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.

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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:

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The Fine Line Between Legitimate Businesses and Pyramid Schemes

chicagotribuneBy Gregory Karp

Companies say sellers can make six-figure salaries; critics call multilevel marketing firms a scam

Controversy is again casting a shadow over the multilevel marketing industry, as nutritional supplement company Herbalife Inc., which has thousands of distributors in the Chicago region, has been publicly called a pyramid scheme by a prominent investor — an allegation the company vigorously denies.

Meanwhile, a different multilevel marketer, Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, was shut down in recent weeks after a lawsuit was brought by regulators and several states, including Illinois, alleging the company scammed consumers out of $169 million. The scheme affected an estimated 100,000 Americans, including some in Chicago, where it targeted Spanish-speaking consumers, the Federal Trade Commission alleged.

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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.”

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mArc RaNdaZza tAkeS bACk His NAmE

First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza is amazing. He is truly a “First Amendment Badass.”  Last year, he had an unfortunate incident occur, which proves that no good deed goes unpunished. Marc Randazza briefly agreed to represent “investigative blogger” Crystal Cox in an appeal of the lawsuit against her for defamation of Kevin Padrick and Obsidian Finance.

The problem was that the judge declared that Crystal Cox is not a journalist. First amendment lawyers worried about the effects that decision might have on other bloggers, who might be journalists. Crystal Cox is not a journalist, but is an extortionist. Still, Marc worried about whether this decision could have unintended consequences.

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Kwame Kilpatrick: Lifestyle Analysis in Criminal Cases

kwame-kilpatrick-white-collar-crimeIn 2008, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged in state court with 8 felonies related to perjury, misconduct in office, and obstruction of justice. In On September 2008,he pleaded guilty to two felonies for obstruction of justice and was sentenced to four months in the Wayne County Jail and ordered to pay $1 million of restitution to the city of Detroit.

The fun didn’t stop there. Kilpatrick has been accused of hiding money that could be used to pay $855,000 restitution owed to the city of Detroit, stemming from the conviction. Despite claiming poverty and an inability to pay the restitution he owes, money has been magically appearing! Money was transferred to his wife, and Kwame  himself received $4,000 from a mystery source. None of these funds were disclosed to the state by Kilpatrick, despite being required to do so under the conditions of his probation. It is suspected that Kilpatrick has money hidden, and that is the source of the funds.

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