Saturday 12 September 2020

'Herbalife (HLF)/MLM' China bribery scandal - a legalistic description.

Michael Volkov - Del Mar, CA - Alignable

Michael Volkov, author of 'Corruption Crime and Compliance.'

To anyone with a detailed understanding of how 'Multi-Level Marketing' cults have functioned, the article below is a fascinating document, in that it is an (apparently-independent) American attorney's legalistic, but (by definition) restricted, description of the 'Herbalife/MLM' China bribery scandal. With exquisite irony, though the term 'cult' has lately been regularly employed by an increasing number of media commentators, and even by some legislators, to describe the unquestioning followers of Donald Trump, according to the law, there is still no such thing as a cult in the USA.

Whether US law recognises the fact of the cult phenomenon or not, apart from its use in the sense of ‘a popular fashion especially followed by a specific section of society’ or ‘a person or thing popularised in this way,’ the traditional definition of the English noun, cult (Latin cultus worship), has been ‘a system of religious worship (Latin religiosus obligation, bondage) especially as expressed in ritual,’ or ‘devotion or homage to a person or thing.’ However, the word is now also used as shorthand for what is more-accurately described as a pernicious cult. This ongoing historic, and criminogenic, phenomenon can be briefly described as: 

any self-perpetuating, non-rational, ritual belief system established or perverted for the clandestine purpose of human exploitation by deception.

Michael Volkov, right, sits beside his client, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, during the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment hearings.
Michael Volkov (right) Alexander Vindman (centre)

It is interesting to note that the Washington-based author of this 'Herbalife' article, Michael Volkov (a former federal prosecutor who recently represented Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman during Donald Trump's impeachment hearing ), does not speculate on whether the two middle-aged Chinese nationals who are known to have conspired to commit, and to obstruct the investigation of, a catalogue of US federal crimes (in China) on behalf of (and at the direction of) 'Herbalife's' bosses (in the USA) are facing, or have faced, any criminal investigation/prosecution in China. The pair, Li Yanliang (a.k.a. Jerry Li) and Yang Hongwei (a.k.a. Mary Yang), cannot be held to account in the USA, but they have previously been described by the media (deriving from their federal indictments) merely as, 'remaining at large,' and Michael Volkov repeats the same statement. This omission is all the more remarkable, when one knows that, in practice, persons convicted of paying, or accepting, high-value bribes, can face the death penalty in China. Nor does Michael Volkov speculate on how US federal agents/prosecutors obtained the evidence of these highly-organised crimes (which date back to 2006) or why it took so long before charges could be brought in the USA, and only under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: not also under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Furthermore, in his piece, Michael Volkov implies (probably inadvertently) that MLM schemes are allowed in China and that  'Herbalife' was openly operating as an MLM scheme there - albeit with illegally-obtained direct sales licenses. Strangely, however, he seems not to know (or refuses to say) what the term 'MLM' has been hiding, or that, in 2005, China introduced a law entitled: 'Regulation of Direct Sales and Regulation on Prohibition of Chuanxiao' (Chuanxiao = 'Multi-Level Marketing'). 

Yet just a few minutes of research, and informed-analysis, would have revealed that this attempt at common-sense legislation in China 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 the 2005 legislation, representatives of some of the largest US-based 'MLM' companies (including 'Herbalife') were closely-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.

    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. Thus, although the article below is not without merit, it does not attempt to explain:
    • the underlying reasons why (after 2005) the American bosses of 'MLM' front companies found it necessary to risk the lives of their agents (and those of their agents' families) in China by directing them, and supplying them with the funds, to pay multi-million dollar bribes to corrupt Chinese trade officials over a ten year period.
    • that these extensive criminal acts in China enabled the American bosses of 'Herbalife' to inflate grossly their publicly-traded front-company's declared revenues - boosting its share value its on Wall St. - and, thus, maintain a monopoly of information concerning a dissimulated criminal (and therefore, ultimately-valueless) enterprise.
    • that these extensive criminal acts in China, directed from the USA, fit into an overall global pattern of ongoing major racketeering activity.  

    David Brear (copyright 2020)


