Saturday 29 August 2020

Unsealed 'Herbalife' ('HLF') conspiracy charges again confirm declared 'lawful Chinese sales revenues' were just another chapter in the pernicious 'MLM' fairy story

Minutes | DOJ U.S. Department of Justice ''Qui Pro Domina Justitia  Sequitur'' 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001

La marca herbalife en china

Yesterday, the first vague media reports stated that criminal charges had been unsealed; implying that the criminal prosecution of 'Herbalife' under the US federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (for conspiracy to bribe senior Chinese officials) would now be going ahead in the USA. Trading in 'Herbalife' shares had been temporarily suspended on Wall St., after their value crashed 13% on the above news. Perhaps it's just an (un)fortunate coincidence, but 3 weeks ago, Donald Trump's old pal, Carl Icahn, sold 40% of his 'Herbalife' holdings for around $750 millions. Icahn still owns around 15.5% of this ultimately-worthless 'MLM' racketeering front-company and, for obvious reasons, he's still pretending 'Herbalife' is a great investment.  

Hang on, I hear you all saying, surely in Trumpland this long-awaited 'Herbalife' case can't actually be going to go to trial - where 'MLM' bosses might be held to account for some of their many crimes?

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - Wikipedia

And you'd be right, because almost immediately it was then reported that although the criminal conspiracy charges against 'Herbalife' have been unsealed, the company is, in fact, being allowed to pay $123 millions to suspend law enforcement actions in the USA (for three and a half years) pursued by both the Dept. of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission - provided no further violations of the FCPA occur. Indeed'Herbalife' shares were later traded yesterday and, mysteriously, they settled only 2% down on their previous level.

The DoJ says it has: 'reached a deferred-prosecution agreement with Herbalife to resolve a count of conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).'  In other words, to halt this action, 'Herbalife' has agreed to pay back more than $55m in addition to admitting criminal conduct.

Brian Rabbitt, acting assistant attorney-general for the DoJ’s criminal division, is quoted as saying:

By engaging in a decade-long scheme to falsify its books and records to conceal corrupt and other improper payments to Chinese officials and state-owned entities, Herbalife misrepresented important information made available to investors,” 

In a related action, the Securities and Exchange Commission says 'Herbalife' will pay more than $67m to settle claims that it violated accounting provisions of the FCPA. 

Once you know how 'MLM' cultic rackets have always functioned, Chinese officials have quite obviously been bribed to allow the pernicious 'Herbalife/MLM' fairy story to infect the minds of their ill-informed compatriots - despite what it says on the charge sheet, and in the news reports, about the bribes having been paid to obtain business licenses.

Commercial cults peddling fake direct selling opportunities based on the crack-pot pseudo-economic theory that: never ending recruitment + never-ending payments/purchases by the recruits = never-ending profits for the recruits, have been identified and banned by law in China, but mysteriously, the most-notorious American 'MLM' front-companies have been allowed to operate there simply by pretending to be traditional door-to-door direct selling businesses in full-compliance with Chinese MLM banning legislation.

We know that for years, 'Herbalife's' share value has been propped up with declared earnings from China. However, these were illegal revenues which are now revealed by US prosecutors as having been the product of a vast international criminal conspiracy. Indeed, in recent years approximately 20% of 'Herbalife's' declared 'sales revenues,' upon which its inflated share-value was based, were from China.

Predictably, the 'Herbalife (HLF) MLM' racket has only survived in China due to ignorance and corruption.

The Chinese flag. (Flickr/Peter Fuchs)

The following article was published last May, in response to a journalist who wanted to know:

'Why do MLMs still exist in China when MLMs are illegal there?'

In truth, this question was essentially as naive as asking me:

Why do frauds still exist everywhere when frauds are illegal everywhere?


In 2005, China introduced a law entitled:

'Regulation of Direct Sales and Regulation on Prohibition of Chuanxiao' 
(Chuanxiao = 'Multi-Level Marketing'). 

This attempt at common-sense legislation was (supposedly) designed to establish a clear and unambiguous legal distinction between traditional, single level, sustainable direct selling and economically-unviable, endless-chain/infinite level, pay-to-play recruitment frauds disguised as 'direct selling.'

