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Bill Ackman's new Herbalife play: A documentary film

Bill Ackman
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Bill Ackman

The Herbalife fight drags on.

Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management released a short, scathing documentary on the nutritional supplement company Friday that detailed the stories of frustrated former Herbalife distributors.

"I just don't want to see anyone else get involved in this thing," said Tom Zimber, a former distributor from Rochester, New York, who was featured in the film and spoke after at the premier in New York City. "I just hope people see this. (Herbalife is) not worth the time, the money. And you lose money."

The film's participants—described as middle-class people looking for a supplement to their job or retirement income—spoke of the high costs of working as an Herbalife distributor.

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While the tools like websites and phone systems to help sell are optional, the former distributors described the pressure they felt to purchase the products in order to improve their chances of business success. They also noted the emphasis on signing up new distributors over actually selling the nutritional shakes that are the company's signature product.

"To this day I feel terrible about the people I brought in," said Darilyn Listort, a retiree from Boynton Beach, Florida, about the people she recruited. "It doesn't work."

Herbalife issued a strong rebuke to the Pershing Square-funded film.

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"Herbalife views the release of this advertisement posing as a 'documentary' as nothing more than propaganda," the company said in a statement. "The company believes this is yet another tactic in Mr. Ackman's calculated, coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy a 34-year-old company and support his $1 billion bet against Herbalife,"

Herbalife also criticized the event's moderator, multilevel marketing expert Robert FitzPatrick.

"He is a known critic of the industry, and a consultant to Mr. Ackman and three-time convicted felon and perpetrator of fraud Barry Minkow," the statement said. "Herbalife believes Mr. FitzPatrick's involvement is further evidence that this 'documentary' is merely another biased attack on our company."

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Ackman said in remarks that the idea behind the film was to highlight middle-class people duped by Herbalife. Much of the previous focus has been on low-income Hispanics involved with the company through so-called buying clubs.

The hedge fund manager said the participants in the documentary had not been paid, but that Pershing Square had covered their travel expenses to New York City for the event. He said he did not meet the participants before the Friday premier.

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne.

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