Federal Probes of Herbalife Started

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The Financial Times reported late Friday afternoon that Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) is being investigated by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. Neither federal agency would comment on the probes. The FT attributes the report to “people familiar with the matter.”

The criminal investigations of Herbalife follow more than a year of charges leveled by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman against the multi-level marketing company. Ackman claims Herbalife is an illegal pyramid scheme. Activist investor Carl Icahn disagrees, and has invested about $2 billion in Herbalife. Icahn recently claimed three more seats on Herbalife’s board, giving him 5 of the board’s 13 directors.

Herbalife told the FT:

We have no knowledge of any ongoing investigation by the DoJ or the FBI, and we have not received any formal nor informal request for information from either agency. We take our public disclosure obligations very seriously. Herbalife does not intend to make any additional comments regarding this matter unless and until there are material developments.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said earlier this year that it had opened an inquiry into the allegations brought by Ackman that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme. The FTC has the authority to bring civil claims against the company.

Herbalife’s shares closed at $51.25 on Friday, down 14.35% in a 52-week range of $34.72 to $83.51. Shortly after Ackman first made his charges against Herbalife the stock price dropped to around $27.

ALSO READ: Is Herbalife Finally Getting Seriously Worried About Ackman?