Vanity Haute Air


OMFG … I’m back bitches!


I know :: I was gone for a longish time … and you missed me muchly. How were you supposed to remember not to put your tongue on the hot stove without me around to fake robotic fake mother you?


I know.

Oh well :: I’m sure you’ll be fine … time heals all {tongue} wounds. I was never particularly interested in what you had to say with your tongue anyway. Why listen to you … when we could be listening to me instead?


I know.

Bad time for me to be gone though :: what with Bill Ackman’s salvo against {scamworld cornerstone} Herbalife presenting such a rare opportunity to make big progress against the sick machine.

That’s cool though :: because the mainstream media has got this one covered … expecially now that a couple of high rollers like Dan Loeb and Carl Ichan have made bets against Mr. Ackman. Not just intellectual ghetto media like CNN or ABC either … serious writers and shit.

Like Matt Taibbi {and his millionaire mentor Kevin Trudeau} :: or Bethany McLean … type serious writers. Well :: maybe not them … but it did still rank a full feature in Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair :: like an actual magazine … that gets printed on real paper and everything.

William Cohan :: who I guess is Vainty Fair’s B-team for moments of seriousness when Bethany McLean is not available … has penned The Big Short War. It’s an article long on words :: but short on substance.

Ha! Do you see what I’ve done there with my witty financial word play? Classic! Everybody’s doing it :: so it’s important that I do it also … let’s all do the same things … then we can all be suitably comfortable that everything will stay the same forever.

I’m sorry :: I’m being absolutely intolerable … but it seems that I have returned from hiatus still of quite a disagreeable temperament.

Can there be any doubt that I am the favorite of the Dowager Countess?

Anywayz :: this is exciting … lay this serious Herbalife feature on me B-team Bethany! Wall Street fucking over the poor :: millions and millions of struggling individuals and families grievously harmed … without even the courtesy of an obfuscation.

… taking their money

… taking their futures

… gouging at their dignity and self-identity

You know what I’m talking about Vanity Fair?

It happened last summer when Ackman decided to join a group of a half-dozen dedicated cyclists, including Loeb, who take long bike rides together in the Hamptons. The plan was for Loeb, who is extremely serious about fitness and has done sprint triathlons, a half-Ironman, and a New York City Marathon, to pick up Ackman at Ackman’s $22 million mansion, in Bridgehampton.

Oh for fuck sake …

Not much has changed in the nearly 28 years since Ackman graduated from high school, except that his hair has gone prematurely silver.

Please stop …

As the other riders noted, it was really rather ridiculous for him to have gone out so fast, trying to lead the pack, considering his lack of training. Why not acknowledge your limits and set a pace you could maintain?

Don’t let this be happening to me Jesus …

Ackman says he suspected, when he “shorted” (i.e., bet against) Herbalife, that other hedge-fund investors would likely see the move as an opportunity to make money by taking the other side of his bet. What he hadn’t counted on, though, was that there would be a personal tinge to it. It was as if his colleagues had finally found a way to express publicly how irritating they have found Ackman all these years.

Couldn’t they just coil up their monogramed towels and try to flick him in the nuts in the locker room after dressage practice? Because that seems a much more sensible vengeance to me than supporting the exportation of fraud {in the guise of American opportunity} to Bulgaria :: Mongolia :: Vietnam … and Ghana. But maybe I’m just saying that because I’ve thought about it :: like … at all.

Robert Chapman has a hedge fund too :: allegedly … but it’s not big enough to earn invitations to all the best hedge fund bicycle parties. He does get quoted in every article about Herbalife though :: slagging off Ackman like a Desperate Hedge Fund Housewife™ … so he must know something about something … or something.

“Ackman seems to have this ‘Superman complex,’ ” says Chapman Capital’s Robert Chapman, who was one of the investors on the other side of Ackman’s bet. “If he jumped off a building in pursuit of super-human powered flight but then slammed to the ground, I’m pretty sure he’d blame the unanticipated and unfair force of gravity.”

