Scott London’s Other Crime: Tax Fraud

Former KPMG audit Partner Scott I. London brought great shame to the accounting profession this week by being charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud through insider trading. After nearly 30 years with KPMG, London went down in flames after being caught passing insider information on audit clients of the Los Angeles office to his “friend,” Bryan Shaw.

Proving once again that there is no honor among thieves, Shaw got caught first, and then sold out his friend Scott to the Feds.  He helped them get a gorgeous trail of evidence, including phone calls and photographs of the crime.  Both are now charged with insider trading.

Read moreScott London’s Other Crime: Tax Fraud

Herbalife Hides Behind IncomeAtHome

You’re listening to a national radio show with a popular host. You hear an advertisement for IncomeAtHome. You don’t know what it is, other than you can make an income while working at home. But why on earth would the voices not tell you exactly what this “business opportunity” is? Because it is Herbalife. If … Read more Herbalife Hides Behind IncomeAtHome

Is Multi-Level Marketing a Legitimate Business Method?

pyramid-scheme-mlmDefenders of multi-level marketing (MLM) are often heard saying that it’s a legitimate business method! Even government regulators say MLM is legitimate. And it is true that state and federal governments in the United States generally allow multi-level marketing companies to operate with little oversight. This is despite the fact that structurally and operationally, MLMs are nothing more than pyramid schemes.

Oh sure, the MLMs are careful to use lots of window dressing that makes it appear they don’t violate anti-pyramiding laws. There are even lawyers who whore themselves out to tell owners of MLMs how to “stay legal.” And of course, the massive lobbying on behalf of “direct sellers” and multi-level marketing companies ensures that current laws against pyramid schemes will not be enforced, and that no new laws impeding MLMs will be enacted.

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune ran a piece on multi-level marketing, specifically referring to Herbalife and Fortune Hi Tech Marketing. Typical positive MLM talking points were cited:

Read moreIs Multi-Level Marketing a Legitimate Business Method?

Herbalife Under FTC Investigation? Or Not?

ftc-bureau-of-consumer-protectionToday the New York Post reported that Herbalife (HLF) is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and that has sent the stock price down more than 10%. The newspaper bases this story on a Freedom of Information request done by the newspaper. It says, regarding consumer complaints received by the FTC:

The FTC redacted some sections, saying it didn’t have to divulge “information obtained by the commission in a law enforcement investigation, whether through compulsory process, or voluntarily …”

And The Post says that other complaints by consumers had notes referring to a “pending law enforcement action.”

Read moreHerbalife Under FTC Investigation? Or Not?

Are Herbalife and FHTM Similar?

fhtm-herbalifeWith yesterday’s shutdown of Fortune Hi Tech Marketing, consumers have been asking if Herbalife is a similar operation. Last year Herbalife’s business model was called into question by David Einhorn, and then the company was accused of being a pyramid scheme by Bill Ackman.

Naturally, Herbalife denied being a pyramid scheme. Management has repeatedly said that Herbalife is all about selling products, and that the products are indeed selling, so it couldn’t possibly be a pyramid scheme. But according to this (start at 2:00 mark), no one really knows how much product is being sold to actual consumers. To be clear: Herbalife does not track retail sales.

I previously compared Herbalife and BurnLounge, a company shut down by FTC because it was a pyramid scheme. (BurnLounge is currently appealing, but that is a story for another day.) Today we compare Herbalife and FHTM:

Read moreAre Herbalife and FHTM Similar?

Anne Coughlan is Wrong on Herbalife

herbalifeAt yesterday’s big Herbalife investor day, the company paraded around Anne T. Coughlan, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, who proudly proclaimed that Herbalife is not a pyramid scheme. No, it is a legitimate multi-level marketing company.

In July, Coughlan published this paper on Herbalife, concluding that Herbalife is squeaky clean. Let’s be clear. Herbalife paid Coughlan to publish this paper. The paper notes:

This document was prepared with the financial and data support of Herbalife
Ltd.

Read moreAnne Coughlan is Wrong on Herbalife

Herbalife Documentary by Herb Greenberg: Selling the American Dream

Herb Greenberg, a stocks commentator for CNBC did a ten-month investigation of multi-level marketing company Herbalife. Its conclusion is this 20 minute documentary, and the timing couldn’t be better. Herbalife has been accused of being a pyramid scheme again, this time by Bill Ackman of Pershing Square. Despite the fact that CEO Michael Johnson claims … Read more Herbalife Documentary by Herb Greenberg: Selling the American Dream

More on Herbalife, Bill Ackman, and Law Enforcement

As we patiently wait for Herbalife’s “analyst and investor meeting” on January 10 to address the pyramid scheme allegations made by short seller Bill Ackman, there is plenty of good discussion of HLF around the world wide web.

Kid Dynamite said Bill Ackman is wrong about Herbalife, citing that:

  • HLF  is not a pyramid scheme because commissions are paid based on sales of products, not recruitment (Wrong. Commissions are paid largely based on required minimum purchases of products by recruits.)
  • Herbalife has not committed accounting fraud in reporting their product sales. (I’m not so sure about that. The numbers as reported are deliberately and materially misleading.)

    Read moreMore on Herbalife, Bill Ackman, and Law Enforcement

If Herbalife Was a Pyramid Scheme, It Would Have Collapsed By Now

herbalifeOne of the most common arguments used against those who deem multi-level marketing companies pyramid schemes, is that pyramid schemes collapse. Because Herbalife hasn’t collapsed, it must not be a pyramid scheme. Because the company has avoided total collapse for more than 30 years, it can’t possibly be a pyramid scheme. That is false, and I will demonstrate the falsity with the help of Bill Ackman.

Recruiting is the Name of the Game

A pyramid scheme has been defined as a scheme in which the participants obtain their monetary benefits primarily from recruitment rather than the sale of goods and services to consumers.

Read moreIf Herbalife Was a Pyramid Scheme, It Would Have Collapsed By Now

Herbalife Does Not Track Retail Sales

This little gem is courtesy of Shortzilla, a Seeking Alpha contributor. In a 1986 Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction against Herbalife in California, the company agreed to the following:

B.  defendants shall be in compliance with this Section 5, as long as a verification or documentation system they implement allows them, at any given point in time, to verify or: document to plaintiffs that any and all participants who receive commissions, bonuses, overrides and/or advancement from defendants in  defendants marketing program, after entry of this judgment, are based on retail sales made by or through such participant(s) or others introduced directly or indirectly under participant(s).

Read moreHerbalife Does Not Track Retail Sales