MLMAttorney’s most requested video of the month: What Is the U.S. and International Trend in Recognizing the Validity of Personal Use by Distributors in
Pyramid Cases?

In short, is it legal to motivate distributors to buy products in order for them to qualify for the compensation plan rewards as opposed to purchasing product/services for their own personal use or for resale? This question greatly impacts direct selling companies and their owners/executives. Read the recent Burnlounge decision on our website.

In the last 10 years, distributor personal use, as a legitimate end-destination for product/service has been increasingly recognized by courts, legislatures and regulators. In 2013 and 2014, two European Union tribunals; now counting more than a dozen U.S. states have amended MLM statutes. In 2004, an FTC advisory opinion applauded efficiencies of

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MLM Expert Attorney, Jeff Babener offers ten FTC vs. Vemma litigation bullet points.

MLM Expert Attorney, Jeff Babener offers ten FTC vs. Vemma litigation bullet points.

On August 17, 2015, the FTC filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Arizona, seeking a permanent injunction against Tempe-based Vemma International Holdings, Inc., a long-time direct selling marketer of health-related products. The FTC was successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order, which shut the company and froze its assets. Further proceedings for a hearing on a preliminary and permanent injunction and other relief were set to the future.

Such a scenario has been a common approach for the FTC. The most recent actions resulted in permanent injunctions against BurnLounge and Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing. For a summary of the most significant federal actions during the past few decades, please see:

Herbalife: What Short Sellers Missed on the Way to the Press Conference…

Jeffrey Babener (2013)

The primary accusation against Vemma is that its program focused on recruitment rather than sale of product to the ultimate user, thus rendering the program a pyramid scheme and a deceptive practice under FTC legislation. In addition, the FTC has charged that Vemma is deceptive in its earnings representations.

FTC vs. Vemma Litigation Bullet Points:

  1. (a) This case affirms the BurnLounge standard requiring emphasis on sales to ultimate users, which includes nonparticipant retail customers and personal use in reasonable amounts. Primary motivation for distributor purchases should be destination to ultimate users and not to qualify in the plan for compensation.

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MLMLegal.com Releases Comprehensive Analysis on Landmark Case on Pyramid Guidance and the Role of “Personal Use” in Pyramid Analysis

PORTLAND, OR–(Marketwired – June 26, 2014) –

Click for the full article analysis and actual BurnLounge case at BurnLounge Appeal Decision: Guidance on Pyramid v. Legitimate MLM and the Role of Personal Use in Pyramid Analysis

Excerpt of the BurnLounge Analysis Article:

On June 2, 2014, in the case of FTC v. BurnLounge, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a seminal decision, affirming a lower court finding that the BurnLounge MLM (multilevel marketing) program was an illegal pyramid scheme, in violation of section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, a decision that will dramatically impact the landscape of direct selling to provide guidance on two fundamental legal issues:

(1) What activity constitutes a “pyramid scheme?”

(2) What is the role of “personal use” (by distributors) in pyramid case analysis?

Stakeholders: “We Won!!” Proxy Wars…

Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan. – John Kennedy (1961)

As with any inconclusive war, the stakeholders offered immediate statements of victory or vindication.

That is, other than BurnLounge. BurnLounge lost, and a permanent injunction was affirmed.

However, BurnLounge was a proxy war on the tests for “pyramid” and the role of “personal use” in pyramid analysis, among the interested parties, short sellers of publicly traded direct selling companies, publicly traded direct selling companies, industry spokespersons such as the DSA, the FTC, MLM critics, etc.

Each, in turn, issued press releases or statements claiming victory and validation of their respective positions.

The BurnLounge decision offered guidance for all stakeholders and a clear message for “going forward.”

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