Adorable. It’s like a little joke :: but without a punchline :: a reason to laugh … or a fucking point.

Chapman counters, “If anybody buys this ‘He’s out to save the little guy’ routine, they’re just outright gullible and naïve. Arguably, the number of Herbalife employees, suppliers, and their employees, and of course non-complaining distributors who may be harmed by Ackman’s quest for profits massively outnumber those distributors who fail to succeed as they had hoped.”

Arguably :: but not so much factually … or rationally. And taking down Herbalife will objectively help the little guy :: you ignorant idiotic asshole … so why give a fucking fuck why Ackman’s doing it? Don’t answer that question Robert Chapman … just fade back into the irrelevance that is your natural place in the social order.

Wait what’s this? Holy Vanity Fair! :: is that the Lady Mary like I’ve never seen her before?

The elegance :: the glamour … the photoshopping! But alas :: she is already fictionally taken by another {spoiler alert :: he’s dead} … c’est la vie.

Getting back to serious Vanity Fair writer William Cohan :: who is now seriously quoting some stuff he saw on television …

“I’ve really sort of had it with this guy Ackman,” Icahn said. “He’s like the crybaby in the schoolyard. I went to a tough school in Queens, and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like one of these little Jewish boys, crying that the world was taking advantage of him.”

Okay then :: that makes sense … let’s fuck over some Mexican immigrants! That’s sure to teach this rich whiney Jew to stop crying about poor people pyramid schemes.

So if you happen to be shopping around for a hedge fund manager with whom to invest your vast fortune :: or you’re trying to decide who to invite to your charity auction fundraiser next weekend in The Hamptons :: or you’re the mother of someone mentioned {or a friend of one of those mothers} … then you absolutely must read this must read vanity story immediately.

But as to the actual story of how all segments of institutional America happily endorsed one of the biggest {and saddest} pyramid schemes of all time … Vanity Fair has no comment.

Hey Bill Cohan :: fuck you … and your society page drivel.


>> bleep bloop

44 thoughts on “Vanity Haute Air”

  1. I am sure glad you are back, Salty. I think I am going to bake you some of my famous oatmeal cookies. Sorghum and Molasses are just what a growing young man such as yourself needs in order to have plenty of energy. Then you’ll really be able to kick those fuckers asses!

  2. I too can count myself among the sad sacks who thought Salty had been snatched by Syndicate-funded Jawas and repurposed into Budweiser cans… or something.

    Good to see that wasn’t the case. Go get those fuckers.

  3. It’s an almost 8,000 words feature… and not one word that matters. It’s like the Game of Thrones school parody, only based on the real suffering and misery of the simplefolks and not on the imaginative mind of George R. R. Martin. Journalism is a dish best served cold (or not at all as in Vanity’s case).

  4. Man, I really missed your crabby robot mocking of all things scammy! I also would have liked to see a Christopher Hitchens take on Herbalife. Vanity Fair’s really gone downhill without the witty contrarian :(

  5. Preach. This situation is infuriating. Reading articles about herbalife/ackman is a hair-tearing-out experience. SD truly seems like the only one making any sense! And he is a fake robot who speaks almost entirely in sarcasm!
    History will show the salty droid to be a true lone cryer of the truth (and in this case, Ackman too I suppose).

  6. I tried to read the Vanity Fair article. It’s hard to do though. Every few sentences or so, I can feel my tongue start to get pulled out of my mouth to get stuck on a stove. It’s that kind of article–the kind that doesn’t just not-inform, but rather it misinforms. When you read it fully, you’re like to come away knowing less thank when you started. AFAICT, it spends almost the whole time conducting a subtle character attack on Ackman instead of focusing on his facts and evidence and stuff. One presumes that would be because Ackman’s facts and evidence and stuff
    are kinda overwhelming. So anyone who’s pro-Herbalife is going to want to spend as little time focusing on those as possible. (The Chewbacca Defense.)