    Herbalife Settles FCPA Charges and Agrees to Pay $123 Million

    Herbalife’s China Bribery Scheme

    Herbalife’s FCPA Settlement: Lessons Learned

    DOJ and the SEC settled concluded its long-pending FCPA investigation of Herbalife Nutrition Ltd (“Herbalife”).
    Herbalife entered into a 3-year deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with DOJ and an administrative order with the SEC, and agreed to pay $55 million in criminal penalties and $67 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the SEC.  In light of the criminal penalties, the SEC declined to impose any civil penalties.
    The government filed a one-count Information charging Herbalife with conspiracy to violate the books and records provisions of the FCPA.
    In November 2019, DOJ indicted Yangling Li, aka Jerry Li, and Hongwei Yang, aka Mary Yang, two former Herbalife executives in China for participating in a ten-year bribery scheme.  Li was the former head of Herbalife’s Chinese operation, and Yang headed Herbalife’s external affairs department.  Both defendants were charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA.  Yangling Li was also charged with perjury for lying under oath for false statements made during an SEC deposition and destruction of evidence.  Both defendants remain at large.
    Herbalife Bribery Scheme
    Over a ten-year period, Herbalife built a multi-level sales operation in China, which accounted for approximately 20 percent of Herbalife’s global annual sales of $4 billion.
    Herbalife’s external affairs unit in China was responsible for interacting with Chinese government agencies and media operations.  External affairs employees entertained Chinese officials, provided meals, hospitality and gifts.  Over a ten-year period, external affairs employees were reimbursed for roughly $25 million in expenses for meals, hospitality and gifts.
    Herbalife’s China business also depended on securing licenses for direct selling operations from central and provincial governments connected to the Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”).  The regulation and oversight of direct selling operations was conducted by central and provincial entities as part of the Administration for Industry and Commerce.  China Economic Net is a state-owned media company that published articles about business issues in China.
    The bribery scheme was executed by Herbalife executives to ensure that Herbalife secured direct selling licenses, avoided government investigations and oversight, and suppressed negative coverage by government-owned media outlets.
    As an example, DOJ cited the fact that, in late 2006 through early 2007, while Herbalife’s initial application for direct selling license was pending, Herbalife made various payments and benefits to Chinese government officials responsible for review and approval of its license application.  A Herbalife executive suggested to a China executive that they falsify expense reimbursement documents in connection with the entertainment of Chinese government officials.
    Continuing thereafter, Herbalife continued to provide illegal payments and benefits to Chinese government officials, make false records regarding these expenses as travel and entertainment expenses,” and execute false Sarbanes-Oxley false certification letters.
    DOJ Settlement
    In reaching this settlement, DOJ applied its Corporate Enforcement Policy factors.  Herbalife did not voluntarily disclose the matter.  Herbalife’s conduct was persistent and lasted for approximately a decade.  The bribery scheme was carried out by senior level executives.  Herbalife did not maintain an effective compliance program.
    Herbalife was credited with cooperation with the investigation and for its remediation efforts.  Herbalife terminated and disciplined individuals involved in the misconduct, enhancing its compliance program and increasing the resources dedicated to compliance.
    Based on all of these factors, DOJ was awarded a 25 percent reduction from the bottom of the applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines range.
    Herbalife’s bribery scheme in China stretched across the 28 provinces of China and even involved an Herbalife senior executive in its headquarters in Los Angeles, California.  DOJ has indicted Yangling Li, aka Jerry Li, and Hongwei Yang, aka Mary Yang, two Chinese nationals who carried out the scheme.
    The Statement of Facts provides some important details about the scheme.  Herbalife’s business in China depended on its ability to secure direct selling licenses at the national and local level, including China’s 28 provinces.  During the period March 2007 through March 2016, Herbalife secured and maintained direct selling licenses nationally and in the 28 provinces.
    In addition to the government agencies responsible for licensing (collectively, “Chinese Government Agency 1”), various provincial and central levels of a Chinese government agency (collectively, “Chinese Government Agency 2”) were responsible for enforcing compliance with Chinese laws applicable to direct selling companies.  The bribery scheme extended to a State-Owned Media Outlet, a media company that published articles about business and other issues in China.
    Jerry Li eventually became the most senior executive at Herbalife in China.  Mary Yang was a high-level executive at Herbalife China and the head of Herbalife’s External Affairs Department during 2006 to 2017.  Li and Yang, along with two other China Executives, 1 and 2, carried out the bribery scheme in China.
    Initial Direct Selling License and Investigations
    Starting in 2006, Herbalife China applied for its first direct selling license for two cities in one province.  In conducting its review of the license application and associated investigation, Chinese Government Agencies 1 and 2 worked together to determine whether to grant Herbalife’s initial application.
    During a four-month period, ending in March 2007, Herbalife paid bribes and benefits to officials of the two Chinese Government Agencies.
    For example, in 2006, Herbalife China was subject to a fine for operating a store in a provincial capital for violating regulations.  Two sales managers, in coordination with Mary Yang, negotiated with government officials to pay bribes to lower the potential bribe.
    Later in the same year, Li approved Yang’s payments of “red envelopes” (“cash payments”) to Chinese Government Agency 2 officials and seeking reimbursement from Herbalife China for these cash payments through false reimbursement requests.
    In January 2007, Li and Yang discussed that Yang had “taken care of” a Chinese Government Agency 1 official before Yang had to address questions relating to Herbalife China’s pending direct selling license application for the province.  Li stated, “The money works well on him!”
    In March 2007, Li and Yang orchestrated payments to various Chinese Government Agency 2 officials to minimize future penalties against Herbalife China.
    During the same month, Yang told an employee to distribute gift cards (approximately $10,000) to Chinese government officials involved in Herbalife’s pending direct selling license application in the province, and a non-government official (approximately $30,000).  Li and a China Executive discussed the same day payments already made to secure the direct selling license. 
    The next day China Executive spoke to an Herbalife Executive in Los Angeles.  China Executive described how Herbalife China had obtained a license for two cities and plan to obtain licenses in other provinces.  The China Executive raised concerns about compliance with a recent policy change that restricted entertainment expenses to no more than six times in one year for any Chinese government official.  In response, the Herbalife Executive suggested that the Chinese official falsify the details of the requests and associated expense reimbursements, explaining that the auditor will never verify the details in the receipts.
    Additional Payments and Gifts to Government Officials
    After obtaining the first direct selling license, Li and others made additional improper payments and gifts to Chinese government officials and falsely recorded the expenses.
    In May 2007, Yang and China executives arranged for payment of approximately $3000 to a Chinese government official to reduce a government fine of approximately $16,000. 
    In January 2012, External Affairs employees arranged for the submission of $87,000 of fake meal and gift invoices.
    In September 2012, Yang reported to Li that she had spent 20,000 Yuan on a shopping trip and a spa visit for a Government Agency 2, along with his daughter and her classmates.  Later that same year, Yang and Li discussed providing a false confirmation of an internship for a son of a government official, and opening a bank account in a Chinese Bank to benefit the some of a Chinese Government official.
    In April 2013, Yang told Li that she had met with an official at State-Owned Media Outlet and provided food and drink to convince the official to withdraw several unflattering articles.
    Yang and other External Agency employees routinely falsified expense reports and receipts; for example, during a six month period in 2012, Yang received $772,433 in reimbursement for allegedly entertaining 4,312 government officials at 239 meals (more than one meal per day) and $248,622 in reimbursement for purported gifts to Chinese officials.
    The range of improper expenses covered numerous expenditures for expensive meals, alcohol, karaoke, and lavish gifts.  On one occasion, a Herbalife official complained about government officials’ demands for expensive entertainment and gifts, noting that the government official candidly stated that the government officials could never leave an event “empty-handed.”  Often executives and employees colluded to come up with fake names and expense reports.
    Internal Audit Oversight Failure
    The SEC’s settlement document outlines the failure of Herbalife’s Internal Audit to uncover the extensive fraudulent expense reporting and reimbursement documentation.  The Internal Audit in China reported directly to the Internal Audit at corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, California. 
    The IA China conducted an audit of China’s External Affairs office twice annually, and reported its results to the IA in the US.  The EA Audit Reports showed large expenses and identified violations of Herbalife’s internal policies relating to the FCPA, including fake receipts and verbal approval of expenses when prior, written approval had been required. 
    The SEC cited, as examples, EA Audit Reports for 2012 and 2015 revealed large amounts claimed for meals, gifts and entertainment ($3.7 million in 2012 for 6 months for 239 meals for a total number of 4,312 participants, averaging $3232 per meal; in 2015, 115 restaurant meals with government officials at an average cost of $1472 per meal).  In the 2015 Report, IA China noted that External Affairs often replaced problematic receipts and had expended $811,465 without the corporate approvals required.
    Two board members raised concerns about these IA reports and asked if the amount of these expenditures were “reasonable” under the FCPA.  The IA Director noted that these findings were “typical” and are within “tolerance.”
    Between 2012 and 2016, Herbalife reimbursed External Affairs employees for over $7.2 million in questionable meals and gifts for government officials in China.
    Herbalife’s FCPA settlement is another one for books – the wreckage left includes two criminal indictments for Chinese officials who may never be apprehended, along with $123 million in penalties.  When going through the wreckage, there are serious issues of corporate failures at senior levels of the company with pervasive and systemic misconduct in China. 
    What is surprising is the obvious red flags of expense reports and reimbursement documentation.  It is not worth listing the numerous indicators of bribery, but it is clear that the head-in-the-sand problem does not adequately capture the complicity of senior management and oversight functions in the ongoing bribery activities.
    Taking a step back, let’s look at some of the important lessons learned.
    Board and Internal Audit Failure:  Despite questions from two board members in reviewing the Internal Audit reports showing large and obvious fraudulent expenditures and documentation, Internal Audit failed to acknowledge any issue and denied any possible wrongdoing.  Evidently, the two board members were satisfied by that ridiculous and unbelievable answer.  Both the board and the Internal Auditor failed to ask for additional investigation and follow up.  The amount of money spent on so-called meals and entertainment were ridiculous on their face – the board members and internal Audit failed to follow up to resolve red flags.   In this situation, their excuses and rationalizations ring hollow.
    Chinese “Gift-Giving Culture”:  It goes without saying that China is a hotbed for abuse of entertainment, gifts, meals expenditures.  Through the last 20 years, FCPA enforcement actions on corrupt practices surrounding gifts, meals and entertainment expenses have focused on China.  If your company operates in China and regularly interacts with government officials, strict controls, monitoring and review controls are essential to avoiding FCPA risks.
    Numerous companies have a mix of government and private interactions in China.  The interactions with government officials often involve government officials who are critical to the business operations. There is significant demand from government officials for generous entertainment and gifts.  A company operating in this environment has to draw a strict line early and stick to the limitations, notwithstanding the obvious negative impact on its business.  If the company makes it clear from the beginning that it will not tolerate such improper payments, the company will eventually gain breathing room as its reputation is accepted by Chinese officials. It is easy in theory and difficult in practice, especially when the company experiences real financial damage from such an attitude.  In the long-run, however, avoiding this trap pays off.
    Gifts, Meals, Entertainment Policies and Procedures: Global companies have to design and implement carefully-constructed controls for gifts, meals and entertainment expenses.  Even with the best controls, employees will figure ways in which to circumvent the controls.  Herbalife’s controls included pre-approval requirements, which were routinely ignored, and a strict limitation of six events each year for a government official.  This latter control was flouted at the direction and approval of a Herbalife senior executive who instructed a China executive to make false entries of names of government officials because no one would check the identities to ensure an accurate listing of attendees. 
    Absence of Audit and Compliance Oversight:  With the ongoing expenditures of millions of dollars in gifts, meals and entertainment needed to expand Herbalife’s China business, Herbalife had no meaningful oversight from Internal Audit and Compliance functions.  Herbalife’s culture was not committed to any notion of compliance.  In fact, Herbalife’s culture appears committed to the business at all costs culture.  Even when detected by Internal Audit, there was no effort made to investigate and restrict China from continuing its criminal conduct.  Business was too important in China and Herbalife had no intention of halting its ongoing activities.
    Herbalife had no commitment to compliance.  Indeed, its remediation included the hiring of a dedicated Chief Compliance Officer.  It is surprising that a public company with global operations failed to maintain any compliance function.  Going forward, even with a new dedicated CCO, Herbalife faces numerous high-risk activities and will require regular reviews and compliance audits, as well as monitoring of compliance data.

