Is Multi-Level Marketing a Legitimate Business Method?

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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: Continue reading

Multi-Level Marketing Companies and Pyramid Schemes

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For decades, muti-level marketing companies like Amway, Mary Kay, Herbalife, Avon, and Usana have fought against being labeled as pyramid schemes. They say that pyramid schemes are illegal, and that their MLM business format is perfectly legal.

My definition of MLMs is a little nuanced. I tend to call them legalized pyramid schemes. What I mean by this is that multi-level marketing companies are indeed pyramid schemes, but our state and federal governments allow them to operate and generally call them legal if they have the right window dressing. Continue reading

Is Multi-Level Marketing a Legitimate Business Model?

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Cut to the chase: No, MLM is not a legitimate business model. It is a scam. It is a pyramid scheme.

The heat has been on multi-level marketing companies lately, most notably Mary Kay Cosmetics, the focus of Virginia Sole-Smith’s article on the pink pyramid scheme.

One of the common defenses of multi-level marketing is that it is a legitimate business method that has been around for a long time. I’ve also been told that if it was illegal, it would have been shut down. Neither the length of existence nor the lack of law enforcement action means something is legitimate or not a fraud. Remember Enron? Remember Bernie Madoff? These and others have been in business for a long time, and turned out to be complete frauds. Continue reading

Who Loves Multi-Level Marketing?

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For more than a week, I have been enjoying the discussion ignited by Virginia Sole-Smith’s article on the pink pyramid scheme, Mary Kay Cosmetics. Naturally, Mary Kay Inc. has come forth with some flimsy excuses that do nothing to help them save face. These excuses included things along the lines of “most women don’t want to make money in Mary Kay!” and “we buy back the products if they want to quit!”.

Sadly, these excuses don’t even scratch the surface regarding the problems with multi-level marketing. The gigantic problem is that MLM is a system designed for failure. A tiny fraction of 1% of distributors make a respectable living, but only do so because the 99% below them are losing money in the scheme. Continue reading

An Excellent Analysis of the Demise of Usana

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An article today on SanDiegoReader.com does an excellent job of highlighting what’s been happening with the Usana case. As if I’d ever let you forget, I will remind you that Usana Health Sciences is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for violation of securities laws.

Their investigation was initiated based upon a lengthy report authored by Barry Minkow and Fraud Discovery Institute. Contributors to the investigation included me, Robert FitzPatrick, Jon Taylor, and Doug Brooks, to name a few.

Here’s a summary of the case, with the help of the article: Continue reading

Forbes on Usana: FBI Investigation, Possible Loan Covenant Breaches…

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Forbes is reporting on the Usana Health Sciences investigation by Barry Minkow and company, and things aren’t looking good. In an article entitled “Hard to Swallow,” Forbes writer Evelyn Rusli methodically demonstrates the dim reality facing Usana and the Myron Wentz gang.

As Rusli points out, the company seemed “untouchable” as recently as February. The stock was nearing an all-time high and Usana was ready to report the 19th consecutive quarter of record sales.

And then came Barry. On March 15, Usana reported that it was being “informally” investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The problems have snowballed since then.

Usana’s basic defense to all fraud claims has been “Barry’s a liar.” Continue reading