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Herbalife Defends Practices in Capitol Hill Meeting

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Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Herbalife Ltd. executives met with congressional staff members to counter a U.S. senator’s call for regulators to investigate accusations that the nutrition company is a pyramid scheme.

Herbalife Chief Financial Officer John DeSimone, who attended the private meeting today, said the gathering was the beginning of an effort to reach out to lawmakers.

“We’re out here just telling our story, educating, being transparent,” DeSimone said in an interview after the meeting. “This was a start to that process.”

The company met last month with staff for U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, who has urged the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to look into Herbalife’s practices. The regulators have declined to comment about the matter. The company has come under scrutiny since hedge fund manager Bill Ackman accused it of being a pyramid scheme in December 2012.

Herbalife, which operates in more than 80 countries, has repeatedly denied Ackman’s claims. DeSimone declined further comment about today’s meeting.

The company said in a statement that it “appreciated the opportunity today to educate Congressional staffers about the important economic impact of the direct-selling industry and our company.”

Earlier this month, an advocacy group called the League of United Latin American Citizens met with FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to describe alleged abuses by Herbalife. The group has said Herbalife deceives Latinos and low-income consumers with false promises of wealth and success.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net

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