According to certain reports, during the drafting of this legislation, representatives of some of the largest US-based 'MLM' companies were consulted by Chinese government officials, but I have not bothered to verify this claim. For even if this was true and these particular officials were not corrupt, once you know how 'MLM' rackets function, it becomes immediately obvious that one of the devious tactics pursued by their bosses has been to agree to comply with any form of legislation proposed by trade regulators (including attempts to ban 'MLM' rackets) in order to establish their corporate Trojan Horses around the globe.
Thus, according to the 2005 law, traditional direct sales schemes in which participants can reasonably expect to earn commission by regularly selling goods/services externally to the general public (based on value and demand) are permitted in China, but (intrinsically-fraudulent) so-called 'Multi-Level Marketing income opportunity' schemes which, by design, can generate no significant, or sustainable, revenue other than that deriving mostly from their own ill-informed participants' internal purchases of goods/services (based on the false-expectation of future reward), and on the internal purchases of further ill-informed recruits (based on the false-expectation of future reward), etc., are absolutely banned. 
On pain of arrest or forfeiture of assets, the same Chinese law (theoretically) requires:
  • all traditional direct sales companies, and their non-salaried sales agents, to operate under license.
  • all traditional direct sales companies to pay-out commissions to one level only of non-salaried sales agents, and these commissions must be limited to a maximum of 30%.
  • all traditional direct sales companies to provide extensive, ongoing free training for their non-salaried sales agents.
  • all Chinese non-salaried direct sales agents not only to carry a license as proof of training and compliance with the law, but also to wear an identification badge whilst attempting to conduct sales.

    In practice, unlicensed agents of 'MLM' rackets have been able to enter China from the neighbouring legal jurisdictions of Taiwan and Hong Kong (where no common-sense banning-law has been introduced); whilst Chinese citizens have easily dodged the law by giving Taiwanese or Hong Kong addresses on their 'MLM' contracts, and by using Taiwanese or Hong Kong banks.

    However, it is common-knowledge that China is one of, if not the most, corrupt countries on Earth. Furthermore, 'MLM' racketeers have evidently long-since realised that the introduction of any law, which is then not enforced, has the effect of authorising the very crime which the same law apparently sought to prohibit. 

    The bosses of 'Herbalife' are just one of several US-based 'MLM' mobs who have been pretending to be in total compliance with the law in China, whilst bribing corrupt Chinese government officials to turn a blind eye to their hidden criminal enterprises.

    Ever since instigation in 1980, 'Herbalife Ltd.' has been the legally-registered, Los Angeles-based, corporate-front for an 'Amway' copy-cat, blame-the-victim 'Multi-Level Marketing' cultic racket which, due to chronic international regulatory-failure (born of ignorance and/or corruption in the USA), has been allowed to become publicly-traded on Wall St. and to spread (with no appropriate official challenge) onto a global scale. 

    Only when an honest observer looks beyond the end of his/her nose and fully-recognises the profitable criminal enterprise that the 'MLM' fairy story has been hiding, does it become immediately obvious that every move the wealthiest 'MLM' peddlers have made (and will continue to make) fits into an overall pattern of ongoing major racketeering activity (as defined by the US federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, 1970).
    'MLM' racketeers' have all been travelling down the same dark road from which there is no turning back. Consequently, their steps can be predicted with almost 100% accuracy; for they will go to almost any lengths to sustain their hidden criminal enterprises and to avoid being held personally to account.

    As explained above, mystifying so-called 'MLM Income Opportunities' shielding infinite-level rigged-market swindles (a.k.a. pyramid schemes based on peddling the dangerous pseudo-economic theory that endless-chain recruitment + endless purchases of products/services by the recruits = endless profits for the recruits) have supposedly been recognised and banned in China. However, until 2017, the 'Herbalife' racket had been steadily gnawing its way into China right under the noses of the regulatory authorities and state-controlled media. Predictably, 'Herbalife's' bosses have been pretending that unlike everywhere else in the world, in compliance with Chinese legislation, 'Herbalife's' Chinese subsidiary does not offer a so-called 'MLM income Opportunity.' Indeed, in 2016, 'Herbalife's' bosses falsely-declared to the US Securites and Exchange Commission that in excess of $800 millions (around 20% of global annual revenue) was deriving legally from China (i.e. without breaching any Chinese legislation identifying, and banning so-called 'MLM' schemes, as frauds, or breaching the US federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). 

