Stephen Pierce International: Scam or Bad Business Practices?

A couple of weeks ago, The Salty Droid had an interesting piece on Stephen Pierce and his company Stephen Pierce International. Stephen allegedly provides internet marketing consulting services in exchange for a fee. However, it appears that angry consumers are complaining about what they received from him.

I found a number of complaints:

I have no idea how many consumers are complaining about Stephen Pierce, or whether any of the above complaints are from the same people. What I do know is the more complaints I see, especially those with details about their experience, the more I am inclined to believe there is a problem.

The Better Business Bureau in Dallas, Texas gives Stephen Pierce International a rating of F. He even merited an article in the news section of the BBB’s site.

Digging a little further brings us to this press release from the U.S. Commodities Trading Commission regarding an enforcement action against Stephen Alan Pierce. The release states:

The CFTC order, entered on January 21, 2003, finds that, from approximately March 2000 through July 2002, Pierce, a registered commodity trading advisor (CTA), sold subscriptions to his futures trading recommendation services through various internet websites.

The order finds that Pierce touted his trading record and failed to disclose that it was based on hypothetical or simulated trading and not actual performance. Further, the websites overstated the profit potential for Pierce’s trading recommendation services and understated the risk of loss. Finally, as a registered CTA who acted as such, Pierce was required to keep certain books and records, including client or subscriber information. The CFTC order finds that he failed to keep such records. The CFTC order arises out of an administrative complaint filed against Pierce on July 30, 2002 (see CFTC News Release 4683, July 30, 2002).

Go back to that earlier press release, and you see the following:

Specifically, the CFTC complaint alleges that Pierce promoted and offered to the public futures trading systems, referred to as the “Rapid Fire Swing Trading” and “The Chart Traders” systems, through advertisements over numerous internet websites that Pierce created and maintained. Pierce, the complaint states, made false representations of profits, overstated profit potential, and mischaracterized the performance record of the systems, in violation of antifraud provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations.

Is this the same Stephen Pierce I found the consumer complaints about? If you go back to the Dallas, Texas Better Business Bureau report on Stephen Pierce International, you see the following:

Stephen Pierce, President of Stephen Pierce International, McKinney, TX, is also President of Impulsive Profits, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI.

A separate BBB Business Reviews is available on that business. See http://www.bbb.org/eastern-michigan/business-reviews/financial-services/impulsive-profits-inc-in-ann-arbor-mi-40000301/ .

That BBB profile includes the following information:

Impulsive Profits, Inc.
Phone: (734) 741-8392
Fax: (734) 741-8393
2322 S. Main Street #421,
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
spierce@rapidfireswingtrading.com

http://www.impulsiveprofits.com

It appears we have a match between the Stephen Pierce of Rapid Fire Swing Trading in the enforcement action, spierce@rapidfireswingtrading.com on the Eastern Michigan BBB website, and Stephen Pierce International on the Dallas BBB website.

Let’s look a little more closely at some of the allegations in the enforcement action:

The description of Pierce’s services conveyed a false impression to the public that Pierce was actually trading, when in fact Pierce was not. For example, on his various websites, Pierce advertised to the public:

  • “All tactics in this eBook are actually used everyday by real Chart Traders making real money … We are blessed to bank thousands of dollars each week in net winning profits from the markets. They have blown by so fast, some days they actually bank over $5,000.00 in net realized profits. It’s A Fact.”
  • “Take a look at a recent month of real time trading results using this method. These are NOT hypothetical results – This is all actual money made by using this method in real time trading. That’s 12 trades on a single contract basis, in 5 recent months (not back testing) of this year, producing net total profits after losses of =$45,127.50. Staying in each trade for a MAXIMUM of 3 DAYS! These are not back tested results. These are real trades – made in real time with our Chart Traders.”
  • “Just last month we had 33 trades of which 18 were winners producing =$10,207.00 in profits-we had 15 losing trades producing – ($4,132.15) in losses for a NET PROFIT of =$6,074.85 in one month. Trading one contract in just a few short minutes each day and holding the contract on average of ONLY 3 DAYS!”

10. Based on the misleading nature of the promotional material, many subscribers understood that the performance results represented Pierce’s actual trading, not simulated or hypothetical results.

And:

For example, on his various websites, Pierce advertised to the public:

  • “You’ll [sic] can make money and get the benefit of knowing you’re dealing with consistent winners that have years of commodity experience successfully trading commodities and futures.”
  • “An extremely valuable bonus that can easily pay back more than double your eBook Action Pack fee the SAME DAY. When you purchase, you’ll be granted the rights to use the Chart Traders Trend Monitor-which is responsible for over $25,329.35 a month in average profits for the small trader!”