    Michael Volkov (copyright 2020)

    Thursday 3 September 2020

    'Q-Anon' and 'Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)' - constituent parts of the cult phenomenon.


    Two years ago, I wrote:

    For a sobering-illustration of how the Internet (in its present effectively-unregulated form) has become a platform to propagate any old comic-book drivel as reality, I would invite Blog readers to take a look at yet another American-based totalistic movement in the initial stages of instigation. This has become known as 'Q-Anon'  - after a fictitious anonymous character, 'Q,' who pretends: be high-level player in the 'Deep State,' but who has now decided to tell the truth to the American people.

    In brief, 'QAnon' adherents believe that:

    ...Donald Trump is an enlightened, righteous and honest American - a selfless patriotic leader who, along with his Republican/military allies and other similarly-virtuous world leaders, is engaged in an ongoing secret war against an evil global criminal conspiracy  - comprising dishonest, godless, selfish, sexually-deviant, left-wing: politicians, civil servants, senior intelligence agents, bankers, journalists, editors, the liberal Hollwood elite, etc...

    and that: 

    until President Trump came along, an evil unaccountable parallel government (the 'Deep State') had been secretly taking control of the USA.

    'Q-Anon' is neither original nor unique, and consequently, it cannot be fully-understood in isolation. It exhibits many of the universal identifying characteristics of a cult. Indeed, if adherents of 'QAnon' were to be directed to this article, their minds have been conditioned (by a closed-logic controlling-narrative) systematically to categorise, and exclude, any information/analysis challenging their controlled model of reality, as: 

     'misinformation' and 'fake news.' 

    David Brear (copyright 2018)

    There are now various reports, and discussions, appearing in which 'MLM' adherence has been compared to 'Q-Anon' adherence. Indeed, the unquestioning ranks of 'MLM' cults, particularly those peddling medical quackery, have already been identified as a fertile ground for 'Q-Anon' recruitment. Evidence indicates that significant numbers of families and friendships are being damaged; whilst it is also no secret that various individuals have been making money out of promoting, and peddling, the divisive 'Q-Anon' fiction as fact.

    For a couple of years, the mainstream media has been reporting the virus-like spread, and destructive effects, of belief in the 'Q-Anon' narrative. 

    Media-interest continues to intensify in the run-up to the US presidential election; and particularly, because the comic-book noble white Christian hero of the 'Q-Anon' fiction, has welcomed the support of its deluded adherents.

    For obvious reasons, numerous comedians and satirists have also featured 'Q-Anon,' but invariably, their ridicule has included sombre warnings.

    A few investigative journalists have looked at the origins of 'Q-Anon' and discovered that it was first-fabricated in lawless regions of the Internet - emerging from a collection of essentially-identical good guys vs bad guys comic-book narratives. 

    At this point, new Blog readers are probably asking: who is this British guy, David Brear, and what qualifies him to be writing about 'Q-Anon'.

    Regular Blog readers will know that back in the 1990s, I witnessed members of my family in the north of England under-go sudden radical personality transformations as a result of their falling under the malign influence of the American-based 'MLM' cult known as 'Amway' (corruption of the 'American Way'). 

    Although I immediately realised that my relatives had become involved with some sort of pyramid scheme, and that their fragile egos prevented them from facing reality, initially, I had little conception of the full-horror lurking behind their weird new behaviour. To be honest, I'd never heard of 'MLM' or 'Amway.' For a while, my family situation seemed to be unreal and absurd: rather than dangerous. Although a couple of friends tried to warn me that 'Amway' was a mind-bending cult similar to 'Scientology,' I dismissed these concerns as alarmist. By the time I became fully-informed, it was too late to save my family. They were, in fact controlled, by an essentially-identical two-dimensional fictitious narrative to that which controls 'Q-Anon' adherents.

    Image result for amway success

    In brief, I witnessed my older brother (a previously scruffy, depressed and deeply-dissatisfied, '30 something' high school teacher) turn into a cross between a manic religious missionary and a sleazy foot-in-the door salesman. His new (well-groomed) appearance and (wildly-optimistic) personality were based on his absolute conviction that within 10 years all supermarkets were going to be closed in the UK, because the 'Amway Multi-Level Marketing/Direct Selling Business Model' was 'taking over.'
    At the height of his guided 'Amway' delusion, my brother stared at me and, in all seriousness, insisted that there were literally billions of £ at stake and that I would kick myself in the future for not claiming my share. All rational common-sense arguments, and even attempts at humour, were blocked by a stream of scripted 'MLMclichés.
    For several years, my brother remained dissociated from external reality, becoming an obedient, unquestioning, jargon-spouting robot 'duplicating a proven 2-5 year plan to achieve total financial freedom.' i.e. Handing over around £200 per month in exchange for banal, exorbitantly-priced and effectively-unsaleable 'Amway' household products, whilst working long hours (without payment) systematically contacting anyone, and everyone, he could think of, then reciting a 'positive' recruitment script in an attempt to persuade them to 'duplicate the same proven 2-5 plan.' Indeed, I later discovered that core-'Amway' adherents are widely-referred to as 'Ambots'
    I eventually tried to bring my brother back to reality by sending him video recordings of destitute, and confused, British ex-Ambots (discovered in S. West England by television journalists working for HTV). These witnesses now confessed to having wasted tens of thousands of £, and years of their lives, duplicating the same 'Amway plan.' However, my brother was convinced that these were 'negative whining losers' or even paid actors - part of a campaign of misinformation and fake news - 'Amway' was being unjustly attacked by a biased left wing media controlled by the 'enemies of free-enterprise.' 
    When I told my brother that I intended to complain to UK regulators and legislators that 'Amway' is a fraud and a cult, I was told that I was trying to destroy not only his business out of jealousy, but also the entire 'Amway business opportunity', and that I would be disowned by my family.
    In 1996, I became the target of a vicious character assassination campaign. Thanks to my brother passing information to his 'Amway' handlers, almost everyone whom I'd been in contact with (including members of the UK parliament) was sent a copy of an attorney's letter addressed to me. This sought to misrepresent my specific complaints and falsely-portrayed me as an ill-informed, child-like fantasist involved in a 'vendetta' with my older brother who just happened to work for 'Amway,' an entirely legal direct selling company. Furthermore, the poison pen letter informed me of the circulation of a second document signed by my brother in which he had expanded on 'Amway's' attorney's 'family vendetta' narrative and insisted that he personally had no complaint against the company. In conclusion, I was threatened with unspecified legal action if I continued to spread false information about 'Amway.'
    I have not seen, or spoken to, my brother since the mid 1990s. At around that time, he moved into my widowed mother's home and easily took-over her thinking and behaviour, with 'Amway's' comic-book 'negative vs positive' controlling-narrative supported by his handlers and slick propaganda. At this time, 'Amway UK Ltd.' had a popular veteran BBC television celebrity (Valerie Singleton*), a Conservative Member of Parliament (Andrew Rowe) and couple of self-styled 'cult experts' (Ian Howarth and Graham Baldwin) on its payroll. 


    Image result for valerie singleton

    Valerie Singleton began her career at the BBC in the 1960s as a children's television presenter. She eventually presented a weekly business magazine show, 'The Money Programme.' By the 1990s, Valerie Singleton had been very publicly sacked from the BBC following a scandal. At this time, she was paid to make a classic 'fake news' propaganda/recruitment video for 'Amway UK Ltd.' in which she played the role of an independent business journalist interviewing typical 'Amway Distributors.' Without producing any supporting evidence, these obedient Ambots claimed to be earning money and were fed soft (scripted) questions by Ms. Singleton, who nodded in passive-agreement to their misleading (scripted) explanation of why 'Multi-level Marketing schemes are not pyramid schemes.'

    Image result for michael aspel

    Prior to Ms. Singleton, another iconic veteran British televison celebrity, Michael Aspel ( a former BBC News reader: turned chat show host) had also been employed by 'Amway UK Ltd.'  His agent subsequently revealed to me that Mr. Aspel had (at first) refused, but had eventually been persuaded to make a video for 'Amway', but only after the company offered to donate £30 000 to his favourite charity.


    To quash any lingering doubts, my brother and his 'Amway' handlers were also able to show my mother a video recording of veteran British actor, Sir Roger Moore, thanking 'Amway' for supporting UNICEF.

