Consumer Advocate Sued Into Silence
My slogan at Lazy Man and Money is "make your money work... so you don't have to." The idea is to save money, invest it, and let compound interest do the work.
One day, my wife was marketed a $45 bottle of juice. I couldn't figure out who would pay $5000 a year for a family of four to drink 2-ounce servings of juice. I asked my readers (paraphrased), "What is going on, here?" I also asked myself, "could this be some sort of pyramid scheme?"
MLM or Pyramid Scheme?
That company was a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company. I began spending a lot of my time researching these companies. I was particularly interested in how distributors were getting away with making claims that they've found cures for cancer, autism, and any other disease you can imagine.
As this NY Times article illustrates, there's no way for a consumer to know the difference between an MLM and a pyramid scheme. The FTC gives some guidelines, but the consumer is left to make their own judgment of whether company is a legit company or a pyramid scheme. One example is how hard it is comes from Harper's Magazine which makes a case that Mary Kay is a pyramid scheme.
I've been fortunate that readers find my analysis so fair and balanced that they regularly ask me to review MLMs their friend is pushing. I review the companies to the best of my ability and cite sources as I did in the previous paragraph. Since MLM distributors are financially rewarded by recruiting others, the majority of the information given to recruits is favorable to the MLM/pyramid scheme. I aim to provide an unbiased resource. My interest is only in helping people reach financial freedom (the core goal of Lazy Man and Money).
The Companies Bring on Lawsuits
In 2013, I received my first lawsuit. I was fortunate enough to find a great lawyer who believed in my cause. I defended the case to the best of my financial ability, but eventually had no choice but to settle. In 2015, I was sued by a non-MLM company for my Yelp-style review of my experience with their company. Again, I was fortunate to find a great lawyer who believed in my cause. The case is still pending.
Earlier this month, I was sued by Le-Vel, which is another MLM. I've talked to a number of lawyers and haven't found a fit like the previous two lawyers. It looks like it's going to cost tens of thousands to defend the lawsuit for my article reviewing Le-Vel. I'm seeking to raise money for those legal fees.
In nearly 200 comments from readers, they've left some incredible praise for my analysis and condemnation for the company. I've included a sample of some of the testimonials at the end of this.
Twice TruthInAdvertising.org has warned consumers about Le-Vel's products and marketing a couple of times. At Know the Thrive Experience it concludes, "When earning your fortune depends on constant recruitment, you may find yourself entangled in a possible pyramid scheme." You might also want to read What You Should Knowabout Thrive.
Le-vel also has a an F rating with BBB.
Please Save Free Speech
The lawyers that I've talked to have said that this is what is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The goal of this lawsuit, like the other lawsuits is to burden me with legal fees in order to bully me into a settlement that means taking down my article. It's not intended to right a wrong, but instead to harass. The website Popehat a great article about SLAPPs.
I'm asking for you to help me retain my freedom of speech so that I can continue to help consumers. My website makes very little money and certainly not enough to pay lawyers $25,000 everytime a company singles me out because I'm not a non-profit organization with lawyers on staff like Truth In Advertising.
I'm just one person with a voice. Please help me protect the millions of consumers that Lazy Man and Money has served over the last ten years.
Without your donation, I am likely to have to delete the information that has helped so many.
Testimonials about my Le-Vel Article
"This scam of a company needs to be taken down... These guys are definitely frauds, just google the name of the company or the co-founders and the word Fraud and see what comes up from their past. If you try at all, you can uncover what is going on here pretty easily." - Allison Best
"Bravo Lazy Man!
Standing in the line of fire and getting hit with bullets of ignorance from people who don’t have a clue about nutrition and exercise, is definately a thankless job..." - Spartan Training
"Thank you for this post, it was very informative and answered all of the questions that I had about this. A colleague is trying to get me roped into this because she claims that it cured her chronic fatigue syndrome. But I had concerns as a practitioner, mostly that it seems that all of the results are gained through giving people adrenalin-inducing vitamin/herb/amino acids. It basically appears to be herbal speed that costs a hell of a lot of money. And I am always turned off by MLMs since I have yet to be exposed to one that was not a pyramid scheme." - Sarah
Read many, many, more here.
Yesterday, one donator wrote, about my RainSoft article ( http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/rainsoft-scam/):
"OMG this just happened to us yesterday. The exact same experience as most of you on here."
Imagine if he/she didn't have that information available to him?
I can't tell you how much I'm touched by the sharing and funding of this campaign from people like you.
These big companies hire big lawyers to protect their Google search results.
Let's send a message that free speech was protected when our fore-fathers ratified the First Amendment.
Don't let big companies use a legal loophole to prevent the spread of useful information to the public.
You deserve an update and I'd love to give you all the details, but law is boring stuff that I don't fully understand. I wouldn't want to misstate anything. Even if I did, I think my lawyers would have everything to lose if I exposed a "playbook" that Le-Vel could use against them.
So for now, I'll just say that legal papers are going back and forth and it's in the courts.
In my experience this isn't exactly the quickest process (maybe there's some value to Judge Judy after all?) .
I expect to have some kind of resolution in 3 months or so. However, as things are shaping up, I think you might see an update from me before that.
It's likely the first step in a long journey. It's clear that it might cost tens of thousands of dollars down the line. If there's one thing I've learned, "lawsuits are very uncertain things."
I'll keep you as updated as I can, but obviously my counsel may want me to keep quiet about some things so as to not tip our hands to the other side.
I posted an update on my website with Le-Vel's cease and desist letter here: http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/le-vel-lawsuit-update/
I am quite surprised that nearly half of the donations thus far are for $100 or more. I was expecting that most of the donations (if any) would be in the $10-15 range. This is an amazing.
I realized that I never actually published the lawsuit. Here is what Le-Vel's representation filed in Collin County, Texas: http://static.lazymanandmoney.com/images/2016/02/24143040/20160126_Le-vel-Lawsuit-Petition.pdf
I found the mention of my family trip to Texas for my wife's friend's wedding in 2009 (years before Le-Vel even existed) to be particularly amusing.