The FTC wakes up, too

By Phil Plait | September 22, 2008 9:30 am

Hey, who says government is a bunch of morons who can’t do anything right?

Oh yeah, lots of people. But that may change; first the NIH stops a silly antivax-based study, and now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has come out with a warning against fake cancer cures:

The Federal Trade Commission charged five companies with making false and misleading claims for cancer cures and said Thursday that it has reached settlements with six others. “As long as products have been sold there has been somebody out there selling snake oil to consumers,” said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

Hurray! The markets are filled with quack remedies. While it’s possible a very small (a very very small) percentage do some good, the overwhelming majority do harm. I say this because even ones that don’t hurt you directly (like homeopathy which is just plain old water) still hurt because people who take these so-called "alternative" medicines aren’t taking real medicine, medicine that can help them.

Of course, the alt-med quacks don’t see it that way. As a legal representative of one of these awful companies said:

In our view it’s a battle between the right to speak and the government’s censorship.

Hey, attorney guy: it’s not censorship if you are falsely advertising a product. There is a legal term for that: fraud.

Kevin Trudeau, convicted scam artistIf you turn on the boob tube late at night, you will be barraged by garbage cures for common ailments — like from convicted con artist Kevin Trudeau. I wonder how many people have died because they read his books and tried to eat coral to cure their cancer.

Don’t even get me started about Enzyte — though the lying manufacturer of that pill which preys on those with low self-esteem is now facing 25 years in prison… where I’m wondering if his bunkmate won’t need to use Enzyte at all.

I’m thrilled to see action against these evil flim flammers who have been making us sicker all these years. Sure, caveat emptor — people buying this snake oil should perform due diligence — but when they are lied to about the products, fraud laws come into play.

We do need to educate people, teach them to think critically and to be skeptical about claims, especially medical ones. Eventually everyone may someday be able to make healthy decisions. But that’s a long way off, and in the meantime, I’m glad to see at least some of the perpetrators of bad medicine facing the law.

Comments (64)

  1. Celtic_Evolution

    Don’t even get me started about Enzyte — though the lying manufacturer of that pill which preys on those with low self-esteem is now facing 25 years in prison… where I’m wondering if his bunkmate won’t need to use Enzyte at all.

    Wow… a bit of an unexpectedly unsubdued zinger, there, BA! :)

  2. Freedom Geek

    Oh government can do things right from time to time (such as this). Just using a lot more more money, chances and so forth than other organizations would. Anyway I’d better stop now before this degenerates into a flame war.

  3. Travis McDermott

    Still seeing Enzyte commercials. Anyone else?

  4. Todd W.

    Yay! Federal agencies may be slow to move (almost sloth-like at times), but they occasionally get things right. It’s this kind of health scams that made me want to get into the regulatory field. Finally got my degree, now I just need to find someone to hire me to start regulating. :)

  5. LMR

    is now facing 25 years in prison… where I’m wondering if his bunkmate won’t need to use Enzyte at all.

    It’s good that hucksters are held accountable for their crimes, but I don’t think rape (prison rape or otherwise) is a particularly funny thing.

  6. 25 years! Wow, considering the other corporate fraudsters from WorldCom and Enron got similar sentences, that seems harsh. Hey… I wonder if the judge tried his product and was upset it didn’t work???

  7. Exordium

    Excellent news, small but worthwhile voctory.

  8. Max Fagin

    I’m sorry, I just can’t support this.

    These people are lying, dishonest, deceptive scum-balls; but that shouldn’t be illegal. Even if it is fraudulent to make false claims about your product, these people are under no legal obligation (contractual or otherwise) to tell the truth. And customers know that.

    Let the buyer beware, and let the JREF go after these bastards. But don’t spend my money because some people are gullible enough to fall for this.

  9. At this point I’ll take small victories. Thanks for digging this up. Busy news day. Wonder what they are trying to distract us from?