    In the 1990s, Tony Blair had also been duped into playing the role of useful idiot for 'MLM' racketeers. 

    I later discovered that Bill Clinton had been persuaded to recite the essentially identical script.

    Image result for lagonda

    Image result for amway

    In the wake of my complaints, for the first time, full page colour 'Amway' adverts also appeared in news supplements (including 'The Sunday Express' which was read by my mother). This expensive propaganda featured two prosperous-looking models wearing classic flying jackets, posing in lush English countryside with a rare and valuable 1930s Lagonda sports car. The caption read, 'If we'd known how easy it would be to go into business, we'd have done it years ago.'  It was no coincidence that these ritual Utopian images of a clean-cut white hetrosexual 'Amway' couple enjoying limitless prosperity and freedom, featured models who were the same age and physical types as my brother and his girlfriend.

    When I went to my mother's home accompanied by her Member of Parliament, my mother was shielded by my brother's Ambot girlfriend and the door was closed in our face. The last time I met with my mother was in 1997. At that time, she was genuinely paranoid - believing that I was being paid by the British inventor/industrialist, James Dyson (who was involved in a lawsuit in the USA with 'Amway')  to spread lies about 'Amway' in the UKMy mother (who suffered from a weak heart and diabetes) had allowed me to enter her home, but when I tried to reason with her, she grabbed at my wrists and angrily told me that:

    • 'Amway' couldn't possibly be a fraud, because my brother had local police officers and tax officials in his group.
    • My brother was now a 'financial consultant' who worked with lawyers and accountants.
    • 'Amway' was supported by members of Mrs.Thatcher's Conservative government.
    • 'Amway' had given money to charity.
    • I needed psychiatric treatment. 
    • I was trying kill her with lies about my brother's 'business' to steal her money.
    • If I didn't leave her home, she would call the police and have me arrested.

    My mother died in 2004. I did not have any direct contact with her for the last 7 years of her life. My brother made no attempt to inform me of her death until 6 months afterwards. At that time, not even my mother's own attorney knew that she was dead. My brother had placed no announcement in the local paper and the funeral was by invitation only. Unknown to the same attorney, at the instigation of my brother and his 'Amway' handlers, my mother had made a later (overriding) will with another firm of attorneys to the exclusive benefit of my brother. He was also named as her the sole executor. However, virtually everything that my mother owned (including two valuable houses) had already been transferred into joint-ownership with my brother. In reality, for several years, these considerable capital assets had been used for the benefit of his 'Amway' handlers. My brother had given up his teaching job to become a full-time 'Amway' proselytiser. i.e. He had lured victims into de facto slavery by pretending that his 'retirement' and new-found wealth was 'the result of his exact duplication of the proven 2-5 year plan.'

    Prior to these disturbing events, in the hopes of rescuing my family, I had continued to gather evidence about 'Amway' and so-called 'MLM.' I had sent this to my mother's attorney and used it to support my ongoing complaints to UK government regulators. However, although my mother's attorney sympathised, he felt obliged not to intervene. Legalistically, there is no such thing as a cultic racket in the UK and consequently, there is no dedicated agency of law enforcement to complain to.

    During my research, I had travelled to the USA and met with Eric Scheibeler, a former federal auditor who had been enslaved by the pernicious 'Amway' narrative for 10 years. He was writing a painfully-frank account of his nightmare experience and eventual escape. Eric showed me evidence proving that lurking behind 'Amway' was 'The First Assembly of God' (a 'Pentacostalist/Dominionist Church') and that high level 'Amway' initiates were conditioned to believe that because 'God' spoke directly to 'Amway's leaders, critics of the organisation were, therefore, the agents of 'Satan.'


    The following is a transcript of a recording (recovered from Eric Scheibeler) entitled: ‘How to Handle Negative Websites’, produced and distributed by the ‘InterNet Services Corporation,’ a structure which was registered in the USA as a ‘privately-controlled limited-liability commercial company’ (apparently independent of ‘Amway’), but owned by ‘Amway Diamond Distributors’,  Dexter and Birdie Yager. 

    ‘I'm convinced more and more each day that this (‘Amway’) business was God's idea. What  I'm saying is God created this (‘Amway’) business so that we could pull families together and help people — and the Devil does not like that ! If you don't believe there's a Devil, go on the Internet  !  Man I'm telling you, there's a Devil ! The Devil does not like this (‘Amway’) business ! - He does not like the unity in this (Amway’) business ! All I want to say to you is:  guys, if I were the Devil and I saw a business that was keeping marriages together, where that men learned how to love their wife … they're taught from stage in Leadership sessions how to love their wife … where women are taught how to really integrate the marriage … the husband and wife relationship … where parents are taught how to bring up their children and encourage them to speak life and positive things into them so that those children have good healthy self-images and believe that they can really do anything that they put their minds to do .  If I saw a business that was responsible for holding those marriages and families together, and getting people out of debt, and learning how to treat people with dignity, respect and kindness … a business that gave people hope for freedom, hope for their financial future … that a person could not even succeed in this (‘Amway’) business without helping somebody else, and that the more people you help the more money you make… a business that teaches the principles of morals and ethics and integrity, that gives dignity to human life, that validates marriages an institution that should be reverenced that should not be put down or criticised or belittled .… If I saw a business that did all those things and so much more for humanity .… If I were the Devil, I'd hate it with a passion ! And I am convinced that not only does Satan hate the Church, I'm convinced with all my heart that Satan has good reason for hating this (‘Amway’) business. He has good reason for hating Dexter and Birdie and every Leader in their organisation. Satan hates this (‘Amway’) business with a passion, because this (‘Amway’) business stands for everything he hates ! And if you want to know whose behind those Websites, all I ask you is, who could it be… huh  ? … Could it be Satan ?’

    Pastor Mark Gorman 2001


    Eric Scheibeler and his wife had previously been 'Amway' shills - shining examples of 'MLM' success who were presented in the propaganda as having 'fulfilled their Dreams and Goals of total financial freedom by exactly duplicating the plan.' 

    The Scheibelers retained records proving that, in reality, they had lost at least $100 000. They had been conditioned to continue to 'duplicate the plan' no matter what suffering this entailed. They had maintained their insolvent 'MLM' activity through the reckless dissipation of all their mental, physical and financial resources. They were now destitute, exhausted and in fear of their lives. False rumours had been spread amongst the 'Amway' faithful that Eric had lost all his 'MLM' profits gambling in Las Vegas, and was trying to lay the blame on others for his own personal failings. All reference to the Sheibelers had been removed from 'Amway' propaganda.

    Eric Sheibleler was blocked from filing suit in the USA due to clauses in the take-it-or-leave- it annual 'Amway Distributor' contracts, ten of which he had been obliged to sign.

    I eventually arranged for Eric Scheibeler to come to the UK, where he met with senior regulators including the (then) UK Deputy Inspector of Companies, Cliff Calaghan. However, it wasn't until 2007, almost 3 full years after my mother's death, that the Company Investigation Branch of the UK Dept. of Trade and Industry finally took action. An investigation (comprising the seizure of truck-loads of documentary evidence) led to a Public Interest Bankruptcy Petition being filed in the UK High Court against 'Amway UK Ltd.' on the grounds that, for years, the company had been collecting sign-up fees contrary to UK trading schemes law. When taken into consideration as a debit rather than a credit, these substantial illegal revenues would automatically render the company bankrupt. In private, I was assured by senior UK regulators that, once the company was closed-down on these very limited grounds, a wider full-scale criminal fraud investigation would be launched into what lay behind it. One senior regulator, Peter Bott, privately described 'Amway' as being like the 'KKK' in the 1920s. Another regulator privately warned me that, due to the vast amount of money involved, my life could be in danger.
    UK regulators discovered that, when examined in isolation, 'Amway UK Ltd.' was a permanently-insolvent (and apparently pointless) company that had recently declared accumulated net-losses of more than $15 millions (despite collecting illegal sign-up fees). The sinking ship had been kept afloat with regular cash injections from a labyrinth of foreign-based companies centrally-controlled by 'Amway's' big bosses in the USA. Yet between 1973 and 2006, around one million UK and Irish citizens had signed take-it-or-leave-it annual 'Distributor' contracts with 'Amway UK Ltd.'  More than 50% of these people had never renewed their first contract. The so-called 'Amway/MLM income opportunity' was an ever-shifting illusion of 'stability and viability.' The '2-5 year plan' was indeed proven: it was proven to be a plan for committing financial suicide.

