Sep 15 2009

FTC vs Kevin Trudeau

In my opinion, Kevin Trudeau is one of the most notorious snake-oil pushers of our generation. After spending time in prison for bad checks and credit card fraud, he would have us believe that he somehow hit upon “cures they don’t want you do know about.” Isn’t it interesting that convicted con-artists always seems to hit upon such well-guarded secrets. Dennis Lee claims to have found the secret of limitless energy, if only he were not attacked by Big Oil and a corrupt government. Kevin Trudeau claims to have found the cures for just about everything, but The Man is trying to shut him down.

What is even more amazing than the audacity of these claims is that a sufficient portion of the population is credulous enough to throw millions of dollars at the likes of Trudeau and Lee. Thankfully in most civilized nations it is a crime to lie to people in order to take their money. The problem has always been enforcement – authorities don’t have the resources to keep up with the constant whack-a-mole game against con artists. Sometimes they lack adequate authority to hand out punishments that would serve as a true deterrent.

However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has apparently had their sights on Kevin Trudeau and seem to finally be putting a dent in his snake oil empire. Trudeau became rich using infomercials to sell the public the “natural cures they don’t want you do know about,” and then follow up with the cure for debt and weight loss they don’t want you to know about. Wow – this guy is versatile, a medical and financial genius.

The FTC is taking him to task for misrepresenting his diet cure, which Trudeau has claimed is an “easy” method for weight loss. This “easy” method involves a 500 calorie per day diet (OK, you can stop there, but he adds), prescription hormone injections, and colonic for a month. It’s just that easy – no wonder the diet industry wants to keep this under wraps. If people knew they could lose weight just by eating 500 calories per day, why would they waste time and money on any other diet product.

Well, a Federal judge (aka The Man) decided that Trudeau violated the consent decree that the FTC had placed on Trudeau – essentially saying he cannot lie to the public to sell his wares. The Chicago Tribune reports:

At first, Gettleman imposed a $5.2 million fine. The FTC petitioned for a modest increase, and without a detailed explanation the judge jacked it up to $37.6 million, the regulator’s estimate of how much the book took in through infomercials.

In response Trudeau is pleading poverty. He actually has the temerity to claim that he made no money from the book, that it was all altruism and charity on his part. Just stunning.

At present the case is still in appeal, mainly over the 37.6 million dollar fine and three year ban from infomercials. I think the ban should be lifelong, and if Trudeau does not end up in the poor house the fine is too little.

But this is at least encouraging – it’s good to see someone like Trudeau on the ropes.

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