Battle over Herbalife takes to New York streets

Crucial quarter for Herbalife?

On the eve of Herbalife's most anticipated quarterly earnings report in recent memory, a heated public debate over the nutrition supplement company's approach to Latino salespeople took to the streets of Manhattan.

Late Thursday morning in front of 767 Fifth Ave., the east midtown office of the hedge fund activist and prominent Herbalife investor Carl Icahn, a group of eight or so anti-Herbalife protesters gathered for a prayer vigil to oppose Icahn's support of the stock.

The protesters, who had been organized by two Chicago-area members of the League of United Latin American Citizens, known as LULAC, were urging Icahn to sell his stock in Herbalife as a stand against what they describe as fraudulent practices at the company that have damaged some of its salespeople of Latino origin.

Hey had signs saying, "Out with Herbalies" and a logo of the company with a red slash through it.

But the demonstrators found themselves outnumbered by a larger group of some two dozen Herbalife supporters who, carrying buttons that said "Yo (with the "o" as a heart symbol) Herbalife," or "I love Herbalife," and signs that said, "Yo Soy Herbalife," or "I am Herbalife," surrounded them in a circular march in support of the company.

The dueling demonstrations were part and parcel of what has become an increasingly rancorous standoff between critics of Herbalife, the multilevel marketer whose products and sales roles have been popular in the Latino community in the U.S. and abroad, and its backers.