A. Medifast’s Evidence Does Not Prima Facie Show That FitzPatrick’s “Endless Chain” Statement is Provably False
Medifast’s reply again does not demonstrate that FitzPatrick’s endless-chain statement is false. Because Medifast has alleged libel, it must make a prima facie showing that challenged statements are untrue. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 516 (1991). Courts also evaluate whether an average reader would consider the statement to be fact or protected opinion. Carver v. Bonds, 135 Cal.App.4th 328, 344 (2005).Continue reading
For decades, muti-level marketing companies like Amway, Mary Kay, Herbalife, Avon, and Usana have fought against being labeled as pyramid schemes. They say that pyramid schemes are illegal, and that their MLM business format is perfectly legal.
My definition of MLMs is a little nuanced. I tend to call them legalized pyramid schemes. What I mean by this is that multi-level marketing companies are indeed pyramid schemes, but our state and federal governments allow them to operate and generally call them legal if they have the right window dressing.Continue reading
Under each, a plaintiff must account for both the plaintiff’s failure to investigate the would-be fiduciary before investing with the fiduciary and the plaintiff’s failure to monitor the fiduciary’s activities subsequent to the investment. As to the first, there are often many red flags to alert an investor to a Ponzi scheme that reasonable investors should notice and that many investors choose to ignore in pursuit of high returns. Fraud detection expert Tracy Coenen has noted more than fifteen red flags signaling a Ponzi scheme that any investor could spot with a reasonably diligent (and fairly simple) investigation. These items include:Continue reading
Through the years, multi-level marketing companies and MLM distributors have played a clever game of changing the wording to hide the truth. MLM activities have been referred to as direct sales, dual marketing, network marketing, multilevel marketing, consumer direct marketing, affiliate marketing, seller assisted marketing scams, home-based business franchising, and referral marketing. (Skeptics refer to this “business model” as pyramid selling, pyramid schemes, pyramid scams, endless chain recruiting, and Ponzi schemes.)
Why all the names? To confuse potential customers and recruits. These companies know negative impressions are associated with multi-level recruiting and sales. So if they can change the name, maybe they will get to people who would otherwise be turned off by the name MLM.Continue reading
Fortune Hi Tech Marketing is one of hundreds of multilevel marketing companies that operate in the U.S through a combination of clever lawyering (“Let me show you how to set up your MLM so it appears to abide by the laws.”) and failure of law enforcement to enforce the laws against pyramid schemes and business opportunity scams (aided in large part by the Direct Selling Association and its lobbying efforts).
What makes FHTM different? Nothing, really. Every multi-level marketing company seems to claim it is different! It either has magic juice, special vitamins, the supposed opportunity to make money on things you already consume anyway, or any of a number of claims of uniqueness.
FHTM was founded in 2001 by former Excel Communications superstar Paul Orberson. This news story on Fortune Hi Tech Marketing from WHAS11 in Louisville, KY say that the company has 200,000 representatives and brings in revenue of $500 million per year. (Although the company’s CEO, Tom Mills, claimed he didn’t know how many representatives FHTM had. Incredible!) Oddly enough, this multi-million dollar business is run with only 60 employees at headquarters.Continue reading
Last month, Penn & Teller’s Showtime show Bullshit! featured multi-level marketing. They did an excellent job of hitting the high points on why MLMs almost guarantee failure for all the participants. Sure, there will be a couple of people at the top of the pyramid that make money, but that’s only because hundreds or thousands below them have lost money.
Lost money? Yes, MLM is all about losing money. They use a product as a “front” to hide this money transfer and make the scheme appear to comply with the law. But the products are of dubious quality, and significantly overpriced. MLMs aren’t really selling a product, they’re selling an “opportunity,” one in which almost everyone loses.