    I don’t know Ackman. I do know that anyone that says things that are unpopular is, obviously, going to tend to have a reputation for being irritating and annoying. But that in and of itself isn’t enough to dismiss what they say out of hand.

    From the stupid Vanity Fair article

    Adrangi is not persuaded. “We have high-conviction ideas, and, oops, it doesn’t work out,” he says. “But what’s important is to pay attention to what the other side is saying, and to revise your thesis. . . . Since Ackman’s pres­en­ta­tion, more information has come out. Bob Chapman put together a very good, five-page letter on why Herbalife is a long. Dan Loeb has done the same thing. The company’s response presentation was excellent Ackman is making this moral,” Adrangi continues. “He runs a hedge fund, right? His duty is not to the world. If you want to save the world, go donate some money to charity. I’m pretty confident that if he does not cover his short position his fund will be smaller, materially, in two years’ time.”

    Yes, that’s right, World–just pretend this is simply a matter of dueling hedge fund managers and that the market itself is able to determine which side is or was “right”. Don’t look too closely, else you might accidentally see the Mark Twain-Guided Age-style Truth of the situation–something’s rotten in the state of Herbalife. I mean: Herbalife is completely rotten right down to its worm-maggot-riddled core. The reason more folks don’t see that is the (perceived or actual) monetary incentive in maintaining a state of willful blindness.

    SD wrote

    I know :: I was gone for a longish time …

    Welcome back, Salty.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

    1. @Wyrd,

      It attempts to smear Ackman and winds up smearing everyone else involved, from my point of view.

      Here’s Bob Chapman’s letter:
      Lots of the stuff he wrote is directly contradicted by the Vanity Fair article, and his predictions about Herbalife’s response and effective use of its mercenaries didn’t come to pass, no matter what Adrangi (who?) claims. And what is up with his lame attempts at humor? Keep your day job, Bobby,

      Evidently Adrangi (who?) has never heard of socially responsible funds, people like Bill Gates investing in clean energy, or B Corps. Some people like to use their capitalism for good.

      I thought Vanity Fair was a real magazine, but “tech blog” The Verge kicked their asses on Herbalife coverage.

    2. As far as the average Vanity Fair reader is concerned, Herbalife’s victims are just a bunch of rubes from flyover country. The only thing interesting to them is the Ackman/Icahn duel.

      Christopher Hitchens would have said they had it coming. They’re not the beautiful people, after all.

  7. Ahh the Droid is back! Can we not rejoice?

    Were it not for the Salty I would not know of the frauducts and flopportunities that empty the wallets of so many. I would not talk of LGATs over my lattes, or MLMs while I take my herbs and vitamins – I would not know NLP from the NBA.

    The fact that the mainstream is syncing onto online fraud is the sweet success of the truth tellers which in my book has Salty top o’ page. The Robbins and Rays and Vitales and Kerns and Koenigs. The rest of the long, long list.

    Let’s hope the public lens focuses on whats left : like all of it. Got to start somewhere.

    Thanks again Salty. Welcome back!

  8. No matter what you think of the MLM Herbalife, and I agree with most of the economic analysis which shows its business model does not meet the FTC Amway Settlement Standards, Ackerman needs more than economic analytis on his side if he hopes to get some but not all the distributors to drop Herbalife.

    1. @Michael Webster,

      I don’t think Bill Ackman’s trying to convince distributors. I think he’s trying to convince the stock exchange. But I do think he needs more. Specifically, I think an FTC investigation and some sort of federal criminal investigation would go a long way towards the helping.

      Furry cows moo and decompress.

    2. @Michael Webster ::


      So far he’s done almost nothing that would reach deep enough inside the MLM subculture to make a difference with the distributors.

      But I’m back now … and that just happens to be my speciality.

      @Wyrd ::

      Waiting for the FTC to do something is like waiting for Bloody Mary to have a baby.

      Boom! That joke would have killed in the 16th century :: or it would have got me killed … one or the other.