  10. “Judge Spiegel ordered the company, along with other defendants, to forfeit more than $500 million — a figure based on how much Warshak and the company took in.”

    $500 Million???

    I think I’m on the wrong side of critical thinking.

  11. Celtic_Evolution

    Max –

    Let the buyer beware, and let the JREF go after these bastards. But don’t spend my money because some people are gullible enough to fall for this.

    That’s just plain stupid.

    It reminds me of the movie “Airplane” when they are doing the spoof of “Point / Counterpoint” and the commenter says “They knew what they were getting into when they bought the tickets… I say, let ‘em crash”. Only in your case, you’re not trying to be funny.

    Are you really arrogant enough to believe that you are just so super-intelligent that you could never, ever be deceived by clever and deceptive tactics? Really? And you similarly believe that everyone else must be just as clever as you are, or screw ‘em??

    My elderly grandmother has been victimized by very slimy, yet very convincing tactics that caused her harm. In no way do I blame her, and thankfully, there were no idiots like you on the jury to look at her and say, “boy, you’re just a stupid old lady… you got what you deserved”.

    If you go to a carnival and the games are all rigged so that you could never possibly win, but it would be nearly imperceptible, is it still “buyer beware”? So what, in your mind, constitutes fraud? Or in your little world, is there no such thing as fraud?

  12. kuhnigget

    @ Max

    The thing is, if someone who doesn’t know any better falls for these scams and gets sick or sicker, chances are we all end up paying for it through our our own higher medical bills and/or taxes that pay for their medical bills.

    Besides, we live in a society. Societies are supposed to take care of their weaker members. That’s what sets us apart from barbarians.

  13. Celtic_Evolution

    @ myself

    Hmmm… the “idiots like you” comment in my prior post was probably a bit too strong. I’d edit that out if I could… but as it is, you’ll just have to accept my apologies for not re-reading before posting. I still think Max’s comment was stupid, but “idiots like you” was probably uncalled for. Sorry.

  14. @Max

    these people are under no legal obligation (contractual or otherwise) to tell the truth.

    While they are not under a legal obligation to tell the truth, they are under a legal obligation to not misrepresent their product. For example, where drugs and medical devices are concerned, 21 USC 352 (Sec. 502 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act) states that a product will be deemed misbranded (and thus, not allowed to be sold in interstate commerce) if its labeling is false or misleading.

    In addition, the FTC has a policy statement summarising deceptive advertising practices. Click on my name for the link. In that statement, they point out where in the FTC Act deceptive advertising practices are prohibited by law.

    So, yeah, they don’t have to tell the truth, but they do need to refrain from deception, legally.

  15. Nyx

    Sorry, Max Fagin, but people really are under legal obligation to tell the truth in their advertisements.

    Under the Federal Trade Commission Act, Title 15 of the U.S. Code:
    Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
    Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
    Advertisements cannot be unfair.
    This is generally referred to as the “Truth-in-Advertising Law.” It is about time the FTC acts on its own law.

    It is a shame that newspapers and magazines do not vet their advertising first. They do not have the legal obligation, but they certainly have a reputational one. Check out here:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=206
    for one repected magazine, to which I no longer subscribe, which should do a little more checking first.

  16. luisa

    yep, still seeing enzyte commercials. and those stupid kinoki ones too… that’s another total scam. there was even an NPR report debunking the kinoki pads.

  17. Todd W.

    @luisa

    The company making kinoki pads, last I checked, is banned from importing them into the U.S. I’ll need to check the FDA web site again to see if there is anything new.

  18. madge

    Really good news. Over here in UK the trade description act is being used againt psychics with the result that they now have to advertise themselves as “entertainers”. It’s a start.
    :)

  19. Max Fagin:

    I’m sorry, I just can’t support this.

    These people are lying, dishonest, deceptive scum-balls; but that shouldn’t be illegal. Even if it is fraudulent to make false claims about your product, these people are under no legal obligation (contractual or otherwise) to tell the truth. And customers know that.

