Tag Archives: Class Action

Missing: Amway victims – if found please report to Boies, Schiller & Flexner

As regular readers would know, a few years back some disgruntled former Quixtar IBOs, Pokorny & Blenn, launched a class action lawsuit in California against Quixtar (now Amway) and Britt World Wide. In my view the case was clearly bogus, but Amway decided to avoid the cost of a long court case, and also take the opportunity to clear the decks of any issues from the past. What they did was to not only offer a settlement, but to bring all the other major Amway business support groups in to the case as well, so that any IBOs who felt they’d been exploited could get some restitution and agree not to launch any future legal actions. Everyone could just move on.

Well, today I received an email from the “Class Counsel” handling the settlement that began like this –

Records show that you are a current or former Amway/Quixtar distributor (“IBO”). Former IBOs can get benefits from a Settlement providing $34 million in cash and $21 million (retail value) in free products from Quixtar. Initially, eligible claimants had until August 17, 2012 to file a claim to receive cash or free products. However, after accounting for the claims that have already been filed, there is excess cash and products in the Settlement Funds.

Critics of multilevel marketing claim there are literally hundreds of millions of “victims” of MLM companies that have lost thousands, even tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. When asked where all these “victims” are, and why they haven’t requested refunds, or complained to authorities or groups like the Better Business Bureau (there are very, very few complaints against legitimate MLM companies), critics claim that these “victims” are too ashamed to complain.

Right now, hedge fund short seller Bill Ackman has been making similar claims against Herbalife, another large MLM company. He has made various accusations against them, including that it is an illegal pyramid scheme, and is betting it will be closed down, in which case he will make hundreds of millions of dollars from shorting the stock. (In reality he stands to make a lot of money just by driving the stock price down, which he successfully did just by making the accusations). Another investor, Daniel Loeb, made the following comment about Ackman’s accusations –

“The short thesis rests on the notion that the FTC has been asleep at the switch, missed a massive fraud for over three decades, and will shortly awaken (at the behest of hedge fund short seller) to shut down the company,” Mr. Loeb wrote. “We find this thesis to be preposterous.”

We find this thesis to be preposterous. Loeb has stated well the reality of  many of the claims of critics of the multilevel marketing industry. We find this thesis to be preposterous.

Well, following Amway’s settlement in the Pokorny Class Action, the administrators endeavoured to contact every single Amway/Quixtar IBO over the last decade in the United States. They contacted them and offered them money.

The result? To clear the settlement money they’ve had to extend the time to submit a claim by seven months and expand the benefit dramatically. The value of the product packs available has doubled, and if you spent money on BSM, you can just write a letter and claim you spent money, and how much, and get some of the cash.

So c’mon, don’t be ashamed! Get your free wag now at www.quixtarclass.com

Quixtar class action settlement – a brief analysis

Regular follows of this blog will be aware of the settlement in a class action case against Quixtar by Pokorny, Blenn, and Busiere. Today most IBOs and former IBOs covered by the class action have received their second notice about the settlement, so I’ve been receiving a few inquiries about it.

The case was originally against Quixtar, the Puryears and World Wide Group and the Britts and BWW, Amway (formally Quixtar) . Through the process of negotiating the settlement, Amway extended it to include a whole range of BSM (business support material) companies. The second amended complaint lists the following as defendants –

This was a smart move by Amway, as the settlement essentially immunizes both Amway and all the BSM companies against any lawsuits by anyone who was an IBO in the past decade. Amway has made a lot of significant changes in the last few years to better control the activities of the field and BSM companies, as well as make for a better, potentially more profitable business for all. An ongoing lawsuit of this nature, no matter it’s lack of merit, is a costly distraction. Following on from Woodward and TEAM settling their case, the settlement of the Morrison case, the Ribbon gift card settlement, and the Canadian class action being thrown out, Amway has pretty much cleared the deck and can move forward with a clean slate. Continue reading

Class action against Amway Canada thrown out

Well, “thrown out” is probably not a technically correct legal term, but the result is the same. Back in 2009 a pair of disgruntled IBOs, husband and wife Kerry Murphy and Cheryl Rhodes, of Cloverdale, British Columbia, filed a class action lawsuit against Amway Canada. This  of course made news with the anti-Amway brigade, but funnily enough some other news didn’t – way back in November of last year, the Court sided with Amway and said their complaint should go through Amway’s arbitration system.

I should clarify – not their complaint. In what has to be one of the least successful attempts at a class action ever, Murphy and Rhodes launched this lawsuit and promoted their class action through press releases and websites. The result? Well, in a class action, one of the tasks of the Judge is to determine if there is a sufficiently large group of people with the same grievance. In May 2011, his wife Cheryl Rhodes curiously withdrew from the class action. So we’re down to one, and in the judgement, the Judge had this to say –

the plaintiff has only provided evidence of one claim – his own for the amount of $15,000. …. Absent any convincing evidence of multiple claims or multiple defendants, the issue of the reasonableness of a partial stay is simply not triggered.

So it became his complaint. Just Kerry Murphy. No Cheryl Rhodes, and nobody else stood up to offer further claims. It gets even worse for Mr Murphy-

THIS COURT ORDERS that the defendant’s Motion to Stay and to Compel Arbitration is allowed. Costs shall be awarded to the defendant.

