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"Research shows that three characteristics are related to persuasiveness: perceived authority, honesty, and likeability." --Robert Levine
"It's all about money. The drug industry does not want people to get healthy." --Kevin Trudeau
The New York state Consumer Protection Board warns those who follow Kevin Trudeau's advice to call a toll-free number for information that Trudeau is selling their name and contact information to telemarketers and junk mailers.
Some of Trudeau's customers have also complained of unexpected charges for his newsletter and discount purchase programs. (10/28/05)
Trudeau's troubles with the FTC continue. The FTC charges that Trudeau "deceptively claimed" in infomercials that the weight-loss plan outlined in his latest book is "easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want." The diet actually "requires severe dieting," daily injections of a prescription drug not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for weight loss, and "lifelong dietary restrictions."* Read the FTC press release of Sept. 14, 2007.
Kevin Trudeau is the author of Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About and Debt Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About. You may have seen him in infomercials where he claims, among many other questionable things, that you can't get cancer in alkaline cells and that cancer can be cured by changing the pH of the cancerous cells to alkaline. He has promoted Robert Barefoot in an infomercial touting the value of coral calcium and has erroneously claimed that a JAMA study on calcium showed that coral calcium had cured many cases of terminal cancer (Barrett 2004). Trudeau and Barefoot claim that coral calcium and alkaline water can neutralize blood acidity. However, Gabe Mirkin, M.D., warns:
Anyone who tells you that certain foods or supplements make your stomach or blood acidic does not understand nutrition.
You should not believe that it matters whether foods are acidic or alkaline, because no foods change the acidity of anything in your body except your urine. Your stomach is so acidic that no food can change its acidity. Citrus fruits, vinegar, and vitamins such as ascorbic acid or folic acid do not change the acidity of your stomach or your bloodstream. An entire bottle of calcium pills or antacids would not change the acidity of your stomach for more than a few minutes.
All foods that leave your stomach are acidic. Then they enter your intestines where secretions from your pancreas neutralize the stomach acids. So no matter what you eat, the food in the stomach is acidic and the food in the intestines is alkaline.
You cannot change the acidity of any part of your body except your urine. Your bloodstream and organs control acidity in a very narrow range. Anything that changed acidity in your body would make you very sick and could even kill you. (Mirkin 2003)
Kevin Trudeau's credentials in marketing can't be denied, but there is some question as to his credentials in matters of nutrition.
During the early 1990s, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Trudeau served nearly two years in prison. In 1990, he pled guilty to larceny in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, state court in connection with $80,000 in worthless checks he had deposited at a bank. The sentencing memorandum said that he had posed as a doctor to increase his credibility with bank officials. In 1991, he pled guilty to credit-card fraud in Boston federal district court. Among his misdeeds in the federal case, he misappropriated for his own use the credit-card numbers of customers of the memory-improvement courses that he offered at the time. (Barrett 2004)
In the credit card swindle, he defrauded American Express out of $122,735.68. He also swindled about five grand from several banks, including Chemical and Citibank. The Smoking Gun has posted a copy of the indictment.
Presumably, Nutrition for Life International Inc. (NFLI) knew about Trudeau's past when it took him on as a business partner. NFLI, an MLM outfit specializing in such things as shark cartilage capsules and other equally beneficial nutritional supplies went into bankruptcy in 2003,* but not before making Trudeau and some other investors very rich.
In less than 10 months, Kevin Trudeau and his marketing organization have persuaded some 15,000 people to plunk down more than $1,000 apiece for a highly touted opportunity to sell products.