    Let’s make this scenario simpler… You advertise a cure for cancer, take orders, collect money, and then mail everyone who bought your “cure” a letter that says:

    Sorry, but we have no cancer cure. Caveat emptor.

    Should that be legal as well? If not, what’s the difference that makes this version illegal, but the real one should be legal?

  20. billsmithaz

    And Kevin Trudeau now wants to help us all with our finances and debt, with ‘Debt Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About’. Same old schtick, different market.

    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2008/02/trudeau_debt.html

  21. Quiet Desperation

    Bloody FTC fascists! They’ll be coming for my magnetic health bracelet, antigravity device, overunity engine and orgone headache nullifier next! :-)

    Max: Even if it is fraudulent to make false claims about your product, these people are under no legal obligation (contractual or otherwise) to tell the truth.

    That’s the kind of piffle that drove me away from the Libertarian Party: this idea that we are all alone in this world and have to become a (bleeping) expert in 127 different disciplines to survive.

    Some of them didn’t even want nutrition labels on food. “You just have to do your research” they’d say. So I have to do a doctoral dissertation’s worth of research just to go to the grocery store now? AWESOME!

    The funniest thing was that the strongest advocates of this anarcho-capitalism stuff were the ones that, if they ever really lived under such a system, would be dead in a month. They’d be eaten alive by the ones who would truly thrive under such rules.

    Let go of your ideology, Max. Such things never really work when they are removed from the Imaginationland and released into the wild. And, yes, I say the same thing to people on the Left.

  22. It’s the kind of absurd equating of commercial speech and free speech that has caused corporations to become too powerful (especially the absurd rulings that give corporations the right of a person); every-time I read about a corporation protecting it’s right to lie to people, or not be criticized (negative free speech), I feel like throwing stuff at them.

    Good thing the FTC has (temporarily?) come to its senses for this.

  23. Stephen

    … like homeopathy which is just plain old water …

    Actually some homeopathic products are largely ethanol, this being quite a good solvent. This may have something to do with their popularity – particularly among people who claim to be (and may be under the illusion that they actually are) teetotal.

  24. “particularly among people who claim to be (and may be under the illusion that they actually are) teetotal.”

    is that like the prairie-style matrons-of-steel who would NEVER touch a sip of alcohol, it being devils brew and all that, but chugged one glass of “medicine” after another…?

    (Inspired by a flashback to some Little House on the Prairie episode)

  25. Elmar_M

    haha,this has to be the best news in a long time!
    I hope this will reduce the email spam for “male enhancement” products also. Since there is now a precedence case, it might now be possible to sue fraudulent companies like these out of bussiness, especially those that fill up my inbox everyday with their crap. Online casinos next please!

  26. Stephen

    @Jadehawk: indeed. I have read that at least one homeopathic factory produces so much left-over alcohol from its dilutions that it sells it on to the paint industry. (Before anyone rushes off to their DIY shop: I understand paints typically use a mix of solvents.)

  27. Max Fagin

    @ Nix

    Yes, but I suspect the “Truth in Advertising Law” will one day be ruled as unconstitutional. Being legally obligated to tell the truth in an advertisement is impossible. If it were, faith based institutions like churches wouldn’t be allowed to advertise :) Being lied to is part of living in a free society, and learning to distinguish truth from fiction is an important part of life.

    @Celtic_Evolution

    It is difficult to say who is to blame in a situation like your grandmothers. But I know who is not to blame. Ourselves. I know of no moral justification for our government to spend our money policing snake oil peddlers.

    @kuhnigget

    I agree. A society should look after it’s “weaker” members. But not by stealing money from others. There are plenty of private parties (like the BA, Randi, Shermer etc.) who seek to inform the public on their own volition. In todays world, thanks to these people, it is completely possible to separate truth from fiction in advertising claims without the FTC.

    @ Ken B.

    Yes Ken, I do think that such a scenario should be legal. You have a responsibility to be an informed consumer.

