Carl Icahn, an activist investor, has become a target for the short seller

For nearly half a century, Carl Icahn has revolutionized Wall Street as a corporate raider and activist shareholder, making giant corporations bow to his demands and alter their business strategies.

But on Tuesday, his publicly traded company, Icahn Enterprises, became a target of Hindenburg Research, the short-selling firm that made its name in recent years with the takeover of Indian businessman Gautam Adani and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Hindenburg accused the Icahn companies of overestimating them. The company trades well above its net asset value, unlike similar financial mechanisms operated by William A. Ackman and Daniel S. Loeb. Hindenburg also described what it said were an unjustifiably large dividend payout funded by share sales.

“Icahn was using money taken from new investors to pay dividends to old investors,” Hindenburg wrote in a public report. She likened Icahn Enterprises to “Ponzi-like economic structures” that survive only when new investors are willing to be the last to “carry the bag.” Hindenburg said he was betting that Icahn Enterprises shares would drop, which would give them a profit from trading.

The company’s stock fell 20 percent on Tuesday and was down about 2 percent in pre-market trading on Wednesday.

Hindenburg also called Jefferies, which he said is the only large investment bank to publish research on Icahn Enterprises — and also help the company sell stock.

Icahn Enterprises responded by saying it stands by its disclosures. “We believe that the self-serve short sale report published by Hindenburg Research today was intended solely to generate profits from the Hindenburg short position at the expense of long-term unitholders in the IEP,” the company said in a statement.

Over the course of just a few years, the Hindenburg and its founder, Nathan Anderson, rose to prominence by publishing critical research papers on leading companies. It’s been a hit: Nikola, an electric car maker, ousted its founder after Hindenburg accused him of fraud, while companies in Mr. Adani’s business empire lost billions in market value after Hindenburg said they committed stock manipulation and other misdeeds.

The Hindenburg got a notable backer: Mr. Ackmann, a hedge-fund magnate who clashed memorably with Mr. Icahn over the prospects of Herbalife, the nutritional supplement company that Mr. Ackmann had cut short. (The billionaires memorably sparred on CNBC in 2013, a confrontation that engulfed Wall Street.)

They made peace, but time may not have healed all the wounds. “There is a karmic theme to this short report that reinforces the idea of ​​the circle of life and death,” tweeted Mr. Ackman From the Hindenburg Report. “As such, it must be read.”

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