Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) False Claims

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One of the most upsetting parts of the recruitment into a multi-level marketing company is the false earnings claims. People are lured into these companies with the promises of riches. It is not only done by presenting the tiny fraction of people at the top of the pyramid as typical when they are not. It is also done with outright lies about the level of income that “average” person can expect to make.

The entire business model of MLM is built around lies. Lies about how much you’ll have to work, how you’ll make your money (if you even make any), what you’ll have to do, and how you’ll develop new leads. They lie about how easy the whole thing is, and how you’ll be successful if you’re just willing to put in the time. (The truth is that you’re almost guaranteed to fail.)

Here are some of the most common lies told in the recruiting process:

1. You will be your own boss. You can set your own hours and dictate how you do business. (Not really true. The MLM company tells you how you’re allowed to do business.) You can control how much you make based on how much you’re willing to work. (Not true either. Your earnings are limited by your ability to recruit and the amount of money those recruits are are willing to put in the scheme.) Continue reading

The Myth of Retail Sales in MLM

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Multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) like to refer to themselves as “Direct Sales” companies, because this puts the focus on the sale of the product or service, and takes focus off the business of recruiting.

I’ve been researching MLMs for years, and I’ve found that companies use the product or services simply as bait and a cover. It is “bait” for recruiting because it looks legitimate to a potential recruit. (How many people would join MLMs if they were truthful and told you that what you really had to do was constantly recruit new people?)

It is a “cover,” since it is what makes the schemes legal under state and federal laws. Pyramid schemes (which are simply a transfer of money up a pyramid-like structure) are illegal. But if you use a legitimate product or service as your cover and your reason for transferring money up the pyramid, you can successfully claim that your company is not a pyramid scheme. Again, the product or service takes the focus off recruiting.

But the truth is that the people involved in multilevel marketing companies do little actual retailing of products or services to third-party customers (non-members of the scheme). The vast majority of the purchases of products and services are made by the members of the MLMs themselves, either to stock inventory (which they will probably never be able to sell) or for personal consumption. Continue reading

Dave Ramsey Still Sucks

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Eight years ago, I wrote a piece about how financial guru Dave Ramsey sucks because he supports multi-level marketing. I was hoping that since then, things may have changed. They haven’t. Dave has even gone further with his support and promotion of MLMs as a legitimate way for people to make money. He ignores the fact that 99% of people lose money in MLM, and obviously thinks that the people who lose money just didn’t work hard enough.

In this recent article from Dave’s website, Ramsey Solutions, he wholeheartedly endorses MLM. You might think he’s going to be smart about this, given that he starts off sarcastically referring to it as the most incredible opportunity. Continue reading

Failure Rates in MLM (Multi-Level Marketing)

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More than 99% of people lose money in multi-level marketing (MLM). 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:

1. Obtain Average Earnings Statistics – These purport to show the average earnings by distributor level.
Continue reading

MLM Income Disclosure Statements Updated Again

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For years I’ve been collecting income disclosure statements issued by multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. These are the proof that you have almost no chance of making money in MLM, no matter what the company or product.

Across the board, you see that the vast majority of the distributors make almost nothing in commissions. The “average earnings” for a company as a whole sometimes looks decent (who wouldn’t want to make an extra $2,000 per year!), but the averages are skewed by the handful of people at the top of the pyramid who make big money (at the expense of the many at the bottom).

I have updated our library of disclosure statements to include new disclosure statements for 2020. The newest ones include Amway, Beachbody, Inteletravel (PlanNet Marketing), Herbalife, LuLaRoe, Mary Kay, Melaleuca, Monat, Optavia, Paparazzi, Rodan + Fields, and Xyngular.

What is a Ponzi Scheme?

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Tracy Coenen explains exactly what a Ponzi scheme is: an investment scheme in which the promoter takes money from “investors” and promises to invest it. There is little to no real investment, and when it comes time to pay “returns” those investors, the promoter needs money from NEW “investors” to pay them. The promoter is generally stealing from the investors and constantly needs new money to keep the scam going. Ponzi schemes are often called pyramid schemes.

Why Real Product Sales Don’t Occur In MLMs

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Multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) like to refer to themselves as “Direct Sales” companies, because this puts the focus on the sale of the product or service, and takes focus off the business of recruiting.

I’ve been researching MLMs for more than 20 years, and I’ve found that companies use the product or services simply as bait and a cover. It is “bait” for recruiting because it looks legitimate to a potential recruit. (How many people would join MLMs if they were truthful and told you that what you really had to do was constantly recruit new people?)

It is a “cover,” since it is what makes the schemes legal under state and federal laws. Pyramid schemes (which are simply a transfer of money up a pyramid-like structure) are illegal. But if you use a legitimate product or service as your cover and your reason for transferring money up the pyramid, you can successfully claim that your company is not a pyramid scheme. Again, the product or service takes the focus off recruiting. Continue reading

10 Steps to Starting Your Own MLM

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Hundreds of thousands of Americans get sucked into Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) companies each year. From Mary Kay to Amway to Herbalife to Avon, 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. (Warning: They’ll deny that the focus is recruiting.)

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 a third party customer, 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). Continue reading

Herbalife Charged Criminally for Bribery

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This morning Herbalife (NYSE: HLF) was charged criminally for paying bribes to Chinese officials. The action is related to criminal liability under FCPA (U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act).

The company disclosed in an SEC filing today:

  • Herbalife violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA
  • The company will pay $123 million as a settlement with the SEC and DOJ, and this amount has been included in current liabilities on the June 30, 2020 financial statemetns
  • If the company doesn’t have any other violations for 3 years, this deferred charge will be dismissed

Herbalife disclosed in May that it had entered into a settlement agreement with the government. Today’s court proceedings make it official.

It’s fun to see pyramid schemes being held to account, even if it doesn’t happen often enough.

Monat Income Disclosure Statements

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Monat was started in 2014 as a subsidiary of Alcora Corp. The company has offers both skincare and haircare products, but has become known for its miracle shampoo and related products.

Unfortunately, Monat has been plagued by claims that the hair products cause hair loss and severe scalp irritation.

The distributors are called “Market Partners” and the company lists the following “perks” when you sign up:

  • Eligible for Independent Market Partner promotions and incentives
  • Your own replicated website/e-commerce store for easy ordering
  • 30% commission on retail sales, 15% commission on VIP Customer sales
  • Access to our physical and web-based materials to inform you, your team and your customers
  • No inventory requirements; MONAT ships directly
  • Freedom to explore sales territories locally and nationally
  • Prizes and fabulous incentive trips in recognition of reaching your goals
  • Access to Product Packs within your first 30 days of enrolling

Here are the income disclosure statements we have collected for Monat: