Carl Icahn is used to being on the offensive, but this time, he is facing an all-out attack.
On a May 2 reportpopular short-seller Hindenburg Research targets Icahn’s publicly traded conglomerate, Icahn Enterpriseswhich says the company is using a juicy but unsustainable dividend yield to entice retail investors with a “it’s like a ponzi“operation.
“Icahn is using money taken from new investors to pay dividends to old investors,” Hindenburg wrote while revealing that it was taken on a short position against his company’s stock.
Icahn Enterprises did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment about Hindenburg’s allegations. But on May 10 statement in response to Hindenburg’s report, Icahn returned with his typical bravado.
“Hindenburg Research, founded by Nathan Anderson, is more aptly called Blitzkrieg Research because of its tactics of wantonly destroying property and harming innocent civilians. Mr. Anderson’s modus operandi is to launch disinformation. campaign to distort the images of the companies, tarnish their reputation and bleed the hard-earned savings of individual investors,” wrote the billionaire, vowing to “fight back” against the allegations.
Icahn’s billionaire rival, Pershing Square Capital co-founder and CEO Bill Ackman, was quick to point out the irony of the corporate raider, who is known for his harsh criticism of executive mismanagement and corporate malfeasance, accused by his own wrong. “There is a karmic quality to this short report that reinforces the idea of a circle of life and death. As such, it should be read,” he wrote in a May 2 tweet.
Icahn has been running for a long time fight with Ackman, which ended in a 2013 CNBC interviews where he called the founder of Pershing Square Capital a “liar” and “crybaby” after the two took opposing positions on the multi-level marketing company Herbalife. Ackman famously shorted Herbalife in 2012, arguing that the company was a ponzi-scheme and its stock would eventually fall to $0 per share, but was forced leave his bet in 2018 as the stock soared after Icahn invested in the company.
On Thursday, however, it was Icahn who was under pressure, as Hindenburg said in a follow-up report that he had borrowed billions against his Icahn Enterprises (IEP) holdings and invested “some or all” in money of his own funds.
“These funds later generated large losses, which could pose an excessive risk for both Carl Icahn himself, and the owners of the IEP unit,” Hindenburg wrote, announcing that it doubled in its bet against Icahn Enterprises by also shorting its bonds.
Icahn Enterprises did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.
Carl Icahn became famous for his ruthless tactics as a corporate raider in the 1980s, where director Oliver Stone depend on to make his Michael Douglas “greedy good” character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street. The billionaire typically buys large shares of companies he feels are mismanaged and then pushes for board changes, layoffs, or asset sales in an attempt to boost profits and stock prices. Although Icahn, 87, is not the aggressive activist investor he once was, he still likes to criticize corporate mismanagement.
In 2015, he warned of a pending recession and blasted US CEOs for borrowing money for buyouts and acquisitions in an attempt to artificially inflate profits in a 15-minute speech. video called “Danger ahead.”
“This is financial engineering at its height,” he said. “The earnings that were released today, I think they are very suspect.”
But now Icahn is being accused of his own kind of financial engineering. Icahn Enterprises stock has crushed more than 30% since Hindenburg first revealed its short position earlier this month, leading to a drop in Icahn’s personal net worth. $10 billionaccording to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The downfall for Icahn comes after Hindenburg target India’s Adani Group in January, led the company into a tailspin that saw CEO and co-founder Gautam Adani’s net worth fall to $60 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires index.
The Hindenburg may not be the investor’s only problem. Icahn Enterprises was unveiled on May 10 regulatory filing, that Federal prosecutors from the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York are seeking information about “corporate governance, capitalization, securities offerings, dividends, valuation, marketing materials, due diligence and other materials.” That disclosure came a little more than a week after Hindenbug’s first attack on the company.
Icahn Enterprises said it was cooperating with the request, adding that “the US attorney’s office has not made any claims or allegations against us or Mr. Icahn.”