The 32-year-old recruiter's delighted business partner, has already granted Mr. Trudeau so many stock options that he has a paper profit of more than $11 million. (Emshwiller 1996)
NFLI, which at one time traded on the NASDAQ for $35 a share, had sales of over $32 million in 1995. Then trouble hit:
On Aug. 23, 1996, a class action lawsuit was filed in the District Court of Harris County, Texas, on behalf of purchasers of the common stock and common stock purchase warrants of Nutrition for Life International, Inc. (NFLI) during the period July 11, 1995 through July 16, 1996, inclusive (the Class Period). The complaint charges NFLI, certain of its officers and directors, the lead underwriters of its July 11, 1995 offering of stock and warrants, and a major marketer/distributor Kevin Trudeau and the Trudeau Marketing Group Inc. (collectively Trudeau) with violations of Texas statutory and common law, by, among other things, misrepresenting and/or omitting material information concerning NFLI's business, marketing efforts, sales and earnings during the Class Period (07/11/1995 through 07/11/1996). In August 1997, the case settled. The company agreed to pay $2,000,000 in cash to individuals who purchased common stock and warrants during the class period. The company also agreed to pay the plaintiffs attorney fees up to $600,000.00.*
Even so, some people are still recruiting for NFLI. And Trudeau is still going strong, despite his having signed an agreement with the FTC in 1998 to
(a) pay $500,000 in consumer redress, (b) be barred from making false claims for products in the future, and (c) establish a $500,000 escrow account or performance bond to assure compliance. (Barrett 2004)
Apparently, he ignored the terms of his agreement because in 2003 the FTC issued a preliminary injunction that claimed Trudeau
disseminated direct mail pieces and an infomercial that made claims that coral calcium is an effective treatment or cure for cancer and other diseases. The preliminary injunction prohibited Trudeau from making these claims. The Court ordered that Trudeau cease all marketing of coral calcium and expressly reserved the right to impose additional remedial measures.
In 2004, Trudeau was found in contempt of court for violating the preliminary injunction. Trudeau signed another agreement with the FTC that
broadly bans him from appearing in, producing, or disseminating future infomercials that advertise any type of product, service, or program to the public, except for truthful infomercials for informational publications. In addition, Trudeau cannot make disease or health benefits claims for any type of product, service, or program in any advertising, including print, radio, Internet, television, and direct mail solicitations, regardless of the format and duration. Trudeau agreed to these prohibitions and to pay the FTC $2 million to settle charges that he falsely claimed that a coral calcium product can cure cancer and other serious diseases and that a purported analgesic called Biotape can permanently cure or relieve severe pain. (FTC press release)
What accounts for Trudeau's success? He defies the FTC and appears to violate agreements he makes. His Newsweek ad claims that he's sold over 1.5 million copies of Natural Cures. In a press release issued just three weeks later (8/8/05), he claimed to have sold 3 million copies. I can only guess why he's successful with the government regulators. Their fines are chump change compared to what he's making from his superb marketing skills. And he can afford to hire lawyers like David Bradford of Jenner & Block in Chicago to defend him as a "consumer activist" being persecuted by a corrupt government that is trying to stifle his free speech. (Bradford got a federal court to issue an order temporarily enjoining the New York Consumer Protection Board (CPB) from trying to dissuade cable and broadcast networks from airing Trudeau’s infomercials for his book.) The New York Times reported that an FTC lawyer said that books are not included in the FTC agreements that bans Trudeau from making disease or health benefits claims. Books are protected under the First Amendment. Apparently, advertisements for the book are also not included in the FTC ban.
On the other hand, I think I have a pretty good idea as to why he is able to find many people who will buy into his message and buy his products. He plays to a particular market that is suspicious of "Them": the medical/pharmaceutical/government cartel. This market is also enamored of anything "natural." Also, he is a particularly convincing actor to those who are ignorant of basic nutrition and biology. He sells hope to those who are prone to magical thinking, who believe that maybe there are miracle cures that the scientific community doesn't know about. He sells hope to those who believe in the doctors/drug companies/government conspiracy: this cartel is suppressing information to keep us sick so they can control us and make bundles of money by keeping us ill. He sells hope to those who are sick but who fear surgery or taking drugs for the rest of their lives. He's a good-looking man and he looks his market right in the eye and tells them that he's telling the truth. He has even turned his felony convictions to his advantage. At calcompnutrition.com it is written:
Kevin Trudeau is fast becoming the nation’s foremost consumer advocate. Knowing from firsthand experience the power of greed, Kevin pled guilty to felonies in his youth [he was 28] and spent almost two years in prison realizing that “the love of money” is the root of all evil. Kevin then reprioritized his life. His new business and personal mission statement became, “We positively impact the whole person.”*
Kevin Trudeau is the ultimate persuader. Not too long ago - before he became the world's greatest marketer of natural cures - he used to be the world's "foremost authority on memory improvement training."* He claimed his methods could cure brain damage, increase reading speed beyond 10,000 words per minute, and develop photographic memory.* At one time he advised visitors to his website to look for his new book Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days - The Weight Loss Secret "They" Don't Want You To Know About. He now (1/3/07) just claims to want to give us the simple steps that will help us lose weight faster and easier "than ever before."* In fact, when the book came out as The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About, Trudeau said in his infomercials that the weight-loss plan outlined in his book is "easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want." In fact, his "cure" requires severe, lifelong dieting restrictions and daily injections of a prescription drug that is neither easy to get nor approved by the Food and Drug Administration for weight loss.
