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Carl Icahn, banks prevail in lawsuits by Herbalife short-seller

Investor Carl Icahn speaks at the Wall Street Journal Deals & Deal Makers conference, held at the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2007. RE
Investor Carl Icahn speaks at the Wall Street Journal Deals & Deal Makers conference, held at the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2007. RE

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. court has dismissed a short-seller's lawsuits accusing activist investor Carl Icahn and three large banks of perpetuating a pyramid scheme at nutritional products company Herbalife Ltd .

In decisions made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan said the plaintiff, Daniel Ravicher, failed to show that Icahn owed him a duty not to promote Herbalife, or that the billionaire's actions caused his losses.

Stanton also dismissed similar claims against Bank of America Corp , JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co , which Ravicher had accused of aiding Herbalife's alleged fraud by providing $1.2 billion of financing.

The judge said the defendants' actions, even if proved, "are so remote from Ravicher's alleged injury as to demonstrate the implausibility of Ravicher's claim."

Ravicher, a Florida lawyer, said he lost more than $75,000 on his short position in Herbalife, a bet that its stock price would fall, because Icahn and the banks helped prop up the company and save it from collapse.

He said he bought put options on Herbalife stock around the time that billionaire hedge fund investor William Ackman in December 2012 announced his own short bet. Those options became worthless when they expired in November.

Stanton, however, said that Ravicher could prevail only if he could show that his purchase of the options imposed a duty on Icahn and the banks not to help Herbalife.

"That is not only a counter-intuitive proposition, it violates a principle ("volenti non fit injuria") that one who knowingly and voluntarily risks danger cannot recover for the resulting injury," Stanton wrote, in decisions dated Friday.

Neither Ravicher nor Icahn responded immediately on Tuesday to requests for comment.

Herbalife was not named as defendant. In December, it said a new audit resulted in no changes to its financial statements.

Also last month, Ackman said he and his firm Pershing Square Capital Management were sticking by his $1 billion short bet on Herbalife. People familiar with the fund have said the bet led to as much as $700 million of losses.

In afternoon trading, Herbalife shares were up $2.18, or 3.1 percent, at $72.38 on the New York Stock Exchange. One year ago they traded at $44.14.

The case is Ravicher v Icahn, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-01666; and Ravicher v. Bank of America Corp et al in the same court, No. 13-03908.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

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