I’ve been telling you for years that multi-level marketing is NOT about selling products. It’s about recruiting people into a fake opportunity. The products are the “front,” meant to make MLM look like a legitimate business. In reality, very little product is retailed to actual consumers. Instead, it’s sold to new recruits into the scheme, who have little chance of ever retailing those products for a profit.
Look no further than the case of Herbalife to prove my point. (This point is usually difficult to prove, as MLMs do their best to hide the numbers so we never see the truth behind the scam.) This month Herbalife entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC that has them paying $200 million and substantially changing how the company does business.
Herbalife falsely claimed: “Settlement Does Not Change Herbalife’s Business Model as a Direct Selling Company.”
The FTC clearly disagrees, and said in its press release about the settlement (emphasis mine): Continue reading
This week New York State Senator Jeff Klein and Public Advocate Letitia James issued a scathing report on multi-level marketing company Herbalife (NYSE: HLF). The report, The Amercian Scheme: Herbalife’s Pyramid ‘Shake’down, is based on complaints filed by 56 Herbalife victims. It definitively calls the company a pyramid scheme and highlights the company’s deceptive practices.
The key findings include:
- Since 2004, only 56 Herbalife victims in New York have been brave enough to file complaints against the company. Most victims are afraid of betraying family, friends, and neighbors.
- The 56 victims that have filed complaints reported nearly $1 million in financial losses ranging from $90 to $100,000. The average amount loss was approximately $20,000.
- Over 60 percent of new members make initial investments larger than the required $60 to $100 for the new member kit. The average initial investment is $1,800, but some are as high as $10,000.
- Herbalife distributors purport that supervisors can make as much as $20,000 in monthly income.
- Of 56 complaints analyzed, only eight victims received a check directly from Herbalife for their royalty claims. The average amount was $100.
Today 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.” Continue reading
With yesterday’s shutdown of Fortune Hi Tech Marketing, consumers have been asking if Herbalife is a similar operation. Last year Herbalife’s business model was called into question by David Einhorn, and then the company was accused of being a pyramid scheme by Bill Ackman.
Naturally, Herbalife denied being a pyramid scheme. Management has repeatedly said that Herbalife is all about selling products, and that the products are indeed selling, so it couldn’t possibly be a pyramid scheme. But according to this (start at 2:00 mark), no one really knows how much product is being sold to actual consumers. To be clear: Herbalife does not track retail sales.
I previously compared Herbalife and BurnLounge, a company shut down by FTC because it was a pyramid scheme. (BurnLounge is currently appealing, but that is a story for another day.) Today we compare Herbalife and FHTM: Continue reading
Fortune Hi Tech Marketing (FHTM), a multi-level marketing company I’ve reported on previously (and was interviewed about) was shut down today by the Federal Trade Commission. It is being reported that federal agents raided the company’s Lexington, Kentucky office.
Law enforcement says that 100,000 people across the country were recruited into FHTM, each paying $100 to $300 per year for the right to receive recruiting and sales commissions. A complaint was filed against Fortune HiTech Marketing on Thursday, and the judge issued a temporary restraining order to shut the company down.
Steve Baker, the head of the FTC’s midwest office said “..the plan was set up so that 96% of people lose money.” He also said: Continue reading
Kevin Trudeau is a charlatan with a colorful history of interaction with the authorities. Over and over, he has been found misleading consumers via infomercials (his main method of self-promotion), but now he would have you believe that he’s just a victim of the man who is trying to take away his First Amendment right to free speech.
In the early 1990s, Trudeau pleaded guilty to larceny and did time for stealing money via consumers’ credit cards. In 1996, Trudeau had legal troubles relating to his participation in Nutrition For Life, a multi-level marketing company that was accused of being a pyramid scheme. Continue reading
I thought it might be some fun to do a little research on Gerald Nehra, the attorney for Shop To Earn, who likes to intimidate bloggers who write negative reviews of MLMs. I found this item from Nehra, in response to the FTC’s proposed Business Opportunity Rule.
The rule is unlikely to be enacted in any form that will do something to stop the abuses by multi-level marketing companies. Nonetheless, these comments are fun to read. Nehra’s biggest complaint in this note? The fact that it will take time to comply with the rules! Heavens, no! Continue reading