Stephen Pierce entered into an Offer of Settlement with the CFTC, in which he neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to cease and desist from violating the regulations, pay a $25,000 penalty, and not misrepresent performance or profits in the future. He also agreed not to make any public statement denying the findings in the order.

Note that in his LinkedIn profile, Stephen Pierce mentions “commodities and futures trading” and “offering free trading tips online and through e-mail newsletters,” and that he “established his own trading service.” Too bad he forgot to mention the little old enforcement action by CFTC!

Then there’s the little problem Stephen Pierce had with Tony Robbins. According to the Courthouse News Service:

Robbins owns rights to his “Unleash the Power Within” and “Wealth Mastery” seminars. He claims Pierce advertises his businesses on the Internet by using Robbins’ photo, without permission, accompanied by statements such as, “one-on-one phone coaching appointment with an Anthony Robbins Success Coach;” and “The people attending the event where [Robbins] spoke and this video was captured paid $8,000 to attend, but you can have access to that video without spending $8,000.”

More specifically, the complaint alleges that “…Pierce, individually and through his companies, Stephen Pierce International Inc., and Impulsive Profits, Inc., have continued in their fraudulent scheme, misappropriation and unfair business practices for purposes of advertising and selling, or soliciting purchases of, their products, merchandise, goods and/or services.”

The Tony Robbins complaint alleges that Pierce secretly recorded Robbins at his Wealth Mastery Seminar and began selling unauthorized copies of it. It further states that Stephen Pierce was falsely stating that he got permission from Robbins to sell the recording.

The case was dropped shortly thereafter, but the allegations are interesting nonetheless, because again Stephen Pierce is alleged to have made improper claims in advertising his business.

In 1995, there was a business led by Stephen Pierce called Black America Online.  A Washington Times news article reported:

For those 12 months, BAOL would rake in more than $3.8 million in revenue, with a profit margin of at least 70 percent, according to the projections. By 2000, the company would be clearing $17.6 million in revenues and $10.5 million in profit.

The company quickly went belly-up, and investors say they never got any money back, and couldn’t even track down Stephen Pierce.

So back to the current complaints with Stephen Pierce International. What has Stephen’s response been? Lawsuits.

Like this one against Dale Brown and Coastal Vacations. Or this one against Ted Cantu. And this one in which Stephen Pierce International is suing Rick Keane.

The lawsuits against all three of these men are for allegedly writing false and defamatory things about Pierce at the following sites:

  • Brown at stephen-pierce-scam.com
  • Cantu at stephenpiercescam.net
  • Keane at 911copywriters.blogspot.com

The main objection of Stephen Pierce seems to be the characterization of Stephen Pierce’s business as a scam – - defined in the lawsuits as “a fraudulent business scheme.” The plaintiff claims that his business “… provide legitimate programs, as advertised.”

I think what is most interesting about these lawsuits is the statement that Stephen Pierce provides programs “as advertised”. It seems to me that the complaints I found on the internet allege that he does not provide the services “as advertised.” The complaints I read seemed to have one thing in common: The consumers say they did not receive what they were promised, nor have they received refunds.

Is the failure to follow through on promises in a business transaction a scam? Or is it simply a bad business practice? You decide.

As for using the word scam to describe Stephen Pierce and/or his business activities… It seems the CFTC would agree with that characterization. As might the BBB. As might many other consumers reading about all of these activities. I draw no conclusion one way or another as to whether Mr. Pierce is committing fraud or engaging in scams. But I think intelligent readers are capable of drawing their own conclusions.

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Comments (7)

  • Wyrd

    |

    Google defines scam as “A dishonest scheme; a fraud.”

    So if the failure to follow through on the business promise was intentional, then the word “scam” fits.

    Now considering the sheer number of failed businesses and broken promises and personal complaints lodged against Mr. Pierce, it is very hard to see how his business practices could be anything other than intentional.

    I.e. Stephen Pierce is a scammy, scamming, Mc. Scammer. And I don’t think we should be shy about calling him out as such.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

    Reply

  • Kangaroo Boy

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    This freeloader made an absolute killing in Australia. Why he came to the conclusion that the Aussies would pay a factor more than anyone else is anyone’s guess. Guess he thought we could afford it – well I’ve got news for you Stephen Pierce. What we can afford is legal action.

    There are refunds and damages to be recovered here and this self-proclaimed millionaire can now afford the payback! Whether this payback also includes a term in one of the US State prisons is for a judge to decide. He would not get any opposition from me!

    If you read this and are wavering on whether or not to join the class action, I urge you to join now. You have the right and you deserve justice.

    Don’t know where to find it? Simply Google “Stephen Pierce” and “lawsuit” and follow the bouncing ball – now. And don’t forget to tell your friends who have been scammed too.

