raisina Hill, protests, Delhi gangrape, Delhi protests, police,
Images Courtesy: Sri Ram Channel
 

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COMMENTS

Shadi Katyal

6 years ago


BEFORE I REPLY I WOULD LIKE TO BOW OUR HEADS IN SHAME AND PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF DEPARTED VICTIM.

Mr. Khera you and I are discussing different issues of the same subject.I discussed the lawless and crossing Luxman Rekha while you are discussing the unfortunate rape and now death of the victim.
Let us hope that she becomes the soul searching of us Indian men .Why do we look on the other side when a woman is being molested, grabbed and goosed in buses and trains. Why do not speak up when eve teasing is going on.Are we not responsible for such acts
Sacrificing is necessity and she has given her life but breaking Law is not a sacrifice

Vaibhav Dhoka

6 years ago

This can be changed to large extent if there is timely JUSTICE DELIVERY system.One should be fearful of punishment,but exactly opposite is happening here.Punitive action is need of hour.

Shashikant Koppikar

6 years ago

There can be no two opinions that the horrendous gangrape in Delhi and other crimes of sexual assault-- on women, children, foreign tourists and so on, elsewhere in the country call for a determined effort at preventing them. But, is the present discussion, concentrated on death for the guilty, fast track courts, tougher laws etc. an adequate response? Instead of retributive justice alone, should we not aim at closing the tap which feeds a mentality of only the lust, towards women. A mentality, which considers women as the object to be physically used, with no regard for a mutually respectful and healthy mental and sexual relationship.
If India is to prevent such crimes, we need to take a much closer look at what causes them. The beginning has to be made in the schools, where the civic studies must include a portion each year, devoted to equality of genders and a respect for the opposite sex.
Much additional training must go into moulding of all administrative and law enforcement personnel, to sensitise them into understanding a healthy, man woman relationship, based on equality and respect.
May be this has already been done and most of us not aware of it, but extensive studies need to be undertaken to determine if repressed sexual desires cause such crimes. If yes, the social factors which cause such repression, need to be identified and measures for avoiding such repression need to be implemented. Is poverty and lack privacy the only reason of repression as a stray opinion expressed by a social activist? Then why have even wealthy individuals been found indulging in such acts of atrocities on women?
I am a lay person but know for sure that ancient Indian Philosophy boasted of many women scholars in positions of eminence. The multitude of politicians, senior police officials as well as local bodies like Khap Panchayats, who want to restrict women on various counts, need to be aware of this. Social equality for women does not mean aping Western standards but means restoring ancient Indian wisdom. It will be ironical, if in the land of Khajuraho, a healthy, open man -woman relationship, shorn of hypocritic male dominence, is not accepted.
Although politicians of all parties have been found wanting in their response, Mr Rahul Gandhi's comment that " Any hasty decision will have undesirable consequeces", is an admission of total lack of thinking by the rulers so far,on the issue. Or else a decision now would not be called hasty.

nagesh kini

6 years ago

These picture of police brutality of wanton lathi charges must be filed with the Judicial Commission to enable action each clearly visible and identified cop.

nagesh kini

6 years ago

These picture of police brutality of wanton lathi charges must be filed with the Judicial Commission to enable action each clearly visible and identified cop.

Shadi Katyal

6 years ago

These photos don't do justice to the nation. It shows how lawless we are and when the police tries to protect the Govt buildings., why riots. When the barriers has been placed as a Luxman Rekha why cross and try tom push the police???
No one can deny that police might have used moe force but it was provoked.
It is unfortunate that trouble makers from outside with view of looting took over and students were misled and all the efforts for justice for rape was diverted into this police brutality.
Why can we the citizen not be Law abiding????

REPLY

sudhir khera

In Reply to Shadi Katyal 6 years ago

Mr. Katyal, have some pity and empathy for the protesters who braved the chill and faced water cannon and batons. They left the cosy comfort of their homes to protest against the brutality of inhumans who perperated the heineous crime and wanted change. In a democracy, citizens have the right to protest and seek change. This cannot be achieved without some sacrifice. What right the authorities had to clamp sec 144 and order lathicharge. State is insensitive to the changing scenario and its mindset is still steeped in the british rulers. They try to quell dissenting voice by the use of excessive force. 'Ahinsa parmo dharam' is ok, state must know that it also has to work within laxman rekha,Indiscriminate use of powers and force will not be tolerated and anger amongst the citizens will lead to this kind of situation.