    In January 2017, to avoid any risk of being charged with withholding key-information from investors, the bosses of 'Herbalife' were obliged to declare publicly that senior employees of their Chinese subsidiary were under US federal investigation concerning acts of corruption, and that the results of this investigation could possibly have a detrimental effect of the company's share price. Typically, 'Herbalife's' bosses also announced an internal review which predictably resulted in the senior employees in question being blamed and fired and the 'policies and procedures' of 'Herbalife's' Chinese operation being 'enhanced.' 
    Almost 2 years later, in a Manhattan federal court, the US Dept of Justice charged two former executives of 'Herbalife' (China) with bribing Chinese officials over a 10 year period, destroying material evidence and lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
    According to the DOJ, during the period 2007-2016, at least $25 millions had flowed through 'Herbalife's' Chinese External Affairs Dept., headed by Hongwei (a.k.a. Mary) Yang (a Chinese Citizen b. 1968), to supply gifts and entertainment to Chinese government officials. Along with the (former) Managing Director of 'Herbalife's' Chinese subsidiary, the appropriately-named Yangliang (a.k.a. Jerry) Li (a Chinese Citizen b. 1968), Ms. Yang was charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Mr. Li was also charged with perjury and destruction of records in federal investigations.

    The DOJ's idictment concluded that Ms. Yang and others had bribed key Chinese government officials for the purpose of:

    • obtaining direct selling licenses for 'Herbalife' in China.
    • preventing investigations into 'Herbalifes' real activities in China.
    • suppressing negative coverage of 'Herbalife' by state-controlled Chinese media.

    State Administration for Industry and Commerce logo.jpg

    As far as I'm aware, the identities of the recipients of the 'Herbalife' bribes have not been fully-disclosed, except in the DoJ indictment it seems that one is referred to as Deputy Director of the (S)AIC (the State Administration for Industry and Commerce which is the Chinese equivalent of the US Federal Trade Commission). One, therefore, presumes that this particular corrupt Chinese government official must have been the head of the SAIC's Direct Selling Regulation Bureau.

    When you read the indictment, you also discover that federal prosecutors had access to incriminating audio recordings of conversations (dating back years) which the 'Herbalife' executives had with the government officials whom they bribed. 

    Indeed the content of the indictment begs many questions:

    • who exactly gathered this evidence in China?

    • why was this evidence not acted on sooner?

    • how did this evidence find its way to US federal prosecutors?

    • what has happened to the 2 Chinese 'Herbalife' executives and where are they?

    • what has happened to the various corrupt central, and provincial, Chinese government officials whom the 'Herbalife' mob bribed?

    • what has happened to the wives and adult children of the corrupt Chinese officials who also received bribes and who were, therefore, party to the conspiracy?

    • how much money have the 'Herbalife' mob removed from China unlawfully?

    • have the Chinese authorities sought to recoup this stolen money?

    • will Bill Ackman be re-appearing in the 'Herbalife' saga, because during his failed attempt to short-sell 'Herbalife,' the company's declared annual revenues are now known to have been false - as a significant % of them were secretly being stolen in China, and 'Herbalife's' share-value was, therefore, being propped-up by what is apparently now officially-recognised as being a hidden criminal enterprise.

    One would have to be pretty stupid, and/or corrupt, not to deduce that Ms. Yang and Mr. Li cannot have been acting independently, because every devious crime they committed was ultimately to the financial benefit of 'Herbalife's' bosses. Indeed, every devious crime that these expendable little corporate soldiers committed in China must have been at the direction of 'Herablife's' generals in the USA - fitting perfectly into a pattern of overall major racketeering activity (as defined by the US federal RICO Act, 1970). 

     I've said it before and I'll say it again: in respect of 'MLM' cultic racketeering, you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time (with the notable exception of the flock of amoral dunces with law diplomas temporarily holding down low-paid jobs with US federal government agencies).
    Again, to avoid any risk of being charged with withholding key-information from investors, the bosses of 'Herbalife' have lately been obliged to declare publicly that $123 millions has been reserved to settle all these outstanding matters in the USA. However, what 'Herbalife's' attorneys have actually been negotiating with SEC and DoJ attorneys, is not yet clear. 