    Reply

  • Anonymous

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    I want to comment on the continuing expose of Stephen Pierce international and Impulsive Profits, both owned by Texas based internet marketing expert Stephen A. Pierce. The three former customers who complained online about their inability to get either service/product/support or refund were typical.

    Apparently, the version of the contact that gives you only 3 days to request a refund fails to mention that you may not receive your log in information or materials for weeks or even months. Forcing the point will get you on the refund “list”, but getting Stephen Pierce to actually approve the refund and send the money is another hurdle. Former employees say that Stephen Pierce himself has to approve every single refund, refusing to give anyone in his company the authority to do so based on some standard policy or procedure.

    Instead he put employees in the awkward position of having to hold back the flood of complaints with excuses and delay tactics. When neither the employee nor the customer can take it any longer, Attorney Kevin Vela got involved. Customers credit Vela with enabling the fraud to continue with his own threats of defamation lawsuits. In fact, Vela tried to get one former customer to commit to informing on former employees in exchange for his refund. If true, that is an extraordinary length to go to for a simple refund when the company didn’t give you a product or service in the first place!

    This torture is meted out to consumers who have already had their dreams of internet wealth shattered, their trust destroyed, their patience tried, and their persistence tested to the extreme. Most customers just give up.

    I’m sorry,. But that scenario played out dozens maybe hundreds of times does not sound like the working of a legitimate business to me. Making former customers beg can only hurt a company’s reputation and provoke customers to anger and action that they might not otherwise have taken.
    Treat too many consumers with this callous disregard, and they will fight back.

    Reply

  • Former Employee

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    In the last two weeks I have gotten calls from two former employees of Stephen Pierce International telling me that this man is now serving subpoenas on people who worked for him a few months and made about $13/hour while they were there.

    Does he think that he can haunt former employees to their grave just because they made the mistake of going to work for him?

    What is wrong with this guy?

    And WHO are these attorneys representing him? Do they have their heads where the sun don’t shine?!

    Reply

  • Don't tread on me

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    I attended the “Get Motivated” to get ripped off seminar in Lexington KY, October 2011. I too fell prey to Stephen Piece and one of his sidekicks, Corey someone, sales pitches on achieving finance success through their affiliate marketing packages.

    After these sales gurus captured my attention, they convinced me that I could become financially successful if I invested in one of their affiliate marketing training packages. I purchased the Platinum package that included unlimited LPG express (I think this is unlimited landing pages) for $6994. Yes, I “purchased” the package at a total cost of $6,994. They forbid you to use the words “purchase” and “cost”. You are to refer to the process as “investing in yourself” – “investing in your education.” The package I purchased consists of a box of seven CDs,, unlimited landing pages, and attendance at a two-day summit in Utah.

    After I listened to one of the CDs, I had questions, so I attempted to contact someone for technical support. I was batted around several times, on several occasions, but was never able to reach anyone who had the expertise to respond to my questions, so I put the CD box aside and tried to ignore the fact I had been the victim of a $6,994 scam. It was $6,994 I did not have. Rather, I placed myself in debt to purchase this package of snake oil.

    Looking at this retrospectively, when a company has a full page of disclaimers on the reverse side of the sales receipt, the company likely has had many complaints, but has no intention of returning your money, should you not be satisfied with the package. But, of course, their focus is on getting you to sign the form and sending you on your way. They certainly are not going to sit down and explain that the package is a ripoff and that they have no intention of returning your money when you realize that you have been scammed.

    They have called me on a number of occasions, asking me to reserve my spot and confirm my attendance – hotel stay, etc. at one of the upcoming summits in Utah. The next upcoming one is in June. They even asked me if I have any food allergies, in case a meal might have food allergens. Of course, this is not an all-expenses-paid trip, they just want to make sure that you are locked in on attending. My speculation is that it is a sucker count, of sorts. No doubt, they will be peddling some kind of coaching package there – probably to the tune of $10,000.

    Anyway, that’s my nightmare with Stephen Pierce and the rest of is snake oil peddlers. I am another victim of slick sales tactics, designed to swindle you.

    Reply

  • ex-employee

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    Tracy, I just wanted to commend you on such a well written piece! Stephen Pierce is all that you describe above (and worst). As a former employee I can attest to the fact that he is excellent as persuasion, intimidation, emotional and verbal abuse as well as being a straight up jerk! I was aware of his problems with the CFTC – but I was unaware of the truth behind it! He tells a different story about this to everyone else. Stephen Pierce continues on in business, bring in more and more people to buy what he’s peddling, he needs to be stopped! I’m hearing the sound of shackles! That would be nice…

    Reply

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