It seems to me highly likely that the defendants (Amway) costs for a case like this are going to far, far exceed the $15000 Murphy claimed he lost doing Amway during his four times as an IBO. I notice looking through the court records that Robert FitzPatrick provided an affidavit in support of Murphy and Rhodes. I have little doubt that anti-MLM zealots like FitzPatrick encouraged this action.

FitzPatrick and his ilk are causing real financial damage to people by leading them astray with their falsehoods and anti-mlm zealotry.

Murphy has appealed the case. I feel sorry for him.

Judge rejects Pokorny, Blenn et.al vs Amway/Quixtar class action settlement

I’ve been meaning for some time to write a blog post about the Amway/Quixtar class action settlement in the Pokorny, Blenn etal lawsuit in California. Back in November I reported that Amway had settled the case and even posted an apology of sorts on one of the Amway corporate blogs. Right from the beginning of the case it was my opinion that it was legally meritless. Amway’s problem is that the court has rejected private  arbitration as the solution, meaning the case could head to a public jury trial. No company likes either the cost, or publicity, that a lawsuit like this could bring, even if you believe you could win it.

So I wasn’t entirely surprised when they announced the settlement.

Having followed the case and retrieved related court documents, I was expecting my post today to be about how Quixtar IBOs from around 2003 until now would shortly be contacted with information on how they could request various refunds and other relief as a result of the class action settlement. I was having problems retrieving the last submitted court document though (from December 29, 2010) which I expected would have all the final details.

Needless to say, I was more than surprised to finally obtain it and discover the judge has rejected the settlement – and, in my opinion, in pretty scathing terms. I’ll post the document on Amway Wiki in the next few days so you can read it for yourself, but essentially you get the impression he feels the settlement was little more than what I think it was – a way out for the plaintiffs to pay their lawyers and for Amway to get the case to disappear. Many of the details he requests the plaintiffs supply are I think next to impossible to assess – for example asking how much BSM did IBOs who bought BSM buy. I’ll post some more details and discussion on Amway Talk. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out!

UPDATE 2011-01-21: Cindy Droog from Amway Corp Communications has pointed out that the judge hasn’t actually rejected the settlement, he’s deferred a decision and requested more details. Next hearing is in April.

 UPDATE 2012-04-16: The settlement has now been approved, details at www.quixtarclass.com

Amway settles class action, and apologises

I’m still wrapped in various time consuming issues in my personal life so been unable to write much here, but some things just have to be commented on. In the last couple of days has come the quite stunning decision by Amway to reach a settlement in the Pokorny & Blenn vs Quixtar et.al Class Action case.

I’ve obtained copies of the settlement and will post further comments shortly, as well as post the relevant court documents to AmwayWiki.

Pokorny and Blenn vs Quixtar et.al update – Arbitration denied

In a California case two former IBOs, Jeff Porkony and Larry Blenn, are attempting a class action lawsuit against Quixtar, Britt WorldWide, World Wide DreamBuilders and associated parties, alleging Quixtar is an illegal pyramid scheme in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

As per most previous litigation, Quixtar’s first step was to claim the whole thing should be sent through Quixtar’s arbitration and dispute resolution procedures. To summarize the courts view –

“The Quixtar arbitration agreement is simply too tainted to be saved through minor adjustments. Therefore, though mindful of the strong state and federal policies favoring arbitration, the Court holds that the entire Quixtar ADR scheme is unconscionable and unenforceable.”

In essence, the court found the whole arbitration procedure unfair for IBOs. It highlighted the fact that IBOs below platinum did not even have the opportunity to vote for representation on the IBOAI board which “negotiated” the agreement, and then Quixtar itself can ignore it if it choses. Interestingly, in this case the court was reviewing the new “updated” dispute resolution procedure, which had been modified following concerns raised in earlier cases. Furthermore, the court also struck down the BSMAA provisions, which should have governed the part of this dispute between IBOs.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again anyway – I agree with the court, Quixtar’s arbitration provisions are unfair. The only proviso I’d add to that is that I’m not sure whether a “rank and file” IBO going up against a multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporate would have a particularly “fair” chance in the normal legal system either. If anyone has some suggestions for a better system, I’m open to hearing it. Having read the original Porkony & Blenn complaint, I suspect they’d be saved much embarassment behind closed doors, it really is a poorly formulated case.

There is one interesting aside in the court documents, and that is that the court struck out the declarations of two “purported experts” on behalf of the plaintiffs. The phrasing implies the court found these “experts”, Stephen Hayford and Robert FitzPatrick, were anything but. Stephen Hayford appears to be a JAMs arbitrator, and I’m guessing his testimony related to the arbitration procedure.

Robert FitzPatrick is a well known anti-mlm zealot who has unilaterally decided all MLMs are illegal pyramids, and then rants against the evils of MLMs, when in fact he’s ranting against the evils of illegal pyramids. Just recently I listened to him in an interview where he attacks Amway and brings up this case as well as the recent TEAM class action case in California claiming Quixtar is an illegal pyramid. To give you an idea of his level of “independence” as an expert – he completely fails to mention the TEAM case had been thrown out!

Update: Many of the court documents are now available at Amway Wiki – Pokorny & Blenn vs Quixtar, Inc. et.al.

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