In December of 2012 Ackman publicly declared that he’s shorting $1 billion worth of Herbalife with a price target of $0.
Ackman believes the company is a “pyramid scheme” and that regulators, specifically the Federal Trade Commission, will be induced to investigate it. (For an explanation of shorting stock please click here.) Even though the stock has surged more than 50% since Ackman confirmed his short position, he said he has not covered a single share.
Not everyone has agreed with Ackman’s short and it has become the focal point of an epic clash of hedge fund billionaires. Rival fund manager Daniel Loeb of Third Point, who used to be Ackman’s friend, purchased a sizable Herbalife position. He exited his stake in the second quarter for a profit.
Now George Soros is getting in the act.
Soros Fund Management has been trying to use the reputation of the 82-year-old financier to orchestrate a short squeeze against the $1 billion Herbalife short bet of Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund, Ackman alleged in a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, according to sources.
Paul Sohn, a portfolio manager at Soros’ firm, who attended so-called “idea meetings” with hedge fund managers during the past month, told them the Soros fund was buying shares of Herbalife and would soon report a nearly 5 percent stake in Herbalife, making it the fund’s third-largest position, a person at the meetings told Pershing Square.
That would give the investors opportunity to make near risk-free profits by trading ahead of the Soros news, according to a source.
“George Soros broke the Bank of England,” Sohn said at one “idea meeting,” one attendee said. “George Soros can break the back of Ackman.”
The progressive puppet master is often referred to as the “man who broke the bank of England” in the 1992 Sterling crisis. During that crisis, he made $1 billion in one day at the expense of British taxpayers. At the time Soros was suspected of dealing based on insider information.
Ackman has complained to the SEC accusing Soros of Insider trading. His firm, Pershing Square, has alleged that Sohn’s “idea talks” with other investors about his fund’s actions constitute insider trading because such disclosures would amount to non-public market-moving information.
“I’m very disappointed with George Soros as I think of him as a humanitarian,” Ackman told The Post. “Instead, his firm is trying to profit off the backs of low-income Latinos who’ve been misled that Herbalife is the answer to the American dream.”
There is no indication whether the SEC will act on Ackman’s complaint or whether the Soros fund was even close to stepping over the insider trading line. However, sometimes it’s just fun to watch a battle of giants. Get a big popcorn for this one.