Thursday, January 30, 2014

Michelle Celarier is sitting on a major story

I wrote two posts yesterday (today Australian time actually).

I demonstrated that there were multiple versions of the letters that Senator Markey wrote concerning Herbalife.

The version on Bill Ackman's website has an earlier date than the one on Senator Markey's website. Moreover the one on Bill Ackman's website had been produced with a scanner.

The New York Post website carries the Ackman-website versions. Michelle Celarier claims that she got those versions from Senator Markey's website.

At first glance this looks problematic. The metadata on the New York Post versions includes the following: "Author:".

It is thus plain that the letters were produced by Pershing Square.

However, even after my post Michelle Celarier believes she got the letters from Senator Markey's website:

I see no reason to disbelieve her.

However if she can prove this she is sitting on a pretty good story. Bill Ackman, billionaire hedge fund manager, gets to produce letters for Ed Markey's signature and gets them put on Ed Markey's website without alteration.

I look forward to reading that story in the New York Post.


Michelle Celarier has issued an update on her Twitter stream. She now acknowledges that she received the letter from Pershing Square.

As the letters were clearly market sensitive there is one detail that is still missing - the date at which the letters were received by The Post. The letters on the New York Post website are dated the day before Senator Markey released his letter.

Here is Michelle Celarier's update. I thank her for being so open with us.



Anonymous said...

The signatures - while seemingly identical - are slightly differently positioned. The blue signature sits very slightly further to the right. Look at where it lines up relative to the text of Markey's name. But the consistency of the signature makes it look like a signing machine.

Anonymous said...

You're having a lot of fun with this, aren't you? I am having a good old time following.

"What is metadata?" Sister please.

Anonymous said...

This is starting to get seriously ugly, for everyone involved (yes John, you too). The ick-factor is high on all sides.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about? John is making perfectly reasonable comments constructed from fully public information!! His astuteness, deduction and perseverance should be applauded for goodness sakes.

Anonymous said...

Questions for Senator Markey
+ Who authored the letters?
+ Where did you get the information and questions in your letters?
+ How many versions of the letter were printed?
+ How many versions of the letters did you sign?
+ Who did you give copies of the letter to?
+ How did Pershing Square get a hold of a signed version of your letter with an earlier date?
+ Did Pershing Square recieve advance copies of any of your letters?
+ If so, who gave them to Pershing Square?
+ When (date + time) did you post the letter to your website?
+ Who had prior knowledge of your intent to make public the letters?

Questions for Pershing Square
+ When did PS first hear that Senator Markey intended to send letters to the SEC, FTC and Herbalife?
+ Where did you get the Jan 22nd copy of the letter to Herbalife?
+ How was the PDF version you posted get created and when?
+ When was the PDF version posted to your factsaboutherbalife website?
+ Who at PS knew about the letter, and when, prior to its public release?
+ Did PS share any knowledge that Senator Markey was going to publicly release his letters? If so, with who, when, where and how?

The investing Public are entitled to know if the stocks they are investing in are being unlawfully manipulated.

Naomi said...

dang great work detective. 21st century: where people have to check the reporters of the "news". hahaha

Anonymous said...

thank you for the great detective work.

Anonymous said...

Reading your last couple of blog posts made my evening

Fred Schwed said...

Billionaires already get to write legislation verbatim, why is anyone surprised they write Senators' letters too?

Anonymous said...

Great job John

Anonymous said...

Markey (through payments) and Ackman (through a “reconstructed” short position) undoubtedly made a killing on this letter, which, even if everyone involved has technically avoided breaking law (although the signature being in a different position already implies criminal activity), is shameful. Ackman bought a senator, and at one point they sat around a table talking about making money by writing a letter, with disregard to taking a billion dollars of value out of the market (read: peoples investments – although definitely not mine). Markey should be ashamed to use his appointed position to make his rich friends richer. This is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

John, please read. This is great work, but it's much easier to show clear signs of collusion between Ackman, Markey, and Celarier.

Just download all the letters from each of the three websites and compare the metadata. Take the SEC letter for example:

Markey's site: 1/22/2014, made on a Hewlett Packard MFP
Ackman's site: 1/21/2014, made on a Hewlett Packard MFP
Post's site: 1/23/2014, made on an OmniPage CSDK 18, with the "" author

This shows:
1. Ackman had an earlier version of the file, not the one posted on Markey's website, which suggests he either helped draft or at least reviewed the letter beforehand. The document was made with the same scanner as all of Markey's documents.
2. Celarier got her version directly from a Pershing Square scan. At the very least she could include a disclaimer with her articles that she has been working closely with Pershing Square on her "reporting". In reality, she should be fired or recused from writing about Herbalife in the future.

The same pattern holds for the FTC letter, Ackman has that one 1/21/2014 as well. This is the story that you need to break, with clear screenshots. Just download all the files before they change them.

Mario said...

elementary my dear Watson....

GREAT WORK JOHN!!! this is as much hilarious as it is shameful...senators and billionaires I can't believe that!!!

I also can't believe she said that about you either publicly...there could be a lawsuit in that alone considering the way things are turning out and the fact that this is your business...

Has she apologized to you about that as publicly as she criticized you?

Anonymous said...

Great detective work!

It's morally repugnant that Senator Ed Markey is working in conjunction with someone shorting the stock he is investigating.

Anonymous said...

I don't really get it. If Ackman has the power to influence a senator, why would you still be long this name?

Is it now personal for you or do you feel like you have to prove something?

There are a lot more investments out there with better risk/reward than HLF. Why not just invest there and forget about this whole drama? It's like a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the issue is. The Senator wanted to raise the issue, needed some help with details, so went to someone who knows it, who helped him draft it. Pershing Square already has a position in the stock and if they had this early it may be material non-public information, but if they didn't trade on it, they have done nothing wrong. So yes, billionaires can influence politicians, we know this already.

John Hempton said...

There is a thing called the Stock Act. Any trading would be deeply problematic. Criminal actually.

And Michelle Celarier stated unequivocally she got the material from the Senator's web page when she got it from Ackman.

With earlier dates.

This is at least part of the story.


CHT said...

John - if you are still blocked that is a very childish and unprofessional response from Celarier!

"What is metadata?" hahaha

Anonymous said...

Hello John,
Interesting if a bit forensic on all sides over a couple of letters. Yes metadata is your friend in this one, and I was about to ask what difference does it make if the letter was 21, 22 or 23 Jan until I looked at the trading figures for Herbalife, something no-one seems to have mentioned - certainly not Michelle C. But then why would she drop her friends at Pershing Sq right into it? OK, have a look at a few of these NASDAQ numbers, people:
15 Jan: Stock prices: Open/close: $80.49/$79.38, volume 2.7m shares (approx)

16 Jan: $75.45/$71.63 low of $68.15; daily volume 12.7m

17 Jan, similar stock prices, 6.1m volume - what's going on here?
... then prices remain steady, volumes at about 2m shares until

23 Jan: open/close/low: $73.18/$65.92/$62.13 VOLUME: 15.8m

24 Jan, stock hit a low of $59.09 on volumes of almost 9m.

HLF was back up to $64+ on Friday 31 Jan, but as one of my friends used to say after she quoted unwelcome numbers to me ... "just saying"

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