    @ Quite Desperation

    You don’t have to be an expert in 127 (bleeping) disciplines to survive. Just learn good critical thinking skills, and know your sources. You probably aren’t a doctor, but you didn’t need to consult the FDA to figure out that homeopathy is bogus. You probably aren’t astronomer, but you didn’t need to consult the NSO to figure out that astrological medicine doesn’t work.

  28. Quiet_Desperation

    @Max, that’s woo stuff, and I know about them because I have a general interest in science and skepticism. Many don’t, and have more important and equally valid concerns in life.

    I’m talking about hardcore Libertarians who9 want to get rid of even the most practical things. A lot of them are actually anarchists without realizing it, or “minarchists” as some call them.

    Even Objectivists see fraud as a violation of their Non-Aggression principle, one of their concepts of social morality. In many of their writings, gaining value through fraud is on the same low moral level as gaining it by force.

  29. waa! worldnet ate my comment, and won’t let me repost it (duplicate comment warning). I hope it’ll spit it out eventually…

  30. John Kusters

    Very disappointed by the “joke” about prison rape in the midst of an otherwise excellent rant. I know you can do better than that, Phil.

  31. Max Fagin

    @ Quite_Desperation

    Should be USNO in my last post, not NSO. Sorry.

    Fraud can only occur between two parties when they have entered into a contractual agreement (verbal, written or otherwise), and when an aspect of that contract is violated. But the relationship between consumer and advertised doesn’t meet that qualification. There is no contract between you and the party you are buying from that the claims made are truthful. And you can not effectively legislate such a contract into existence either. Again, if you could enforce such a law, it would be illegal for groups like churches to advertise, because they can not back their claims with evidence.

    Granted, that doesn’t make lying in advertising MORAL. I agree that gaining value by deception is on the same moral level as gaining it by force. But just because something is immoral does not mean it should be illegal.

  32. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Max

    It is difficult to say who is to blame in a situation like your grandmothers. But I know who is not to blame. Ourselves. I know of no moral justification for our government to spend our money policing snake oil peddlers.

    Look harder. Thankfully most of us have a different sense of social morality.

  33. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Max

    raud can only occur between two parties when they have entered into a contractual agreement (verbal, written or otherwise), and when an aspect of that contract is violated.

    Wha?? Who told you that? If the person who told you that represents you, you may want to consider new representation. Or is that just what your morality tell you it should mean?

    To clarify, the legal definition of fraud is a false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

    Quite a bit more broad than what you said.

  34. Todd W.

    @Max

    Suppose someone advertises a new drug as being safe and effective. For the most part, it is, except for the tiny fact that they do not disclose that it contains small amounts of arsenic. It is in roughly the same amounts in every package. The manufacturer knows about it and it is part of their proprietary formula. Furthermore, the product is meant to be used for chronic conditions, meaning that people will be taking numerous doses of this over a long period of time, resulting in a toxic buildup of arsenic. This would almost certainly lead to death.

    According to your logic, it should be legal for them to do this and suffer no repercussions (ignoring, for the sake of argument, physical harm causes of suit). It is up to each individual consumer to either do their own assays of the product to verify what’s in them, or spend however long searching journal articles about the product, which may not be out until well after the product is marketed.

    If it is none of the government’s business to police against fraud, then there should be no laws against any fraud, if I understand you correctly. By extension, the government has no business policing any case involving physical harm (battery) or the threat of harm (assault, robbery, etc.). The end result is the same. Let the individual beware, be prepared for anything and everything.

    In case you don’t see the similarity between anti-fraud laws and anti-harm laws, take some of these CAM products. Those who are not as aware as you suggest may very well suffer very real physical harm, just as those who are not as prepared to deal with a case of battery or assault may very well suffer very real harm.

    Are you, yourself, prepared to do an assay on every single food, drug or other product you consumer? Or to comb through science journals and the internet for every mention of everything you consume?