The reader who is still convinced that she must take calcium supplements because there just might be something to Barefoot Bob's beliefs would do well to compare the cost of coral calcium as touted in Trudeau's infomercials versus the cost of calcium supplements available at any drugstore. You'll pay about ten times more for the calcium from Barefoot Bob (more than $20 per month versus about $2 per month).* Also, when you buy Trudeau's book you will be advised that to get the full story on the natural cures you bought the book to learn about you must visit his website. There you will be told that to get the full story you will have to subscribe to NatureCures.com for either $9.95 a month or $999 for a lifetime. The latter is the much better deal, of course, because if you follow his advice you will probably live to be about 150 years old. As Trudeau says in one of his infomercials: "It's all about money." Therefore, beware: these prices may change.
books and articles
Park, Robert L. (2006). Skeptical Inquirer. "It's all about the
Money." Vol. 30, No. 1. A review of Natural Cures.
Park, Robert L. (2006). Skeptical Inquirer. "It's all about the Money." Vol. 30, No. 1. A review of Natural Cures.
FTC press release of January 13, 1998:Infomercial Marketers Settle Various Charges: Ad Claims For "Hair Farming," "Mega Memory System," "Addiction Breaking System," "Action Reading," "Eden's Secret," and "Mega Reading" Were Deceptive
Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense (2003) by
Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
Infomercial king Trudeau gets 30 days in jail U.S. District Judge
Robert Gettleman sentenced Kevin Trudeau to 30 days in jail for trying to
harass, intimidate, and influence the court while it heard a civil case
brought against Trudeau by the Federal Trade Commission. Trudeau says he was
just exercising his First Amendment right to free speech when he asked
listeners to his radio show to bombard the judge with e-mail. Gettleman has now found Trudeau
in contempt of court three times. He called him "undeterrable." "I can count the number of people
I've held in contempt on one hand and three of those fingers have Kevin
Trudeau's name on them," said Gettleman. [/new]
update: As of April 1, 2010,
Trudeau has yet to serve his time.
Kevin Trudeau held in criminal contempt, facing jail time Trudeau was
found in criminal contempt of court Thursday and nearly had handcuffs
slapped on him after he asked his supporters to email the federal judge
overseeing a pending civil case brought against him by the Federal Trade
Commission....U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ... hauled Trudeau into
court a day after he posted a message on his Web site with his appeal.
Gettleman ordered Trudeau to turn over his passport, pay $50,000 bond, and
warned he could face future prison time.
New Infomercial king Trudeau gets 30 days in jail U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman sentenced Kevin Trudeau to 30 days in jail for trying to harass, intimidate, and influence the court while it heard a civil case brought against Trudeau by the Federal Trade Commission. Trudeau says he was just exercising his First Amendment right to free speech when he asked listeners to his radio show to bombard the judge with e-mail.
Gettleman has now found Trudeau in contempt of court three times. He called him "undeterrable."
"I can count the number of people I've held in contempt on one hand and three of those fingers have Kevin Trudeau's name on them," said Gettleman. [/new] update: As of April 1, 2010, Trudeau has yet to serve his time.
Kevin Trudeau held in criminal contempt, facing jail time Trudeau was found in criminal contempt of court Thursday and nearly had handcuffs slapped on him after he asked his supporters to email the federal judge overseeing a pending civil case brought against him by the Federal Trade Commission....U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ... hauled Trudeau into court a day after he posted a message on his Web site with his appeal. Gettleman ordered Trudeau to turn over his passport, pay $50,000 bond, and warned he could face future prison time.
Amway, Republicans & That Old Time Religion (2004) by Evelyn Pringle [Trudeau's Amway connection]