    Furthermore, as far as I'm aware, as Chinese citizens Ms. Yang and Mr. Li, along with the various unamed key Chinese government officials whom they bribed (by order of 'Herbalife's'  American bosses), all risk execution by lethal injection (if convicted of high-value bribery/corruption under Chinese law). However, it is not clear whether any of them have yet been charged with any crime by the Chinese authorities or where Ms. Yang and Mr Li are. Indeed, it makes me wonder what might be about to happen in China with regard to the entire phenomenon of blame-the-victim 'MLM' cultic racketeering, because above all people, the rulers of totalist regimes always have a distinct advantage when it comes to recognising totalism, no matter how it has been camouflaged.

    The questions here are absolutely endless, but no journalist seems to be very interested.  To date, the way these serious matters have been reported by the morally-relativist media, has been typically limp and misleading. 

    David Brear (copyright 2020)


    'Multi-Level Marketing' Warning.

    The following deconstructed analysis has been formulated to sharpen the critical and evaluative faculties of all unwary persons approaching so-called 'Multi-Level Marketing' from the dangerous (subjective) point of view that it must be a business/industry, rather than from the safe (purely-objective) point of view that they don't really know what it is.


    More than half a century of quantifiable evidence proves beyond all reasonable doubt that:

    • the widely-misunderstood phenomenon that has become popularly-known as 'Multi-Level Marketing' (a.k.a. 'Network Marketing') is nothing more than an absurd, non-rational,  cultic, economic pseudo-science maliciously-designed to lure unwary persons into de facto servitude, dissociate them from external reality and not only steal their money, but also deceive them into unconsciously acting the role of bait to lure other unwary persons (particularly their friends and family members) into the same trap. 
    • the impressive-sounding made-up jargon term, 'MLM,' is therefore, the misleading title for an enticing structured-scenario of control which has been developed, and constantly acted out as  reality, by the instigators, and associates, of various copy-cat, major and minor, ongoing organised crime groups (hiding behind labyrinths of legally-registered corporate structures) to shut-down the critical, and evaluative, faculties of victims, and of casual observers, in order to perpetrate, and dissimulate, a series of blame-the-victim 'Long Cons*'  - comprising self-perpetuating rigged-market swindles**, a.k.a. pyramid scams (dressed up as 'legitimate direct selling income opportunites') and related advance-fee frauds (dressed up as 'legitimate: training and motivation, self-betterment, programs, recruitment leads, lead generation systems,' etc.).
    • Apart from an insignificant minority of shills (whose leading-role in the 'Long Con' has been to pretend that anyone can achieve financial freedom simply by following their unquestioning example and exactly-duplicating a step-by-step-plan of recruitment and self-consumption)the hidden overall net-loss/churn rate for participation in so-called 'MLM income opportunities,' has always been effectively 100%.

    *A 'Long Con' is a form of fraud maliciously designed to exploit victims' existing beliefs and instinctual desires and make them falsely-believe that they are exercising a completely free-choice. 'Long Cons' comprise an enticing structured-scenario of control acted out as reality over an extended period. Like theatrical plays, 'Long Cons' are written, directed and produced. They involve leading players and supporting players as well as props, sets, extras, costumes, script, etc. The hidden objective of 'Long Cons' is to convince unwary persons that fiction is fact and fact is fiction, progressively cutting them off from external reality. In this way, victims begin unconsciously to play along with the controlling-scenario and (in the false-expectation of future reward) large sums of money or valuables can be stolen from them. Classically, the victims of 'Long Cons' can become deluded to such an extent that they will abandon their education, jobs, careers, etc., empty their bank accounts, and/or beg, steal, borrow from friends, family members, etc.


    ** The enticing structured-scenario of control fundamental to all 'rigged-market swindles' is that people can earn income by first contributing their own money to participate in a profitable commercial opportunity, but which is secretly an economically-unviable fake due to the fact that the (alleged) opportunity has been rigged so that it generates no significant, or sustainable, revenue other than that deriving from its own ill-informed participants. For more than 50 years, 'Multi-Level Marketing' racketeers have been allowed to dissimulate rigged-market swindles by offering endless-chains of victims various banal, but over-priced, products, and/or services, in exchange for unlawful losing-investment payments, on the pretext that 'MLM' products/services can then be regularly re-sold for a profit in significant quantities via expanding networks of distributors. However, since 'MLM' products/services cannot be regularly re-sold to the general public for a profit in significant quantities (based on value and demand), 'MLM' participants have, in fact, been peddled infinite shares of their own finite money (in the false expectation of future reward). 