  35. Todd W.

    @CE

    thanks for getting to the definition of fraud. I would add that a contract is established…when money changes hands.

    Equating commercial advertising with churches’ advertising is disingenuous. I suppose the argument could be made that churches are selling something, albeit not for money, but I think that would be stretching things a bit.

  36. I’m now wondering when they are going to go after Televangelists that promise “Divine Healing” if you give $100’s to their ministry. Yes, Benny Hinn I’m thinking of you. Really, what’s the difference? What’s the difference between someone selling a cure for cancer in pill form or prayer form? Or, is it that religious organizations are protected? So, when someone is committing fraud in the name of their God, that’s ok? What is the difference? These people should be subject to the same laws as hucksters like Kevin Trudeau. Also, shame on Hugh Downs for appearing in Trudeau’s ad’s flogging his cures. Isn’t he complicit in committing fraud as well?

  37. correct me if i’m wrong, but churches in this country qualify as non-profit organizations, right? I wonder how commercial speech laws apply to non-profits…?

  38. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Todd W.

    Well, expanding on that, there are 5 conditions that must be met for an act to be legally called “fraud:

    1. A false claim or statement of material fact must be made.
    2. The defendant must know that the claim or statement is untrue.
    3. There must be demonstrated intent to deceive on the part of the defendant.
    4. This is the one most relevant to this conversation: The victim must display reasonable reliance on the false claim. In other words, if the false claim is found to be reasonably described as “patently absurd”, normally claims of fraud will not hold up. But, this also depends on the state of the victim. A victim can be deemed to be ignorant, superstitious, illiterate, or mentally challenged in a way that will affect the “reasonable reliance” claim. It’s up to a jury to decide that one.
    5. The statement or claim must injure the victim in a way that leaves the victim in a worse state than before the statement or claim was made.

    I know point number 4 is open to a varying degree of interpretation, but honestly, I can’t think of a more fair way to judge legal fraud… can you?

  39. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Michael L and Jadehawk

    Well, if you see my post on the 5 conditions for fraud, with Churches and religious organizations, especially well-established ones, it’s extremely hard to prove point #2. A pretty good case can be made that the persons do not know, for certain, that the claims they are making are untrue. And even if it’s suspected they do, it’s hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Although, cases of fraud have been successfully brought before the court in years past.

    The case precedent for fraud and religious groups goes back to 1944. In 1944, in the case of the US vs. Ballard, the Supreme Court ruled that “Truth of religious beliefs may not be subjected to scrutiny by a jury, but sincerity may”. Therefor, any challenge of fraud regarding religious organizations becomes a matter of overturning that decision, which frankly, would be more than a little tough.

  40. aah, thanks for the clarification Celtic_Evolution :-)

  41. khms

    1. Working on truth in advertising: good!

    2. Fraud means go to jail: good!

    3. 25 Years for fraud?! Does that include a manslaughter charge? Otherwise it’s ridiculously high.

    4. Jokes about prison rape? Very unfunny. Very uncool. Prison rape is exactly as much a crime as non-prison rape.

    In fact, if you take a way people’s freedom – thus trwating them like children – then you (that is, in this case, the government) automatically assume the responsibilities of a parent. Letting your children rape each other … the responsible people (from wardens on up through at least the whole prison administration) really should go to jail for that.

    Sending people to prison is not supposed to result in torture.

  42. Todd W.

    @khms

    My guess is that the 25 years is for multiple counts.

  43. Crux Australis

    Sorry to be the ignunt fool in this thread, folks, but I’m from New Zealand. What’s Enzyte? Website”s blocked at work due to pornographic content, so I guess it’s nsfw anyway; just trying to keep up with the conversation.

  44. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Crux Australis –

    Oh, you’re not getting me to fall for THAT one… ;)

  45. Crux Australis

    Huh? I honestly don’t get it!

  46. Crux Australis

    OK fine. I’ll look it up when I get home. Should I do it when my wife’s asleep?