    The real money had been made from peddling a never-ending chain of would-be 'Amway' millionaires a never-ending 'step-by-step plan to achieve total financial freedom' in the form of publications, recordings, tickets to meetings, etc. However, these fraudulent materials had been procured, and sold, by a parallel labyrinth of private companies (including 'International Business Systems UK Ltd.' and 'World-Wide Dream Builders UK Ltd.'). When UK government agents began to investigate, these apparently independent companies were voluntarily closed, and their officers were excommunicated from 'Amway.'  All reference to these previously-exemplary UK shills was immediately air-brushed out of the propaganda.

    Privately, UK regulators confirmed the accuracy of my own research and analysis. e.g. 'Amway' mass rallies, held at the UK's national exhibition Centre, had regularly generated 15 thousands ticket sales at more than $150 per ticket. Privately, the same regulators agreed with my estimate that (over a 34 year period) up to one billion dollars (largely in cash) had probably been stolen from the UK via this secondary advance fee fraud, and shipped to 'Amway' under-bosses (like the Yagers) in the USA. The (apparently pointless) 'Amway UK Ltd.' had really been the kitsch bait to lure ill-informed persons into a blame-the-victim trap. The overwhelming majority had abandoned 'Amway' within a short time, but a significant fanatical core-minority (like my brother) with access to independent funds, had remained enslaved, sometimes for decades. Mysteriously, UK government attorneys made no serious attempt to explain to the High Court what had really been occurring. I was told that the court proceedings would be closed to the public, but this was a lie. 

    Even more mysteriously, the Judge (Mr. Justice Norris) never asked the one blindingly obvious question:

    What possible lawful reason could anyone have for wasting millions of dollars on legal fees to prevent such an apparently disastrous company as 'Amway UK Ltd.' from being closed?

    Thus, 'Amway's insolvent British front company survived a restricted civil investigation/prosecution without any further penalty, simply through its own attorneys pretending that the company's officers had been completely unaware that they had been breaking trading schemes legislation or of the existence of the secondary fraud, and by promising Judge Norris that the offending 'Amway Diamond' agents had already been removed under the company's own rules and that henceforth, the company's officers and agents would comply with UK law. 

    The rejection of the Public Interest Bankruptcy Petition against 'Amway UK Ltd.' was appealed by the UK government's attorneys only on the grounds that it broke established legal precedent, but this was declined by a 2 to 1 majority in the Court of Appeal. Consequently, no well-informed wider-criminal investigation has taken place. 

    For several months during the UK government probe, 'Amway UK Ltd.' had a former Deputy Director of the UK Serious Fraud Office, Peter Kiernan, on its payroll. Mr Kiernan, who had attempted to negotiate a private deal with UK regulators to halt the forthcoming public trial, resigned from his job with 'Amway's' UK attorneys (Eversheds LLP) before the government's case came to court, but only after speaking with me. He has never issued any public statement on these, and other related, matters. Over the years, the UK SFO has received detailed complaints from me, but its agents have absolutely denied any responsibility to investigate 'MLM' companies.
    As a direct result of 45 years of chronic regulatory/judicial/legislative/media failure, currently, there are several 'Amway' copy-cat blame-the-victim 'Multi Level Marketing/Prosperity Gospel' cultic rackets operating in plain sight in the UK without any law enforcement agency monitoring them. Indeed, a large number of UK police officers (desperate to get out of the service) are known to have fallen victim to 'MLM' rackets. Other vulnerable target groups have been teachers, farmers and National Health Service employees.

    I estimate that, currently, around 300 000 ill-informed UK citizens are being churned through these demonstrably ciminogenic organisations annually, whilst this key-information has been deliberately withheld from the public. Lately, over 70% of UK 'MLM' recruits have been women; a particularly vulnerable target group are new mothers who feel guilty about returning to traditional employment.  

    For many years, another private company known as the 'UK Direct Selling Association' has been unlawfully broadcasting outrageous misinformation, hiding the true (ever-shifting and economically-unviable) nature the 'MLM' phenomenon. The pernicious fairy story that ' more than half a millionUK citizens operate direct selling businesses' and that 'the Direct Selling industry has lowered unemployment and contributes over £1 billion to the UK's GDP,' has regularly been bleated by journalists, and even legislators, without the slightest challenge to its authenticity. Indeed, so-called 'DSAs' exist all over the world. Again, they are centrally-controlled from the USA and they have been the propaganda-arm of a classic organised crime syndicate. In reality, so-called 'DSAs' have formed part of a pattern of ongoing major racketeering activity (as defined by the US federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act,1970).

    Without any official acknowledgement, let alone thanks or support, for more than 20 years I have been financing my own independent attempt to educate the public as to how this type of latter-day cultic racket functions. 

    Meanwhile, the members of the 'MLM' crime syndicate have been allowed to acquire billions of dollars unlawfully with which they have financed the prosecution a largely-unopposed information war - infiltrating traditional culture and buying political protection, on a scale which beggars belief. 

    David Brear (copyright 2020)


    The Universal Identifying Characteristics of a Cult

    The Universal Identifying Characteristics of a Cult 


    In 1961 (after years of field-research, including the interviewing of US servicemen and civilians held prisoner during the Korean War), Dr. Robert Jay Lifton (b. 1926) published, ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.’ In this standard medical text-book, Dr. Lifton identified 8 ‘themes’ which, if present in any group, indicate that its members are being subjected to a mixture of social, psychological and physical pressures, designed to produce radical changes in their individual beliefs, attitudes and behaviour.

    1). ‘Milieu control’ — the attempted control of everything an individual experiences (i.e. sees, hears, reads, writes and expresses). This includes discouraging subjects from contacting friends and relatives outside the group and undermining trust in exterior sources of information; particularly, the independent media.

    2). ‘Personal or mystical manipulation’ — charismatic (psychologically dominant) leaders create a separate environment where specific behaviour is required; leading to group members believing that they have been chosen and that they have a special purpose. Normally group members will insist that they have not been coerced into group membership, and that their new way of life and beliefs are the result of a completely free-choice.

    3). ‘Demand for purity’ — everything in life becomes either pure or impure, negative or positive, etc. This builds up a sense of shame and guilt. The idea is promoted that there is no alternative method of thinking or middle way, to that promoted by the group or by those outside it. Everything in life is either good or bad and anything is justified provided the group sanctions it as good.

    4). ‘Confession’ — personal weaknesses are admitted to, to demonstrate how group membership can transform an individual. Group members often have to rewrite their personal histories and those of their friends and relatives, denigrating their previous lives and relationships. Other techniques include group members writing personal reports on themselves and others. Outsiders are presented as a threat who will only try to return group members to their former incorrect thinking.

    5). ‘Sacred science’ — the belief in an inexplicable power system or secret knowledge, derived from a hierarchy who must be copied and who cannot be challenged. Often the group’s leaders claim to be followers of traditional historical figures (particularly, established political, scientific and religious thinkers). Leaders promote the idea that their own teaching will also benefit the entire world, and it should be spread.

    6)‘Loading the language’ — a separate vocabulary used to bond the group together and short-circuit critical thought processes. This can become second nature within the group, and talking to outsiders can become difficult and embarrassing. Derogatory names, or directly racist terms, are often given to outsiders.

    7). ‘Doctrine over persons’ — individual members are taught to alter their own view of themselves before they entered the group. Former attitudes and behaviour must then be re-interpreted as worthless, and/or dangerous, using the new values of the group.

    8). ‘Dispensing of existence’ — promotion of the belief that outsiders — particularly, those who disagree with the teaching of the group — are inferior and are doomed. Therefore, they can be manipulated, and/or cheated, and/or dispossessed, and/or destroyed. This is justifiable, because outsiders only represent a danger to salvation.


    Another giant in the field of academic research into the cult phenomenon, is Prof. Margaret Singer (1921-2003).  Her major work which was published in 1996, is 'Cults in Our Midst.' ( In this, Prof. Singer set out 'six conditions' in which totalistic thought-reform can be achieved:

    1). Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.

    Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader's aim and desires.

    2). Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.

      Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.

      3). Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.

        This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members.

        The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.

        Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.

        Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.

        As the target's sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgment and understanding of the world are diminished. (ordinary view of reality is destabilized)

        As the group attacks the target's previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it - leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.

        This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired - the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.

        4). Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity.

          Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.

          The target's old beliefs and patterns of behavior are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.

          Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.

          5). The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors.

            Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.

            The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.

            Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviors expected by the group.

            The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.

            Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts—new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.

            6). Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.

              The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.

              Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.

              The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.

              Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behavior in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change—begin to speak the language—which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviors.


              Building on Lifton's and Singer's solid foundation (and after much research) I concluded that pernicious cultism is an evolving criminogenic phenomenon which, like all phenomena, cannot be accurately defined. Therefore, I set down the essential, and universal, identifying characteristics of a pernicious cult, and I first published these in 2005:

              It is important to note that cults don't just suddenly appear and they don't always exhibit exactly the same characteristics. This is because (like cancers and viruses) cults grow and evolve (and sometimes explode or even implode) and their identifying characteristics appear at different stages of their evolution cycle. Thus, the fact that a particular group doesn't exhibit all of the characteristics described in the following document, doesn't mean that it won't in the future or that it should not be identified as being a constituent part of the overall cult phenomenon.


              The Universal Identifying Characteristics of a Cult

              Apart from its use in the sense of ‘a popular fashion especially followed by a specific section of society’ or ‘a person or thing popularised in this way,’ the traditional definition of the English noun, cult (Latin cultus worship), has been ‘a system of religious worship (Latin religiosus obligation, bondage) especially as expressed in ritual,’ or ‘devotion or homage to a person or thing.’ However, the word is now also used as shorthand for what is more-accurately described as a pernicious cult. This ongoing historic, and criminogenic, phenomenon can be briefly described as: 

              any self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system established or perverted for the clandestine purpose of human exploitation.

              Such groups are identified by the following characteristics:

              1). Deception. Pernicious cults are presented externally as traditional associations. These can be arbitrarily defined by their instigators as almost any banal group (‘religious’, ‘cultural’, ‘political’, ‘commercial’, etc.). However, internally, they are always totalitarian (i.e. they are centrally-controlled and require of their core-adherents an absolute subservience to the group and its patriarchal, and/ or matriarchal, leadership above all other persons). By their very nature, pernicious cults never present themselves in their true colours. Consequently, no one ever becomes involved with one as a result of his/her fully-informed consent.

              2). Self-appointed sovereign leadership. Pernicious cults are instigated and ruled by psychologically dominant individuals, and/or bodies of psychologically dominant individuals (often with impressive, made-up names, and/or ranks, and/or titles), who hold themselves accountable to no one. These individuals have severe and inflexible Narcissistic Personalities (i.e. they suffer from a chronic psychological disorder, especially when resulting in a grandiose sense of self-importance/ righteousness and the compulsion to take advantage of others and to control others’ views of, and behaviour towards, them).* They steadfastly pretend moral and intellectual authority whilst pursuing various, hidden, criminal objectives (fraudulent, and/or sexual, and/or violent, etc.). The admiration of their adherents only serves to confirm, and magnify, the leaders’ strong sense of self-entitlement and fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beautyideal love, etc.

              ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ is a psychological term first used in 1971 by Dr. Heinz Kohut (1913-1981). It was recognised as the name for a form of pathological narcissism in ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 1980.’ Narcissistic traits (where a person talks highly of himself/herself to eliminate feelings of worthlessness) are common in, and considered ‘normal’ to, human psychological development. When these traits become accentuated by a failure of the social environment and persist into adulthood, they can intensify to the level of a severe mental disorder. Severe and inflexible NPD is thought to effect less than 1% of the general adult population. It occurs more frequently in men than women. In simple terms, NPD is reality-denying, total self-worship born of its sufferers’ unconscious belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. In order to shield themselves from the intolerable rejection and isolation which they unconsciously believe would follow if others recognised their defective nature, NPD sufferers go to almost any lengths to control others’ view of, and behaviour towards, them. NPD sufferers often choose partners, and raise children, who exhibit ‘co-narcissism’ (a co-dependent personality disorder like co-alcoholism). Co-narcissists organise themselves around the needs of others (to whom they feel responsible), they accept blame easily, are eager to please, defer to others’ opinions and fear being seen as selfish if they act assertively. NPD was observed, and apparently well-understood, in ancient times. Self-evidently, the term, ‘narcissism,’ comes from the allegorical myth of Narcissus, the beautiful Greek youth who falls in love with his own reflection.

              Currently, NPD has nine recognised diagnostic criteria (five of which are required for a diagnosis):
              •       has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
              •       is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, ideal love, etc.
              •       believes that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
              •       requires excessive admiration.
              •       strong sense of self-entitlement.
              •       takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.
              •       lacks empathy.
              •       is often envious or believes that others are envious of him/her.
              •       arrogant disposition.

              3). Manipulation. Pernicious cults employ co-ordinated, devious techniques of social and psychological persuasion (variously described as: ‘covert hypnosis’, ‘mental manipulation’, ‘coercive behaviour modification’, ‘group pressure’, ‘thought reform’, ‘ego destruction’, ‘mind control’, ‘brainwashing’, ‘neuro-linguistic programming’, ‘love bombing’, etc.). These techniques are designed to fulfil the hidden criminal objectives of the leaders by provoking in the adherents an infantile total dependence on the group to the detriment of themselves and of their existing family, and/or other, relationships. Pernicious cults manipulate their adherents’ existing beliefs and instinctual desires, creating the illusion that they are exercising free will. In this way, adherents can also be surreptitiously coerced into following potentially harmful, physical procedures (sleep deprivation, protein restriction, repetitive chanting/ moving, etc.) which are similarly designed to facilitate the shutting down of an individual’s critical and evaluative faculties without his/ her fully-informed consent.

              4). Radical changes of personality and behaviour. Pernicious cults can be of any size, duration and level of criminality. They comprise groups, and/or sub-groups, of previously diverse individuals bonded by their unconscious acceptance of the self-gratifying, but wholly imaginary, scenario that they alone represent a positive or protective force of purity and absolute righteousness derived from their leadership’s exclusive access to a superior or superhuman knowledge, and that they alone oppose a negative or adversarial force of impurity and absolute evil.Whilst this two-dimensional, or dualistic, narrative remains the adherents’ model of reality, they are, in effect, constrained to modify their individual personalities and behaviour accordingly.

              5). Pseudo-scientific mystification. The instigators of pernicious cults seek to overwhelm their adherents emotionally and intellectually by pretending that progressive initiation into their own superior or superhuman knowledge (coupled with total belief in its authenticity and unconditional deference to the authority of its higher initiates) will defeat a negative or adversarial force of impurity and absolute evil, and lead to future, exclusive redemption in some form of secure Utopian existence. By making total belief a prerequisite of redemption,adherents are drawn into a closed-logic trap (i.e. failure to achieve redemption is solely the fault of the individual who didn’t believe totally). Cultic pseudo-science is always essentially the same hypnotic hocus-pocus, but it can be peddled in an infinite variety of forms and combinations (‘spiritual’, ‘medical’, ‘philosophical’, cosmological,’extraterrestrial’, ‘political’, ‘racial’, ‘mathematical’, ‘economic’, New-Age’, 'magical', etc.), often with impressive, made-up, technical-sounding names. It is tailored to fit the spirit of the times and to attract a broad range of persons, but especially those open to an exclusive offer of salvation (i.e. the: sick, dissatisfied, bereaved, vanquished, disillusioned, oppressed, lonely, insecure, aimless, etc.). However, at a moment of vulnerability, anyone (no matter what their: age, sex, nationality, state of mental/ physical health, level of education, etc.) can need to believe in a non-rational, cultic pseudo-science. Typically, obedient adherents are granted ego-inflating names, and/or ranks, and/or titles, whilst non-initiates are referred to using derogatory, dehumanising terms. Although initiation can at first appear to be reasonable and benefits achievable, cultic pseudo-science gradually becomes evermore costly and mystifying. Ultimately, it is completely incomprehensible and its claimed benefits are never quantifiable. The self-righteous euphoria and relentless enthusiasm of cult proselytisers can be highly infectious and deeply misleading. They are invariably convinced that their own salvation also depends on saving others.