    Thus, in 'MLM' rackets, the innocent looking products/sevices' function has been to hide what is really occurring - i.e The operation of an unlawful, intrinsically fraudulent, rigged-market where effectively no non-salaried (transient) participant can generate an overall net-profit, because, unknown to the non-salaried (transient) participants, the market is in a permanent state of collapse and requires its non-salaried (transient) participants to keep finding further (temporary) de facto slaves to sustain the enticing illusion of stability and viability.

    Meanwhile an insignificant (permanent) minority direct the 'Long Con' - raking in vast profits by selling into the rigged-market and by controlling/withholding all key-information concerning the rigged-market's actual catastrophic, ever-shifting results from its never-ending chain of (temporary) de facto slaves.

    Although cure-all pills potions and vitamin/dietary supplements, household and beauty, products have been most-prevalent, it is possible to use any product, and/or service, to dissimulate a rigged-market swindle. There are even some 'MLM' rackets that have been hidden behind well-known traditional brands (albeit offered at fixed high prices). Some 'MLM' rackets have included 'cash-back/discount shopping cards, travel products, insurance, energy/communications services' and 'crypto-currencies' in their controlling scenarios.

    No matter what bedazzling product/service has been dangled as bait, in 'MLM' rackets, there has been no significant or sustainable source of revenue other than never-ending chains of contractees of the 'MLM' front companies. These front-companies always pretend that their products/services are high quality and reasonably-priced and that for anyone prepared to put in some effort, the products/services can be sold on for a profit via expanding networks of distributors based on value and demand. In reality, the underlying reason why it has mainly only been (transient) 'MLM' contractees who have bought the various products /services (and not the general public) is because they have been tricked into unconsciously playing along with the controlling scenario which constantly says that via regular self-consumption and the recruitment of others to do the same, etc. ad infinitum, anyone can receive a future (unlimited) reward.

    I've been examining the 'MLM' phenomenon for around 20 years. During this time, I've yet to find one so-called 'MLM' company that has voluntarily made key-information available to the public concerning the quantifiable results of its so-called 'income opportunity'.

    Part of the key-information that all 'MLM' bosses seek to hide concerns the overall number of persons who have signed contracts since the front companies were instigated and the retention rates of these contractees. 

    When rigorously investigated, the overall hidden net-loss churn rates for so-called 'MLM income opportunites' has turned out to have been effectively 100%. Thus, anyone claiming (or implying) that it is possible for anyone to make a penny of net-profit, let alone a living, in an 'MLM,' cannot be telling the truth and will not provide quantifiable evidence to back up his/her anecdotal claims.

    Although a significant number of 'MLM' front-companies (like 'Vemma', 'Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing', 'Wake Up Now') have been shut-down by commercial regulators, some of the biggest 'MLM' rackets (like 'Amway' ,'Herbalife', Forever Living Products' ) have continued to hide in plain sight whilst secretly churning tens of millions of losing participants over decades.

    The quantifiable results of the self-perpetuating global 'Long Con' known as 'Multi Level Marketing,' have been fiendishly hidden by convincing victims that they are 'Independent Business Owners' and that any losses they incurred, must have been entirely their own fault for not working hard enough. 

    Blog readers should observe how (in the above linked-videos) chronic victims of 'MLM' cults are incapable of describing what they were subjected to in accurate terms. Even though they are no longer physically playing along with the 'Long Con's' controlling-scenario, they unconsciously continue to think, and speak, using the jargon-laced 'MLM' script - illogically describing themselves as 'Distributors.' 

    Chronic victims of blame-the-victim cultic rackets who have managed to escape and confront the ego-destroying reality that they’ve been systematically deceived and exploited, are invariably destitute and dissociated from all their previous social contacts. For years afterwards, recovering cult victims can suffer from psychological problems (which are also generally indicative of the victims of abuse):

    depression; overwhelming feelings (guilt, grief, shame, fear, anger, embarrassment, etc.); dependency/ inability to make decisions; retarded psychological/ intellectual development; suicidal thoughts; panic/ anxiety attacks; extreme identity confusion; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; insomnia/ nightmares; eating disorders; psychosomatic illness, fear of forming intimate relationships; inability to trust; etc. 

    David Brear (copyright 2020)