        1. @Wyrd ::

          Nah. He knows that for sures :: but he’s not short of self-confidence {as Vanity Fair may have just pointed out} … and thinks he can force the FTC to act by talking shit about them in all the fanciest places. He’s prolly right :: because they are a total embarrassment totally embarrassing themselves … but it could take awhile.

          That’s part of the unusual opportunity presented by this situation :: and why everyone who hates scams needs to line up behind Ackman and pile on to Herbalife … even if you don’t usually follow MLM much.

          Important people are paying attention … what are we going to do about it?

  9. I just saw about Daniel Ravicher of The Public Patent Foundation now filing the “shareholder derivative complaint accusing directors and officers of JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America of facilitating a pyramid scheme by extending a total of $1.2 billion in credit to the controversial nutrition company Herbalife”



    1. @Jack, Of note may be that Ravicher “usually doesn’t follow MLM much” as somebody above once said about people who should be going to get involved.

      1. @Jack,

        Well that is all very interesting. Since he’s a lawyer, he presumably knows what he’s getting himself into. So that’s good.

  10. I dunno why this didn’t generate a link-back thingie. But then there’s probably a lot of blogging particulars that I don’t know about.

    Joe Flatley is back. (Except actually that’s not fair of me. The main byline is to: Matt Stroud with another byline a bit lower crediting Matt Stroud and Joseph L. Flatley, with additional reporting by Jesse Hicks.)

    But @SD knows about the article at least partly already since he’s quoted in it.

    I seem to recall that we already knew that “AtHome” was a front for Herbalife. But things always seem more real the more attention they’re given. Also, there’s been so much focus on “is Herbalife a pyramid or just an MLM” that it’s easy to miss the larger indicators (not the FTC’s indicators) of scammy McStamsterness.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  11. Well this is interesting..

    Ex- FDA exec says lawmaker [Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah] killed FDA probe into Herbalife

    “In two separate interviews, Shumate and a former field inspector, Deborah Ralston, said in the early 1980s the agency planned a “massive operation” to simultaneously seize Herbalife product from five warehouses based on allegedly fraudulent claims of its effectiveness.”

    “I was told … that Sen. Orrin Hatch had had a discussion with the commissioner, and there were not going to be any seizures,” Shumate said, in a lengthy discussion of how politics was encroaching on the FDA.

    Of course

    “A spokesman for Sen. Hatch called the comments “baseless.””

    And, of course, Herbalife has a non-denial denial–not actually saying that none of this happened, but just saying that this “unsubstantiated speculation about ancient history”.

    I guess it’s purely coincidental that

    Since 2007, Herbalife execs and its PAC have donated $42,008 to Hatch, enough to make it the No. 8 source of donations to the lawmaker, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Of course, to be fair, the current important claim is not that the diet powder doesn’t work as (currently) advertised, but rather that the whole business model is inherently fraudulent. Still, it suggests that “friends in high places” are keeping the wheels greased to help Herbalife keep on doing… whatever it is that it does.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  12. This article seems to be making the rounds this week for those following the Herbalife saga:

    Much more to the point on Herbalife than the Vanity Fair piece.

    Note at the end of the article Herbalife uses Plausible Deniablity (they ❤ the Independent Business Owner® business model) to quarantine itself from this nasty mess. Wild story.

      1. @2+2=4,

        This article reminds me about a different MLM currently being discussed where a promoter of said scam says in his video that your rippls will go global.

        Herbalife. The scam heard round the world.

        (Yes, I know it’s not the first. Any MLM scam that doesn’t quickly die off must necessarily reach out to the rest of the world at some point so as to stay alive. I’m just trying for dramatic effect.)

        Furry cows moo and decompress.

        1. @Wyrd, The rippl story is new to me. Amazing. Since it’s a completely Internet based scam, I guess going international would be even easier?

