This content is from: Portfolio

The Morning Brief: Herbalife’s Gain is Pershing Square’s Pain

Bad news for Pershing Square Capital Management’s William Ackman. Shares of Herbalife — his high-profile short — surged 2 percent on Thursday to close at $55.05, its highest price since late July 2014. The stock is now up about 45 percent for the year. It seems a small firm called Pivotal Research Group raised its price target from $80 to $90, according to several published reports. In the note, the Pivotal analyst points out that in a letter dated May 27 from the Securities and Exchange Commission to Herbalife, the SEC stated: “We have completed our review of your filings.” The research firm notes that the letter is the final one of six relating to the company’s disclosures and language related to its 10-K filings for 2013 and 2014. “The closure letter on May 27th makes it clear that the SEC is satisfied with its review of the 2013 and 2014 documents,” Pivotal states in its note, posted by several websites. “We don’t know why the documents were not publicly available until today, but we took note of them only today.” Whatever the case, this will likely continue to cut into Pershing Square’s gains, though the firm is determined to be rewarded for its claims that Herbalife is a Ponzi scheme.

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Shares of Netflix dropped more than 2 percent one day after the company said it would split its stock and Carl Icahn said he unloaded his remaining shares in the innovative video and media company.

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File this under “he should have known better”: Third Point’s Daniel Loeb circulated an old lesbian joke about Hillary Clinton. According to Politico, the New York hedge fund manager, who backed Barack Obama before publicly decrying him, on May 9 posted the joke on his Facebook page before taking it down. “Dear Abby, My husband is a liar and a cheat,” the post read. “He has cheated on me from the beginning, and when I confront him, he denies everything. What’s worse, everyone knows that he cheats on me. It is so humiliating. Also, since he lost his job 14 years ago, he hasn’t even look for a new one. All he does all day is smoke cigars, cruise around and shoot the bull with his buddies, while I have to work to pay the bills. Since our daughter went away to college he doesn’t even pretend to like me, and even hints that I may be a lesbian. What should I do? Signed, Clueless.” The “response” reportedly states: “Grow up and dump him. Good grief woman! You don’t need him anymore! You’re running for President of the United States. Act like one.” Politico says this “joke” made the rounds the first time Hillary Clinton ran for president.

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It looks like the SEC is planning to make it easier for activist investors to win proxy fights. Chairman Mary Jo White said in a speech Thursday that the regulator is moving toward instituting universal proxy ballots, which means the company’s director candidates and the dissident shareholder nominees all appear on one ballot. Now, two separate ballots are sent out to shareholders, which can be confusing to shareholders and more costly and difficult for the activist to win a proxy fight.

“There has been renewed discussion about whether the proxy rules currently provide shareholders with a sufficient range of choice in exercising voting decisions in election contests if they are voting by proxy rather than in person at the company’s annual meeting,” White told the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals at a meeting in Chicago, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the SEC’s website. “There are calls, as there were a number of years ago, for the Commission to consider requiring universal proxy ballots. As you know, in a contested director election, it is not generally possible for shareholders to pick freely from nominees on each side’s proxy cards unless they attend and vote in person at the meeting.”

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