Herbalife, the $8 billion multi-level marketing company that’s been the target of pyramid scheme accusations from one of Wall Street’s most prominent hedge fund managers, had its stock halted amid questions about its accounting practices. Since yesterday at 4PM, it has remained stagnant at $38.39 -- up 17 percent this year after a precipitous drop in December.
Though the stock is halted under a "T1" code — meaning that "trading is halted pending the release of material news" — The New York Times reports that the company’s auditor, KPMG, fired a senior partner "for providing inside information to an unidentified individual who then traded in shares of several West Coast companies" including Herbalife.
KPMG put it this way in a statement:
"Late last week, we were informed that the partner in charge of KPMG’s audit practice in our Los Angeles business unit was involved in providing non-public client information to a third party, who then used that information in stock trades involving several West Coast companies. The partner was immediately separated from the firm."
According to CNBC, "the KPMG resignation was unrelated" to the pyramid scheme accusations or the ongoing hedge fund battle on Wall Street.
Update 11:04AM: Herbalife just released an official statement:
"...Herbalife’s financial statements for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and ... such reports should no longer be relied upon as a result of KPMG's lack of independence."
Update 11:43AM: Herbalife shares reopen, USA Today reports. Shares down 35 cents to $38.04 per share.
Update 8:00PM: The Wall Street Journal has received a statement from former KPMG partner Scott London, who said he regrets sharing non-public information with a third-party. However, he also stressed in his statement that "none of what I did had anything to do with Herbalife's continuing battles with investors over the Company's business practices." London did admit to passing suggestion on to a third-party regarding what stock he should buy or stay away from, but he says that never shared any documents. London also says that he was acting along, without anyone else at KPMG knowing about the information he shared.