Did I ever mention that the Attorney General of Utah, Mark Shurtleff publicly endorsed Usana Health Sciences (NASDAQ:USNA) and said the company operates in a legal fashion? Oh yeah, that’s right… I did. Well then, let’s review.
Usana executives have been caught making numerous misrepresentations about the “business opportunity,” company executives, and other company representatives. The company has recently been exposed for violating the laws of China – where company employees at the company’s Hong Kong office teach people exactly how to violate the Chinese laws against multi-level marketing.
Here’s the video in which Shurtleff carries on about how fabulous Usana is:
Now, this video was first made public by a certain supporter, promoter, and owner of MLMs. And reportedly, the Attorney General’s office asked him to remove it from the internet. Why? Maybe because there are so many things wrong with what Shurtleff said.
In particular 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.”
This sounds like 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?
More on those “special privileges” Mark Shurtleff seems to give certain companies in the coming week.