          It is fascinating to be able to hear and see these people telling their bald faced lies on the embedded clips in some of these articles…”the banality of evil”…

        1. @SD,

          And all Herbalife has to say is: “The distributors of Herbalife are self-employed businesspeople and are not employed by the company. We teach and promote activity at the ethical level and at the highest level of integrity of business management. The company operates according to clear rules of consumer protection. These rules include a policy of unconditional return of products within 30 days of their purchase date. In addition, the distributors themselves are entitled to a policy of returning goods within 12 months of their purchase.
          “If anyone has an issue to take up with someone, he is invited to make this known to the company, and we will do our best to provide an appropriate response to his needs.”

          Wow I’m so impressed Not.

          For one thing, they do not teach ethics or integrity. For another thing, according to what I’ve read, returns are not really that staightforward. But these lies are all beside the point.

          The main problem is….

          Given the extremely serious allegations made in this article, don’t you think a response from an ethical company would be more along the lines of…we’re going to look into this guy and see what the hell is going on? Or something???

          Nope. All we get is plausible deniability while HLF rakes in their profits.

        1. @Wyrd, thanks.

          According to the Post:

          “Herbalife — the controversial nutritional products company caught in a Wall Street tug-of-war — has suspended a distributor accused of running a cult-like operation in Israel.”

          Thank god. The statement by Herbalife at the end of the original article didn’t mention an investigation or suspension off the distributor.

          Doesn’t change my opinion that it’s a scammy operation. They’ve got endless cleaning up to do…you could make the case, if Herbalife ever finishes cleaning up, there is nothing left there…except overpriced products.

          Wonder what the suspended distributor will do now…is there Vemma in Israel?

  13. So.. this article popped up and managed to piss me off a bit.

    I guess it’s always irritating when would-be, seemingly smart people exercise a great amount of effort to reach the wrong conclusion.

    It was the night before Christmas… falsifying Bill Ackman’s Herbalife thesis
    And that link again because I’m in a redundant mood

    If I read it correctly, essentially the author was tasked with finding the flaw in Ackman’s Herbalife-is-an-illegal-pyramid-scheme presentation.

    So the author gives a rundown of the whole presentation.. then reaches the conclusion that Ackman’s accusation must be false. Why?

    Well, reason’s the author, if it were true then there’d have to be “50 thousand tonne per annum build up” of Herbalife product–you know in peoples’ garages or what-not.

    Then, the oh-so-great-folks at Bronte Capital decide, while extolling the virtues of science the whole time, that if they can’t find all that failed distributor product for sale on eBay or whatever… then the “50 thousand tonne per annum build up” must be fake… so sayeth Bronte Capital.

    I am certain that their assumption is unwarranted. Your standard failed Herbalife distributor is not likely to liquidate their product in any one large clump. Since it was never a “real” business in the first place, it is unwarranted to assume that it will end/terminate in some neat fashion as a proper failed business would. And, if the failed distributor did liquidate, they probably wouldn’t do it on eBay. If they ever get around to getting that stuff out of the garage there’s a fair chance they’ll either move it to storage or throw it away. Or else they just consume it very slowly over a very long period of time and give away many, many, many “samples”.

    Bronte Capital is committing some kind of logical fallacy/(ies) in their reasoning so that they can hide from the truth. That they do this all while at the same time hollering “Science!” and even have a video clip of a film short of a young Richard Feynman talking about science is horrible.

    But I guess not as horrible as Herbalife itself–which makes piles and piles of cash for its higher ups and also employees many people in real jobs making shake mix, et. al. But which still, at the end of the day, is a scam designed to trick people into thinking that they too can get rich selling shake mix.

    Much sadness.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

    1. @Wyrd,

      Brendan Conway, blogging on Barrons’ site, has picked up on Bronte Capital’s “it can’t be a scam because..” line

      Also plausible, if the hypothesis is true: There should be scads of failed Herbalife distributors attempting to sell their product glut at steep discounts on sites such as eBay and Craigslist.

      So, gee thanks for that Bronte Capital’s John Hempton.

      And thanks ever so much to @CFAevents for spreading the bogosity around.

      Next they’ll be proving how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

      It’s all wishful thinking dressed up to look like decent logic and improperly referred to as “science”. It’s gross and disgusting like Frank Kern.

