Yesterday’s announcement that former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would join Edelman to advise clients on public policy was interesting on its own, but one detail made it more so: last month the infamous “nutritional products company” Herbalife also hired him as an adviser.
This fact creates a conflict of interest, because venture capitalist Bill Ackman recently hired Edelman to help publicize his accusations that Herbalife is an illegal pyramid scheme in which the vast majority of paying members lose money. Both Villaraigosa and an Edelman spokesman say no such conflict exists, but we don’t see how that could be true considering that the most valuable advice Herbalife could receive from anyone right now concerns escaping the shadow of Ackman’s very public campaign (which, again, is managed by Edelman).
Ackman’s hardly the only one pressing Herbalife: while Villaraigosa praised the company for its “strong presence within the Latino community” when he took the job in September, several major Black and Latino advocacy groups recently called upon California’s attorney general to investigate its supposed misdeeds more thoroughly. In defense of Villaraigosa, Edelman’s global public affairs spokeswoman Katie Burke told the Los Angeles Times that he’s “not coming on board for any specific client or project”, which reads like a classic case of obfuscation.
At any rate, we wouldn’t put money on Herbalife if we had it.