Posts Tagged ‘mlm’

Article on NuSkin Fraud in China

Today Citron Research released a report on the fraud being committed in China by Nu Skin Enterprises. NuSkin is a multi-level marketing company based in Utah, and it trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol NUS. This report is a follow-up to an August 2012 report in which Citron revealed its basis for alleging that Nu Skin was perpetrating fraud in China.

Citron first points out how dependent on China Nu Skin is.  In the second quarter of 2012, revenues from China were $57 million. In the second quarter of 2013, Nu Skin’s China revenue grew to $197 million. That’s a 245% increase. Without the China revenue, NuSkin’s year-over-year growth would be negative.

An expose was published in China on NuSkin. A translation of the page can be found here. The article accuses Nu Skin of running a pyramid scheme, using endless chain recruitment to bring new marks into the fraudulent business opportunity. Distributors are encouraged to buy inventory in quantities they will never sell, all to move up in the pyramid and qualify for commissions. (Incidentally, this is the same way that Mary Kay Cosmetics has been successful.)

Xyngular: Starve, Binge, Purge, Repeat!

direct-selling-pyramid-schemeMulti-level marketing companies are getting lots of attention lately thanks to the Bill Ackman smackdown of Herbalife in December. MLMs offering “nutrition products” are of special interest to consumers, and with good reason. Companies like Isagenix, MonaVie , Usana, Mannatech, and Shaklee all offer magic potions that claim to help you lose weight, absorb more vitamins and minerals, and cure all diseases.

Of course, many of these health claims are strictly prohibited. Nutrition MLMs generally have disclaimers stating that their health claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and that the products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. But that doesn’t stop the distributors for making such claims, and the company management turns a blind eye to it.

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.”

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.)

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.

Multi-Level Marketing or Pyramid Scheme?

Recently Bruce Craig, a retired lawyer from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in the area of consumer protection, published an interesting article on multilevel marketing: An Investor’s Guide To Identifying Pyramid Schemes. The controversy surrounding Herbalife (NYSE: HLF), and initiated simply because David Einhorn asked a few questions about the company, was the impetus for Bruce’s comments.

I believe that most mulit-level marketing companies (MLM, for short) are pyramid schemes that are allowed to operate in the United States. They are very careful in their efforts to avoid the label of “illegal pyramid scheme,” but that doesn’t mean they’re not pyramid scheme in substance.

Internet Marketing and Multi-Level Marketing: Same Scam, Different Name

Recently I have been digging into the Salty Droid (you can’t make money online) archives. Salty Droid is an attorney in Chicago who writes about scammers who pitch their wares on the internet. I’ve been aware of the site for a while. But little did I know that Salty Droid has been covering a number of scammers that I’ve had my eye on for a while: Chris Brogan, Kevin Trudeau, Alexis Neely, Sean Stephenson, Mindy Kniss, Darren Rowse, Stephen Pierce, and Yanik Silver. We also have a mutual interest in assholes like Mark Shurtleff and  Crystal Cox.

But what struck me today as I was perusing the archives of Salty Droid is how similar “internet marketing” and “multi-level marketing” are. They take a product which is either non-existent or has very little interest to actual consumers (i.e. third party purchasers, rather than the pushers/distributors themselves) and build a “business” around convincing others to push the same “product.”

False Claims and Broken Promises in Multi-Level Marketing

Robert FitzPatrick, an internationally recognized authority on multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes and a court certified expert witness on MLMs and pyramids, details the lies told in MLM in this article, A Disguised Pyramid Scheme: The Non-Retail “Direct Selling” Company:

Instead, the non-retail direct selling schemes present a compelling and very alluring picture to potential recruits that diverts attention from the flawed structure and its disastrous outcome. Virtually all companies of this type in every country they operate in make the same alluring and misleading promises to recruits:

Create Your Own Multi-Level Marketing Company in Ten Easy Steps!

Hundreds of thousands of Americans get sucked into Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) companies each year. From Mary Kay to Amway to Herbalife to PrePaid Legal, the list is seemingly endless. Each offers its own special spin on the products it sells, but the main focus of an MLM is on recruiting new members.

MLMs live and die by the recruitment of new members, who make the bulk of the product purchases from the company. Little of the product is resold to an actual end user, but the MLM company doesn’t care. The sale has been made to the distributor (or associate or representative or member or consultant or whatever term you like).

Calculating Loss and Failure Rates in Multi-Level Marketing Schemes

In Chapter 7 of Dr. Jon Taylor’s book, The Case (For and) Against Multi-Level Marketing, he details the failure rates of participants in multi-lievel marketing companies. In order to analyze the true failure rates and to calculate actual profits or losses from participation in these (improperly termed) “business opportunities,” it is necessary to wade through confusing and incomplete disclosures and to estimate figures that are critical but not provided by the companies.

Dr. Taylor completes a thorough analysis of the numbers. Of the hundreds of multi-level marketing companies active in the United States, Dr. Taylor could find income disclosure statements for only 30 of them. What are the others hiding?

The analysis of these 30 income disclosure statements was completed through the following process:

Expert Fraud Investigation
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CPA's Handbook of Fraud and Commercial Crime Prevention
Essentials of Corporate Fraud
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