Shares of Herbalife (NYSE: HLF) fell sharply today then recovered a bit after a report that it is the subject of a federal investigation. The nutritional supplements company has been defending its business model lately against a hedge fund manager's accusation that it is a pyramid scheme. According to the New York Post, the FTC has released documents that contain 192 complaints spanning the past seven years. Reportedly HLF is accused of making false promises to some of the company's distributors. Allegedly the distributors also had difficulty collecting income they were owed and getting refunds. The information was released by the FTC in response to a request from the newspaper that fell under the Freedom of Information Act, but the FTC cautioned that it did not have to give out information that it had obtained as the result of a law enforcement probe.
The company has been through this before so today's rollercoaster ride is nothing new. Allegations that the company was a pyramid scheme made in December triggered an 80 percent selloff then that the company has largely recovered from. Shares dropped to a low of $24.24 and were selling today at a low of just $30.84, rebounding back to over $34.00. The company has released a statement saying that it is unaware of any investigation, pending or otherwise and downplaying the complaints that have been filed against them. This seems to have belayed that fears of most investors as the day has continued but for how long?
Herbalife is a global marketing company that sells nutritional supplements and weight loss products. The products are sold through a network of approximately 3 million independent distributors. The distributors are located 79 countries except China, where product is sold in retail venues. The company targets four principal categories of supplements: weight management, nutrition, sports and fitness and outer nutrition.
Shares of HLF are still up over 38 percent since hitting its 52 week low in December; however they are still trading at 54 percent under a high of $73 which was hit in April of 2012. One thing remains certain, the complaints are not going to disappear and shareholders will be holding their collective breath waiting to see what will happen next.