R Balakrishnan

6 years ago

Fantastic photos.

Delhi turns into fortress due to protests; venue of Putin-PM meeting shifted

In view of the incidents in the last two-three days there is heavy deployment of police who have blocked roads leading to India Gate and Raisina Hill

New Delhi: The capital on Monday turned into a fortress a day after violent protests rocked India Gate which was kept out of bounds for people but protests continued in the city which witnessed traffic mess hassling office goers, students and others, reports PTI.

As the outrage continued over the 16th December gangrape of a 23-year-old student, police said charge sheet will be filed "within a week" in the case even as two Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACP) were suspended and explanations sought from two DCPs on why the crime could not be prevented.

In a fresh appeal for peace, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured that government will look into delay in response in the gangrape case as also all aspects concerning the security of women while asking people to desist from violence.

Cutting short his visit to the US, Delhi Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna returned to the capital and held discussions with senior police officials and women's groups to chalk out a plan for improving safety of women in the capital.

"We have suspended two ACPs Mohan Singh Dabas (Traffic) and Yagram (PCR). I have instructed the Police Commissioner to seek explanation from DCPs Premnath (Traffic) and Satbir Kataria (PCR) and will decide on further action after that," he told reporters.

The condition of the victim has deteriorated and she remained in a critical condition at Safdarjung Hospital, doctors said. "She is still in a critical condition and not out of danger," doctors said.

Security personnel kept Rajpath, the stretch linking India Gate and Raisina Hill leading to Rashtrapati Bhavan, locked down with barricades and heavy deployment of personnel with riot-gear besides disallowing traffic on Rajpath and closing down nine Delhi Metro stations.

It was chaos on roads as police restricted vehicular movement around India Gate leading to huge traffic jams in central Delhi, including near ITO, Mathura Road and roads leading to the VIP areas.

At Jantar Mantar, a number of protesters gathered to demand speedy punishment for the criminals involved in the gangrape but no violence was reported.

Today's protests appeared muted as police did not allow anybody to reach near India Gate or Raisina Hill, which saw pitched battles between security forces and protesters yesterday leaving around 150 injured from both sides. There were also small protests near Safdarjung Hospital, where the rape victim is undergoing treatment.

With regard to violence during protests yesterday, police have registered four cases, including one against former Army Chief VK Singh and yoga guru Ramdev on charges of rioting and damage to public property.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that certain "political elements" were behind yesterday's violence at India Gate and its surrounding areas. "We have information that some political elements were behind the violence. We are enquiring into it," he said.

In his televised address, the Prime Minister said he and his family join in the concern for the victim, who was gangraped and brutally assaulted in a moving bus in south Delhi.

"As a father of three daughters myself, I feel as strongly about this as each one of you," Singh said adding the government was constantly monitoring her medical condition.

Emphasising that anger at this crime is "justified", he said, "but violence will serve no purpose...We will examine into delay not only the responses to this terrible crime but also all aspects concerning the safety and security of women."

BJP slammed the government for turning down its suggestion of convening a special Parliament session to make a tougher law on crime against women and said it will raise the issue with President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said it is regrettable that government "does not want to talk" to the Opposition or the protesters.

Thousands of commuters were stranded at major intersections due to massive traffic jams as several roads and nine Metro stations were shut down to prevent the protesters from reaching India Gate and Raisina Hill.

ITO Bridge, one of the major connections in the capital, was clogged with vehicles since morning hours and the chaos only aggravated as the day progressed with people having to wait patiently for hours.

There was traffic chaos at Pragati Maidan, Nizamuddin Bridge, Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, Mother Teresa Cresent Road, Mathura Road, Khan Market, Mandi House and Barakhamba Road, besides other major sections.

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COMMENTS

nagesh kini

6 years ago

Mr. Putin was swept into power by popular uprising following glasnot and paristroika and Mr.Yelstin climbing atop the tank opposite Moscow's White House.
The PM instead of mouthing stale platitudes ought to have announced, among other measures (a)downgrading substantially the VIP security apparatus and
(b) Seek Election Commission assistance in bringing out sworn affidavits and bring about prosecution of elected representatives charged with rape, molestation and other serious criminal charges.
(c)How and why lathi charge, tear gas and water cannon came to be ordered on peaceful protestors
(d) Immediate identification and arrest of the so-called "lumpen and anti-social elements" who resorted to stabbing of a cop and stone throwing.
Make full use of media inputs and informants. These elements are clearly identifiable from middle class students boys and girls.

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