Saturday, February 1, 2014

A metadata summary: the Herbalife letters

There were three letters sent by Senator Markey about Herbalife. One went to the SEC, one went to the FTC and one went to Herbalife.

The meta-data for the three letters is different, and sometimes there are subtle differences in the signature block and the resolution at which they are printed. The dates on the letters also change.

For completeness here is the metadata for each letter.

SEC Letter

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

FTC Letter

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

Herbalife Letter

Markey's site: 1/22/2014, made on a Hewlett Packard MFP

Ackman's site: 1/23/2014, made on an OmniPage CSDK 18

Post's site: 1/23/2014, made on an OmniPage CSDK 18*

 * The Ackman and Post files are identical here. No other letters are identical.

I will leave the conclusions to readers.


PS. Michelle Celarier now refers to me on Twitter as an abuser. She suggested that I was "full of sh-t" for indicating that the dates were notable.

PPS. There was an enormous put option purchased on Herbalife before the letter was released to the public. This was reported widely but Dealbook at the New York Times is as good a link as any. These options were purchased about a week before any of the dates here. Many people have suggested insider trading based on that Dealbook article. I have my doubts. The British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously observed that "a week is a long time in politics". I would be very surprised indeed if there were public versions of the letter circulating a week early.


Anonymous said...

Waaah! An evil hedge fund manager in Australia hurt my feelings. Waaah! Abuse!

While she should be digging into the, potentially huge, story. Michelle Celarier is somehow making this all about her. A stunning display of solipsism.

BG Hill said...

Surprising, if not pathetic, response from an “award-winning” journalist. John (or should I say Sherlock), keep up the good work. Fascinating reading as usual.

Anonymous said...

There may not have been a letter by Sen Markey circulating a week before its release, but he may have informed certain interested parties that he intended to write the letter a week before writing it. I believe the Senator did meet with Pershing staff earlier this year or last year.

Anonymous said...

This reader's conclusion:

Ackman wrote the FTC and SEC letters?

Markey's office wrote the letter to Herbalife?

The Post received copies of all three letters from Ackman?

Anonymous said...

How come the metadata dates for the Markey and Ackman letters are the opposite of the dates in the letters themselves? The Ackman metadata date is a day AFTER the Markey metadata date, but the reverse is the case for the dates in the letters.

Great work as usual John, thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

Just a clarification. In my previous comment about the date discrepancy, I was referring to the Herbalife letter. Sorry for the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Your intent is clear. All the same please write your dates like an Australian (and the rest of the world, for that matter) would. Most Americans aren't so dim-witted they won't figure out what you mean - and if they are, tant pis!

Patrick Bateman said...

John great work!!

Anonymous said...

Assuming that Ackman is not the one who bought puts, and assuming he has not bought or sold any HLF-linked securities in the past few months, what is the issue here?
There is nothing wrong with Ackman working closely with a senator, or anyone else, to draft these types of letters. Congressmen do not purport to be experts in all topics, and they regularly rely on people in the field to help them with this type of work. It's not a secret (and not meant to be) that Ackman is actively pursuing legislators and other government officials to help him in getting more official investigations started against HLF. So why is this surprising? If Ackman meets with a senator about this, and is able to convince him of his case, and the senator takes the next step of deciding to request more information from the relevant parties (HLF), than what's the issue here? You think after a meeting like that where a senator is convinced to investigate, he's not supposed to ever communicate with Ackman again until its all public? No, but that's why there's a difference between being in possession of non-public information (NOT illegal) and trading on non-public information (illegal).

Anonymous said...

The point is that elected officials regularly meet with industry associations or large interest organization with large member bases and then usually act this way.

Not when a small hedge fund knocks on the door, where there is a an interest to earn big bucks for a few institutional investors and family offices...

Rene Porcile said...

Excellent detail hunting skills John!

Here's something else to consider:

Senator should've included all MLM's in his letter, if he was so concerned about his fellow constituents.

He just signed letter where Ackman said to.

Anonymous said...

John, Galena's voucher posted on its website is for prescription only. Therefore, the only people who can get the medicine are those who are determined to be needing the extra pain killing properties as determined by their physicians. Do you have problem with physicians prescibing medicine to their patients?

indievestments said...

John, great information. This is incredible. I really would like more information on Ed Markey's constituent who claims to have lost $130,000 in this so-called pyramid scheme? Were they short the stock?

I find that claim to be rather sensational and, most likely, untrue.

Anonymous said...

John, any thoughts on the convertible? It seems to me it is nothing more than a slick way to artificially boost EPS ( and management comp, whose bonuses are tied to EPS) while claiming to do a buyback without really accomplishing much.

Anonymous said...

You've probably seen this NYT article by now, but in any event kudos to smelling this out earlier than almost anyone else...

General disclaimer

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Hempton. You should assume Mr. Hempton and his affiliates have positions in the securities discussed in this blog, and such beneficial ownership can create a conflict of interest regarding the objectivity of this blog. Statements in the blog are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and other factors. Certain information in this blog concerning economic trends and performance is based on or derived from information provided by third-party sources. Mr. Hempton does not guarantee the accuracy of such information and has not independently verified the accuracy or completeness of such information or the assumptions on which such information is based. Such information may change after it is posted and Mr. Hempton is not obligated to, and may not, update it. The commentary in this blog in no way constitutes a solicitation of business, an offer of a security or a solicitation to purchase a security, or investment advice. In fact, it should not be relied upon in making investment decisions, ever. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author. In particular this blog is not directed for investment purposes at US Persons.