  47. Law Mom

    Detrimental reliance is most definitely a key element of fraud, but there is no requirement that money change hands. Any kind of reliance will do. Foregoing real medical treatment and getting sicker would be sufficient. By the way, I have yet to see a civil claim for fraud, or intentional misrepresentation, that was not accompanied by a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation, which would place a “should have known” standard on the snake oil saleman. Alleged snake oil salesman.

  48. IBY

    God, I have always hated that Trudeau commercial. Everytime he opened his mouth, I wanted to punch him, as to not spread the contagious idiocy he spouts all the time. When are they going to ban HIM? I mean, you can’t consider free speech on what he spouts if everything he says are fraud under the guise of “real.” Not only that, doesn’t he intentionally know what he is selling is, I don’t know… questionable?

  49. Davidlpf

    @Crux australis Enzyte suppose to embiggen a certain male part, the commercials I normally see have a guy named bob with the stupidest grin on his face.

  50. Crux Australis

    I’ve heard Trudeau’s “Mega Memory” system. It’s good, and it works, but I’ve since come across a book saying essentially the same things (even the exact same mnemonics) printed years before his system was published. He never mentioned anything about the previously written book. It was all “We’ve developed” and “We’ve discovered”. My respect for him diminished after finding the book.

  51. Crux Australis

    Thanks Davidlpf. That explains why it’s blocked here. I figured it was some kind of “date drug”.

  52. Grand Lunar

    Surprise, surprise! Quacks and frauds revealed!

    I wondered about Enzyte. Been a while since I’ve seen any ads for it. Glad it’s over now; that “Smiling Bob” guy was just too weird.

  53. stopgap

    “That’s the kind of piffle that drove me away from the Libertarian Party: this idea that we are all alone in this world and have to become a (bleeping) expert in 127 different disciplines to survive.”

    No, the basic Libertarian principle that underlines the ideology is to be against all forms of force or fraud. Nice try, but you fail.

  54. One of the things that led to my decision not to renew my subscription to the Skeptical Inquirer was an illustration in an article on the Snake Oil cancer “cure” called Essiac (Skeptical Inquirer,Volume 22, Number 4, July/August 1998.) While the article was quite worthwhile, the illustration was blatantly offensive: A fish-faced person, possibly a woman, goggle-eyes blank with gullibility, crosses her fingers as she downs – capsules? a spoonful? I forget – of Essiac. This fit in well with what I had gradually perceived as the “FOOLS! YOU’RE ALL FOOLS!” tone of the magazine. But bear this in mind: the person in the illustration was someone dying of cancer. What is worse, taking advantage of the desperation of a person facing a painful, debilitating, and ultimately fatal disease, or ridiculing that same person for in their desperation grasping at any hope of a cure they might see within reach? Well, naturally, the first. But the second is pretty bad, too.

    If you’ve never had cancer, never known someone with cancer – well, good for you. I’m jealous. But, please, while we’re lashing out at the scumbags who peddle these snake oil cures to the desperately ill, please show a little compassion towards the desperately ill victims of their scams.

  55. Quiet Desperation

    Max: But just because something is immoral does not mean it should be illegal.

    I would agree with that. I understand where you’re coming from, Max, but we’ll just have to disagree on this *particular* case.

  56. Troy

    It seems the FTC is chasing the wind. For example Kevin Trudeau is still on and making money scamming people. He was convicted of fraud but is allowed to hawk books because it is a first ammendment issue. Yes the enzyte guy got a lot of prison time. But smilin’ Bob didn’t go anywhere and enzyte is still available. They change the ad a bit and it is still on. I’d like to coin a new word it is called the trudeau (you want the trudeau? You can’t handle the trudeau!). It is something that is true enough to keep you on television (and out of prision) but is just the same old snake oil.