      Furry cows moo and decompress.

        1. @SD,

          Ok. I know I’m not “anyone else” but I have one further minor observation–

          just that on that “Bronte Capital” website there have been several more posts in the last few days. A cursory skim suggests that most or all of them are about Herbalife. From what I read, I get the sense that the author might be considering reconsidering his position. Although since money is involved (I think he says he’s got stock in Herbalife), that reconsideration might take a long time and is still likely to get canceled-out by the good ol’ cognitive dissonance process.

        2. @SD,

          I wrote a response last week, but it seems to have been eaten by the cyberspace grues. Let me redo it …

          No doubt Bronte Capital is approached with thousands of investment ideas every day, and they need a quick way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Hempton’s “falsifying” test seems like a good way to do that – to quickly determine whether Bronte has enough conviction in an investment idea to put more person-hours into researching it in detail. But Hempton has overextended the purpose of this kind of back-of-an-envelope test from deciding there’s not enough evidence to pursue an investment to determining that a larger idea is patently untrue.

          Hempton doesn’t show his work, and his estimates don’t sync up with mine.

          Based on $1.8 billion global retail sales of Formula 1 annually (from Ackman’s slide), he estimates that to be 120,000 metric tonnes.

          My math:
          $1,800,000,000 per year
          / $40 per canister retail price
          = 45,000,000 canister sold annually

          45,000,000 canisters
          x 750g per canister
          = 33,750,000 kg
          = 33,750 metric tonnes

          Maybe he is using a more complicated formula with lower retail prices from overseas, or maybe he is including the weight of the packaging. He doesn’t say, and he’s estimating three times the tonnage I am.

          Then he decides that if 120,000 metric tonnes of Formula 1 enter the market each year, then 50,000 metric tonnes – 41.667% of the total – are unloaded at deep discounts. He doesn’t say how he arrives at 41.667%, but he does assert that these canisters are unloaded by failed distributors.

          This assertion has been challenged a number of ways by commentators on the Bronte Capital article. People say that failing distributors don’t have that much product on hand anyway – just enough for samples and personal use. One man says after his wife failed at an MLM, the stuff sat around their house for months until they finally just threw it away in one big lot. He says it’s due to laziness, but I think it’s because dealing with the stuff would reopen the barely-healed psychological trauma of failure and self-blame.

          Hempton doesn’t consider that due to paying-for-your-paycheck, which was well-covered in Ackman’s presentation, the people with lots of excess Herbalife on hand are the fairly successful distributors. They’d only buy excess to pay for their paychecks in months where their paychecks would exceed their purchase costs, so they’ve effectively received that product for free. They’re not under financial duress to unload that product at a deep discount just to recoup something – anything – the way that a failed distributor would be. It would be foolish of them to devalue the product by selling it at a discount, anyway. They’re probably using it for personal use, selling some of it on eBay for a slight discount, and giving a lot of it away to their downlines to use as samples and to prospects to get them interested in the product.

          TLDR; Hempton makes a bunch of unexplained assumptions and uses a simplistic test to throw out Pershing Square’s entire, well-researched thesis.

        3. @SD,
          Are you expecting to find one shred of integrity in the financial world? Bill Ackman is IT. There is nothing else remotely resembling a moral compass in the private equity capital management hedge funds world. Their entire purpose is sucking millions out of companies they load up with debt, then running them into the ground. They have no special affection for Herbalife, as soon as they have sucked all they can out of it, they will be happy to bury it. Make no mistake about it, they know perfectly well it is a scam, they JUST DON’T CARE. Logic and reason means nothing to them, it is simply all about the $$$$$

    2. @Wyrd,

      Right now there are 4,731 results for herbalife on the ebay site. Prices range from ninety-nine cents, with free shipping, up to $435 for a “Herbalife Shapeworks Shapescan Body Analyzer Programmed in English”, also with free shipping.

      There is very, very little interest in this crap. Seems that a lot of people have been left holding the bag on this…and all of those bags chockful of crap they can’t even give away.

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