A few months ago, the issue was raised of the Utah Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, “endorsing” Usana Health Sciences. Staff at his office told Fraud Discovery Institute associates that the Attorney General would never endorse a company, and we reported the following in our original report on Usana:
Fact: On February 16, 2007, our associate called Paul Murphy, the Press Secretary for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Mr. Murphy spoke to Helen (Shurtleff?s personal assistant) and she does not retain his schedule that far back (the Usana 2004 Annual Convention). Paul did confirm that Mr. Shurtleff has never and will never endorse any company or product. He will, however, show up to conventions or groups that have donated money to good causes and give thank you speeches.
In this particular case with Usana, Paul believes Mr. Shurtleff would have gone and delivered a speech on the founding fathers or a point of law ? this is his standard speech he delivers at every convention. He most likely would have ended with thanking the company for inviting him and telling them to keep up the good work. But he would have not endorsed them in any way.
Also, Mark would be extremely interested to see any promotional material Usana is using which states that Mr. Shurtleff does indeed endorse them. He would put out a cease and desist immediately. Moreover, on February 16, 2007, Paul Murphy called our associate back and confirmed that Mr. Shurtleff was indeed present at the Usana convention in September 2004. Paul spoke with Mr. Shurtleff personally on this. Mr. Shurtleff only gave a quick 5 to 10 minute opening remarks speech, and he did not endorse Usana in any way. His speech included welcoming people to the convention and a shortened version of his standard speech, which had nothing to do with Usana.
Sometimes after the issuance of our report on Usana, this video of AG Mark Shurtleff surfaced:
The Attorney General clearly does endorse Usana in this video. So what does that mean for Usana? Well, it means they got an endorsement, and that the information Mark Shurtleff’s office provided to Fraud Discovery Institute was inaccurate.
Mr. Shurtleff talks about consumer protection and the responsibility of his office. He says about Usana and other “direct sellers”:
“If you do it right, you do it legal, it is one of the greatest ways to help people realize the dreams of, of uh, and benefits and advantages of a free market system in the world today. And it is legal, and Attorneys General know this. And in fact Usana has a reputation around this country for being the ones that do it right. But I gotta tell you, you know that there are a lot of companies out there who don’t do it right. And, and we are constantly receiving emails and requests to go after and investigate many companies. What’s good to know is that with Usana as it stands today, when we get an email from somebody questioning it, all we have to do is write back and say they’ve been looked at and they’re a great company and they’re doing it right, and they’re doing it legal.”
It sounds to me like Mark Shurtleff is giving both a legal opinion and an endorsement of Usana. In contrast however, Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection says the following:
If a pyramid promoter or recruiter tells you that the program has been examined and approved by the Division of Consumer Protection or any other state agency, know that the claim is not true! The Division of Consumer Protection does NOT approve any marketing programs. If such representations are made to you, please notify the Division.
Did you read that carefully? It says the Consumer Protection division does not endorse a marketing program, and neither does “any other state agency.” Yet Mark Shurtleff gives a clear and enthusiastic endorsement of Usana?
And then there are Utah laws governing the conduct of public officials, specifically, Utah Code — Title 67 — Chapter 16 — Utah Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act. This states in part:
67-16-4. Improperly disclosing or using private, controlled, or protected information — Using position to secure privileges or exemptions — Accepting employment which would impair independence of judgment or ethical performance — Exceptions.
(1) Except as provided in Subsection (3), it is an offense for a public officer, public employee, or legislator, under circumstances not amounting to a violation of Section 63-56-1001 or 76-8-105, to:
(a) accept employment or engage in any business or professional activity that he might reasonably expect would require or induce him to improperly disclose controlled information that he has gained by reason of his official position;
(b) disclose or improperly use controlled, private, or protected information acquired by reason of his official position or in the course of official duties in order to further substantially the officer’s or employee’s personal economic interest or to secure special privileges or exemptions for himself or others;
(c) use or attempt to use his official position to:
(i) further substantially the officer’s or employee’s personal economic interest; or
(ii) secure special privileges or exemptions for himself or others;
(d) accept other employment that he might expect would impair his independence of judgment in the performance of his public duties; or
(e) accept other employment that he might expect would interfere with the ethical performance of his public duties.
(2) (a) Subsection (1) does not apply to the provision of education-related services to public school students by public education employees acting outside their regular employment.
(b) The conduct referred to in Subsection (2)(a) is subject to Section 53A-1-402.5.
(3) A county legislative body member who does not participate in the process of selecting a mental health or substance abuse service provider does not commit an offense under Subsection (1)(a) or (b) by:
(a) serving also as a member of the governing board of the provider of mental health or substance abuse services under contract with the county; or
(b) discharging, in good faith, the duties and responsibilities of each position.
The bold was added by me. I wonder if Mark Shurtleff’s endorsement of Usana might be considered a “special privilege.” It is no secret that Usana representatives have touted this endorsement to legitimize the business opportunity that they are selling. Unless Mr. Shurtleff gives an “endorsement” of all other companies he believes are operating legally in Utah, doesn’t Usana therefore receive a special privilege?
Note: Research for this post done by TerminatedRamp, of Yahoo message board fame.