  57. kebsis

    @madge: In the US, all ‘psychic hotline’ commercials come with a ‘for entertainment purposes only’ disclaimer at the bottom of the screen. Interestingly, I haven’t seen a commercial for one of those things in years. I dunno if there’s been some change in the law or FCC rules or if they simply don’t make money anymore….either way, it’s for the better obviously.

  58. Peter B

    Max Fagin said: “You don’t have to be an expert in 127 (bleeping) disciplines to survive. Just learn good critical thinking skills, and know your sources. You probably aren’t a doctor, but you didn’t need to consult the FDA to figure out that homeopathy is bogus. You probably aren’t astronomer, but you didn’t need to consult the NSO to figure out that astrological medicine doesn’t work.”

    Yes, it might be obvious that astrological medicine won’t work, but what about that packet of headache tablets you bought? If they’re the real thing, they’ll relieve your headache, but how can you know they’re the real thing?

    If you’re going to test things for genuineness, the only practical solution is to band together with a group of like-minded people and share research. But, as I’m sure you’ve realised, the effect is much the same as having a regulator. So why not simplify the situation, and have a regulator who is legislated to act in the best interests of the consumer?

  59. Celtic_Evolution

    If you’ve never had cancer, never known someone with cancer – well, good for you. I’m jealous. But, please, while we’re lashing out at the scumbags who peddle these snake oil cures to the desperately ill, please show a little compassion towards the desperately ill victims of their scams.

    Harold… I certainly agree with this statement, as do i think most of us here… so I’m curious as to what prompted you to feel the need to write it. Reviewing both the original post and the comments that followed, I see most of the vitriol being directed at the “scumbags who peddle these snake oil cures”… I’m not really seeing a lack of compassion for the victims’ conditions, per se. We’ve been arguing Max’s “buyer beware… in ALL cases” stance, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily showing a lack of compassion for the victims’ illnesses.

    So, did I miss something that prompted this concern? If so, I apologize.

  60. Thanks for the info, Celtic. One question though, that hasn’t been answered as far as I can see. Would a celebrity who endorses a fraudulent individual and his product be complicit. For example, Hugh Downs endorsing Kevin Trudeau?

  61. Celtic_Evolution, to be honest, I don’t think any one comment here set me off, though I had the same visceral reaction to what Max Fagin said as you, and that got the train of thought rolling. In a large part it was that damned illustration in Skeptical Inquirer, which came out shortly before a series of people around me began to be diagnosed with cancer. As soon as I began reading this entry I started getting mental pop-ups from the SI article. Considering that that article appeared ten years ago, you can tell how much of an impression it left, and how deeply the image burned.

  62. Celtic_Evolution

    Michael L –

    Well, it depends… if an endorser is found to meet the same 5 criteria listed above for fraud, and profits from that fraud at the expense of the victim, yes… an endorser could technically be included as a party to the fraud. A victim must demonstrate that the endorser is in fact aware that a claim is false, and that’s always the hard part.

    Additionally, I believe most celebrities who do endorsements sign contracts that have built in indemnity clauses in them which state that while the person may endorse the product, he or she does not represent any claims made by the product manufacturer. This is fairly common in endorsement deals and is meant to protect the endorser from liability. I can’t think of a case off the top of my head where an endorser has been found guilty of fraud for endorsing a fraudulent product. Although someone with more direct knowledge of such a case may know of one.

  63. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Harold –

    OK… Thanks for clarifying. I still think it helps to keep an emotional response within the context of a particular conversation, and yours seemed a bit extreme for this discussion. But I can understand the reason for your feeling that way, based on your description.

  64. michelle

    isnt it odd that there hasnt been a cure for a major disease since polio? cmon people, canser is a money making business, pharmacutical compnaies would go out of business if they found a cure for cancer. They create diseases then creat a phony drug that surpresses it temporariy until it causes some other “unatural function” in yr body.
    the earth has many remidies, how do you think mankind survived before, doctors, pharmacutical companies, fda, fts, and the goverment?
    they are trying to regulate population and want money money money

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