              6). Monopoly of information. The leaders of  pernicious cults seek to control all information entering not only their adherents’ minds, but also that entering the minds of casual observers. This is achieved by constantly denigrating all external sources of information whilst constantly repeating the group’s reality-inverting key words and images, and/or by the physical isolation of adherents. Cults leaders systematically categorise, condemn and exclude as unenlightened, negative, impure, absolutely evil, etc. all free-thinking individuals and any quantifiable evidence challenging the authenticity of their imaginary scenarios of control. In this way, the minds of cult adherents can become converted to accept only what their leadership arbitrarily sanctions as enlightened, positive, pure, absolutely righteous, etc. Consequently, adherents habitually communicate amongst themselves using their group’s thought-stopping ritual jargon, and they find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with negative persons outside of their group whom they falsely believe to be not only doomed, but also to be a suppressive threat to redemption.

              7). False justification. In pernicious cults, a core-group of adherents can be gradually dissociated from external reality and reformed into deployable agents, and/or de facto slaves, and/or expendable combatants, etc., furthering the hidden criminal objectives of their leaders, completely dependent on a collective paranoid delusion of absolute moral and intellectual supremacy fundamental to the maintenance of their individual self-esteem/identity and related psychological function. It becomes impossible for such fanatics to see humour in their situation or to feel pity for, or to empathise with, non-adherents. Their minds are programmed to interpret the manipulation, and/or cheating, and/or dispossession, and/or destruction, of inferior outsiders (particularly, those who challenge their group’s controlling scenario) as perfectly justifiable.

              8). Structural mystification. The instigators of pernicious cults can continue to organise the creation, and/or dissolution, and/or subversion, of further (apparently independent) corporate structures pursuing lawful, and/or unlawful, activities in order to prevent, and/or divert, investigation and isolate themselves from liability. In this way, some cults survive all low-level challenges and spread like cancers enslaving the minds, and destroying the lives, of countless individuals in the process. At the same time, their leaders acquire absolute control over capital sums which place them alongside the most notorious racketeers in history. They operate behind ever-expanding, and changing, fronts of ‘limited-liability, commercial companies,’ and/or ‘non-profit-making associations,’ etc. Other than ‘religious /philosophical’ and ‘political’ movements and ‘secret societies,’  typical reality-inverting disguises for cultic crime are:

              ‘charity/ philanthropy’; ‘fund-raising’; ‘lobbying’ on topical issues (‘freedom’, ‘ethics’, ‘environment’, ‘human rights’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘child protection’, ‘law enforcement’, ‘social justice’, 'peace,' etc.); ‘publishing and media’; ‘education’; ‘academia’; ‘celebrity’; ‘patriotism’; ‘information technology’; ‘public relations’; ‘advertising’; ‘medicine’; ‘alternative medicine’; ‘nutrition’; ‘rehabilitation’; ‘manufacturing’; ‘retailing’; ‘direct selling/ marketing’; ‘multilevel marketing’; ‘network marketing’; ‘regulation’; ‘personal development’; ‘self-betterment’; ‘positive thinking’; ‘self-motivation’; ‘leadership training’; ‘life coaching’; ‘research and development’; ‘investment’; ‘real estate’; ‘sponsorship’; ‘bereavement/trauma counselling’; ‘addiction counselling’; ‘legal counselling’; ‘cult exit-counselling’; ‘financial consulting’; ‘management consulting’; ‘clubs’; etc. 

              9). Chronic psychological deterioration symptoms. The long-term core-adherents of pernicious cults are psychotic (i.e. suffering from psychosis, a severe mental derangement, especially when resulting in delusions and loss of contact with external reality). Core-adherents who manage to break with their group 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 many years afterwards, recovering former core-adherents can suffer from one, or more, of the following 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 ( asthma, skin disorders, headaches, fatigue, etc.); sexual problems/ fear of forming intimate relationships; inability to trust; etc.

              10). Repression of all dissent. The leaders of the most-destructive cults are megalomaniacal psychopaths (i.e. suffering from a chronic mental disorder, especially when resulting in paranoid delusions of grandeur and self-righteousness, and the compulsion to pursue grandiose objectives). The unconditional deference of their deluded adherents only serves to confirm, and magnify, the leaders’ own paranoid delusions. This type of cult leader maintains an absolute monopoly of information whilst perpetrating, and/or directing, evermore heinous crimes. They sustain their activities by the imposition of arbitrary contracts and codes (secrecydenunciation, confession, justice, punishment, etc.) within their groups, and by the use of humiliation, and/or intimidation, and/or calumny, and/or malicious prosecution (where they pose as victims), and/or sophism, and/or the infiltration of traditional culture, and/or corruption, and/or intelligence gathering and blackmail, and/or extortion, and/or physical isolation, and/or violence, and/or assassination, etc., to repress any internal or external dissent.

              David Brear (copyright 2020)


              Who hasn’t heard about cults? The word, ‘cult,’ has been thrown around so often that most of us now take it for granted that we must know exactly what it means. To be honest, very few people have sought out sufficient background material to be able to form the lucid picture of cultism contained in the essential identifying characteristics presented in the above document. Even the most-diligent news reports have tended to examine individual cultic groups in close-up, leaving the wider phenomenon either out of shot or out of focus. However, in recent years, it has become a matter of public record that, as a result of unprotected exposure to one of an ever-growing and evolving catalogue of apparently diverse and innocent groups, almost anyone can begin to exhibit remarkably uniform symptoms. In everyday terms, it is as though they’ve fallen head over heels in love. Although this initial euphoria is often short-lived, a significant minority will subsequently undergo a nightmarish transformation and recklessly dissipate all their mental, and/or physical, and/or financial, resources to the benefit of some hitherto unknown person(s), whom they continue to trust and follow no matter what suffering this entails. Only when enough victims of one of these latter-day ‘Pied-Pipers’ wind up in psychiatric hospitals or on mortuary slabs is the word, ‘cult,’ liberally applied by the popular press. It is then always revealed that there had been some timely attempt(s) to warn the authorities, but they couldn’t intervene, because, legalistically, cultism does not exist. That said, all cosmopolitan people readily accept that cults most-certainly do exist, but, due to the prevalent style of media coverage, we habitually think of them only as remote, and grotesque, freak-shows.

              In my experience, if it is suggested that ‘we should all be on our guard against cultism, because it is actually much closer to us than we like to think,’ the average person is immediately convinced that such an idea is absurd. This instinctual reaction is usually accompanied by one, or more, of the following comments:
              ·     ‘Don’t worry, I wasn’t born yesterday, a cult couldn’t fool me or anyone in my family… only idiots and weaklings join cults.’

              ·     ‘In a free society everyone has the right to believe in what they want… if adults decide to hand over their time and money to some charismatic guru, it’s their own business.’

              ·     ‘One man’s cult is another man’s religion.’

              ·     ‘I suppose you’re including all the people who believe Elvis is still alive.’

              ·     ‘Unless they are being physically held as prisoners, adults always have a free-choice to walk away if they don’t like what’s happening to them.’

              ·     ‘Perhaps some cult members get harmed, but that’s their problem not mine.’

              ·     ‘Cults have been around for centuries, there’s nothing new to learn about them.’ etc.

              Whilst these opinions can all seem valid to the ill-informed, the underlying facts prove them to be nothing more than ego-protecting self-deceptions, which completely miss the point. It’s easy to understand that ‘knowledge itself is power,’ but it’s altogether harder to accept that (by the same token) ignorance is vulnerability. Obviously, cults never announce themselves, but their many disguises continue to adapt to mirror the changing spirit of the times. Throughout the ages, a dangerous minority of mythomaniacs, charlatans and would-be demagogues have always been able to get their human prey to sail blindly into positions of subjection, by first bedazzling them with all manner of false beacons which seemed so welcoming and authentic that the majority of people could not have been expected to determine exactly what was lurking behind them. Even though most of us want to deny it, at a moment of weakness all of us can need to listen to the latest cultic voice of insanity; especially when it appeals to our existing beliefs and instinctual desires, and originates from the apparent face of reason. To casual observers, the phenomenon might seem to be a ridiculous anachronism, but cultism or occultism has survived the tide of history and continues to wreck countless lives, simply because its instigators keep updating the lyrics of their siren song. Totalitarianism itself is enduring, its camouflage is ephemeral.

              Young children’s unconscious acceptance of ‘Santa Claus’ as total reality, stems from a fictitious scenario reflected as fact by the traditional culture in which they live. Up to a certain age, children are not equipped to challenge the model of reality offered to them by authoritarian figures within their family groups; particularly, their parents. Therefore, once children have been converted to a self-gratifying, non-rational belief in ‘Santa,’ the truth (that they are actually being deceived by the people whom they instinctively trust and follow) is unthinkable. The scenario can then be expanded to modify children’s behaviour — ‘Santa’ has magical powers… he can see and hear everything they do at all times… he will reward them for unquestioning belief and punish them for dissent. Only when they attain the necessary level of intellectual/psychological development, can children begin to use their critical and evaluative faculties and come to realise that ‘Santa’ is merely a game of make believe. If you think about it, what I’ve just described is the most elementary form of self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system - perfectly tailored to fit infantile minds, and reliant on the maintenance of an absolute monopoly of information presented using a constant repetition of reality-inverting key words and images combined with pseudo-scientific mystification and closed-logic.

              When analysed with the same level of intellectual rigour, many of the basic procedures and conditions required to establish cultic groups turn out not to be a mystery at all. They are revealed as only more-sophisticated versions of those which also propagate the benign ‘Santa’ deception. As such, they are frighteningly easy to replicate. However, the instigators of cults are anything but benign and, interestingly, many of their most-deluded subjects and convincing apologists turn out to be well-educated adults who have simply become incapable of facing the ego-destroying reality that they’ve been fooled by what is merely a game of make believe. No sane person would ever suggest trying to ban ‘Santa,’ and everyone lies to their children at some time to modify their behaviour, but consider the variety of destructive behaviour that an authoritarian adult (with hidden criminal objectives) could get dependent children to follow by exploiting their unconscious acceptance of the same imaginary, but nonetheless emotionally and intellectually overwhelming, narrative as total reality. The unpalatable truth is that, just by perverting the closed-logic rules of the game, anything - from theft by proxy to sexual, and/or violent, abuse - becomes possible.

              Prior to publication, a number of people were given unfinished copies of the above document to appraise. Although no reader could refute its content, the reactions of a minority were split into two groups; these were as different as chalk and cheese. Those who had already survived a direct personal experience of cultism devoured it. Others, who had never knowingly encountered the phenomenon, found the booklet less easy to digest; they generally described its tone as ‘alarmist.’ One man (a middle-aged, American academic) was sure that it had been written by a naïve soul who had suddenly discovered the world to be a cruel place, and who now wanted to shout about it. Several years ago, when I was naïve, I might have agreed with him. In fact, I now blush when I remember a conversation I once had with a senior citizen of the Czech republic (a survivor of rule by the ‘Nazi’ and ‘Soviet’ myths), in which I coolly dismissed his passionate contention that any country whose own citizens mistakenly believed themselves to be immune to totalitarianism, faced the greatest risk from it. Today, in the light of a traumatic personal encounter in Europe with the large, American-based cultic group known as 'Amway,' I have come to understand that I could not have been more wrong. However, many of the crass opinions which cultism continues to attract are completely predictable, because, even as adults, we all instinctively want to shut out of our minds any information that disturbs our habitual model of the world. Sadly, anyone who searches for the truth about cultism, and who then speaks plainly, is forced to ask a lot of people to think the unthinkable; so I make no apologies for this.

              Another man started to read the document and decided that it contained ‘intemperate language.’ He felt sure that it was  ‘going to be a sermon’ in which I would ‘attempt to impose ideas of morality’ on him. That opinion made me go back to my original text and remove any suggestion of preaching, because that’s the last thing I want to do. I don’t pretend to be perfect, and I fully recognise that morality is only what is generally regarded as an acceptable standard of behaviour by whatever culture we live in. I tried to base my investigation of cultism on quantifiable evidence, and my analysis on rules made by democratic institutions defining what is criminal, and/or unethical. I didn’t invent this evidence or write these rules, but I couldn’t escape the fact that cultism involves the subversion of traditional codes of morality. Like my wise Czech acquaintance, I have had the dubious privilege of witnessing for myself how unsuspecting individuals can be tricked into entering a counterfeit culture in which their existing perceptions of right and wrong are overturned and then made absolute. As a result, I now accept that apparently rational persons can suddenly abandon all reason and allow themselves to be systematically abused, exploited and even slaughtered whilst participating in the systematic abuse, exploitation and slaughter of others. In short, I am describing how it is possible to enslave any human being, but without the use of chains. This, in itself, is an ego-destroying reality which, self-evidently, many onlookers will wish to deny. However, when this reality is faced, at first it can become impossible to find appropriate words (other than expletives) to describe the results of cultism. Even presiding judges, in related cases, have felt it necessary to deliver verdicts using emotive terms such as ‘evil,’ ‘sinister,’ ‘depraved,’ ‘obnoxious,’ etc., to express publicly their own private outrage. Unfortunately, many other well-intentioned people have been, and continue to be, completely fooled by the seductive words and images shielding the instigators of cultism. The great paradox of the phenomenon is that persons under cultic influence will steadfastly claim to be absolutely righteous, even when all the quantifiable evidence proves their behaviour to be (at best) misguided, or (at worst) downright evil. Although they are demonstrably dissociated from external reality, cult adherents are always certain that they alone represent the ‘truth’ and they act accordingly.

              In the above document, I have tried to demystify cultism by using an accurate, deconstructed vocabulary to describe the phenomenon. As a result of my own extensive investigation, I am entirely satisfied that all groups exhibiting the essential characteristics given previously, are manifestations of the same problem. The historical evidence has led me to the inescapable conclusion that the only real differences between cults are the exact motives and mental state of their leaders, and the length of time they survive before they face a well-informed and determined challenge.

              Cultism is a trap. Obviously, anyone who only examines the bait in a trap and who remains unaware of its true purpose, risks getting caught themselves. Just like a mousetrap, the basic design for the cultic trap has remained the same down the centuries even if the presentation of the bait has become evermore sophisticated. Sadly, many commentators have found it impossible - when faced with the apparently illogical results of cultism - to abandon their existing academic, and professional, disciplines, which are anchored in the logic of the traditional world. Consequently, their understanding has often been made impossible by misplaced objectivity. However, it must be remembered that a counterfeit banknote might be 99.9 % perfect, but the bit that is not makes all of it a fake. Similarly, in order to have any chance of understanding cultism, it must be approached from the apparently subjective point of view that its results are always the product of a contagious deception, the victims of which unconsciously accept fiction as fact. Only then, can the phenomenon be examined with genuine objectivity. Once this vital principle has been learnt, the apparently authentic words and images reflected by persons under the influence of cultism - like those printed on counterfeit banknotes - are revealed as dangerous distractions. They should never be taken at face value and, therefore, I try to remind the reader of this at all times. Any commentator who repeats the reality-inverting shielding-terminology of any cultic group, but without detailed qualification (or heavy irony), demonstrates that he/she remains at a pitifully low-level of understanding.

              In truth, if it wasn’t for its tragic consequences, then cultism would be nothing more than a sick joke. However, until an individual is confronted by a nightmarish change in the personality and behaviour of a loved-one, then they can never really appreciate the full horror of the phenomenon. I realised a long time ago that there are always some people who will never be able to accept what I describe, because, for them to do so, they would have to abandon too many self-deceptions supporting their own view of themselves. Like many others before me, a soul-destroying experience with members of my own family forced me to abandon most of mine. Then, through close contact with the survivors of various cults and my research into the deeper origins of ‘Nazism’ and the ‘New Global Terrorism,’ I came to the further, inescapable conclusion that it is actually impossible to exaggerate the potential menace posed by the creators of these counterfeit cultures, or their significance to the history and future of civilisation. I then found great comfort in the opinions of some of my critics, because the people who first tried to warn the world of the horror lurking behind an apparently absurd, little gang of sanctimonious charlatans - calling themselves the ‘National Socialist German Workers Party’ and led by a hitherto unknown, German Army veteran playing the comic-book role of ordinary man turned superman - were also dismissed as ‘alarmists.’

              Whilst it remains generally misunderstood, cultism will continue to be an unnecessary threat to the lives, liberty and happiness of all communities, families and individuals all over the world.

              David Brear (copyright 2020)