Thursday, January 31, 2013

USANA Allows Distributors To Sign Up Under The Same Home Address and Credit Card - Recipe For Circumventing Foreign Laws

USANA Health Sciences, Inc (USNA) has virtually expanded their Multilevel Marketing (MLM) operation from about 19 markets to every market in the entire world.

A recently written internal USANA document reveals a secret policy that only insiders and several top distributors are aware of. This hidden policy allows over 15 active associates to use the same home address as well as using the same credit card. I cannot find this sort of policy mentioned anywhere on the web or through distributor literature. This policy essentially allows USANA distributors to sign people up into their MLM downlines within any country in this world including unauthorized markets such as mainland China, which has laws preventing their citizens from participating in MLM schemes.

Internal USANA document regarding address and creditcard enhancements states the following:
         Address and Credit Card System Enhancements
    - System enhancements took effect starting as of January 26, 2013.
    - As each of you are aware, in order to enroll as an associate in any market where USANA does business an associate must provide their correct address in country to show residency and to allow us to contact them.
    - In addition, downline purchasing is strictly forbidden, meaning an associate must pay for his or her own orders.
    - These policies are difficult to enforce at times because an associate may “lend” the use of his or her address to downline members allowing enrollments that do not meet residency requirements.  Likewise, an upline may use the same credit card to pay for all orders in an organization, thus causing compensation plan manipulation.
    - The compliance team has been charged with enforcing these rules but has found it difficult.
    - With project upgrade complete IT has been able to help this situation with two new enhancements.
    - First, as of January 26th the online enrollment system will not accept any address as a home address if that address has already been used by more than 15 other active associates.
          - Limited to main addresses only
          - however will not catch spelling or abreaviation differences
                - example: 123 Jon Boulevard vs. 123 Jon Blv.
          - The example would read as two different addressses
          - This will need to be evaluated and reported to compliance when noticed
          - This prohibition can be manually over-ruled by a DSR so that in the extremely rare circumstance that more than 15 associates truly do share the same address they simply need to enroll by phone.
          - A DSR will then verify that the address is really their address and can complete the enrollment.
    - Second, as of January 26th our online product order system will not accept as payment for product any credit card that is already in use on more than 15 active distributorships. 
          - This rule will not apply for the time being in Mexico or the Philippines until we are comfortable that we have a working solution in those markets for distributors who do not have a credit card. 
          - In addition, this prohibition will not apply to an associate’s first order as it is common for a sponsor to lend his or her credit card to a new associate and take cash as payment for the first order.
          - As with the first system enhancement, this prohibition can also be manually over-ruled by a DSR where the DSR speaks to the associate and the upline and verifies that the associate has paid cash to the upline and the upline authorizes use of the card.
    - Note that these enhancements do not represent a change in policy.  The policy remains that each associate must pay for his or her own orders and provide a legitimate address to enroll.  These enhancements simply will allow us to better enforce rules that were previously more difficult to enforce.
    - Kevin Guest and Deborah Woo informed each of the IDCs about this new enhancement in November and there were no complaints.
    -  Brent Neidig will be writing a compliance corner article to remind associates of these policies.
    - In addition associates who have previously had a practice of signing many people up at one address or with one credit card will notice the restriction.
    - Please make sure you are prepared to respond to these associates and help them understand the restrictions and that your DSRs, compliance and field development staff

DSR stands for Distributor Services Representative
IDC stands for Independent Distributor Council

USANA's 2012-2013 Independent Distributor Council (IDC) is made up of the following distributors:

Zak Ross – 10 Star Diamond Director
Simon Chan – 3 Star Diamond Director
Tony and Tammy Daum – 2 Star Diamond Director
Daniel and Paige Hunter – 2 Star Diamond Director
Jordan Kemper – Diamond Director
Tom and Lorie Mulhern – Diamond Director
Jared Creds – Ruby Director
Soomin Kim – Ruby Director

USANA is only talking about restricting their ONLINE ENROLLMENT SYSTEM from allowing associates to sign up more distributors under the same address if they already have 15 active associates sharing that address. Obviously distributors have been doing this or else USANA would not have to put in place a limit on the online enrollment. Does it really matter though since all the associate has to do is call USANA's customer service to get an override.

This policy outlined in the internal memo about allowing over 15 associates sharing the same address contradicts USANA's published policies and procedures which states the following:
3.13 One Distributorship
An Associate may operate, receive compensation from, or have an ownership interest, legal or equitable, as a sole proprietorship, shareholder, trustee, or beneficiary in only one USANA Distributorship. However, notwithstanding this rule, your spouse may become an Associate and operate a second distributorship as long your spouse’s distributorship is placed below one of your business centers and not in a cross line sales organization. The second business must be a bona fide independent business that is operated by the person listed on the agreement and not by the owner of the first business.

Now unless USANA executives have been watching too much "Sister Wives" on The Learning Channel, there is no way somebody has 4 spouses let alone over 15! So aside from polygamy, USANA's policies and procedures limits a household to only two distributor accounts. The policies and procedures USANA publicly publishes serves as nothing more than lip service to federal regulators. USANA's unpublished set of policies shown in these internal memos are the real policies that the federal regulators should be interested in.

A couple years ago there was another internal USANA document regarding compliance and training for their employees that makes the following contradictory statements:

QUOTE (my emphasis in red)
VII. Questions from DSR
II. When can we get the computer to list accounts with same address, phone, ssn, etc.
i. We already have access to most of that information, it just doesn’t automatically show us it. We have spoken with IT and the more actions we place on the system, the more burdensome it becomes and the slower it  operates. So for now, we have to run our own little reports to try and find multiples.

At the time why would USANA be interested in finding distributor accounts that share the same address? USANA admits they have access to the information and is fully capable finding these "multiples". Obviously there was a problem back then with associates using the same home address.

Lets look at another quote regarding credit card fraud and usage.

QUOTE (my emphasis in red)
III. Fraud
iii. Credit card usage

1. If someone is trying to use a card other than their own, do not let them. There have been several instances of fraud lately where people’s cards have been stolen and used to purchased product.

2. A good response would be: “I noticed that the name on this card is different than your own. You may not be aware of this, but recently there have been several instances where credit card fraud has taken place. Because of this, we are trying to increase our associates protection by only allowing the account holders credit card to be used  on their account. So unfortunately I can’t let you use this credit card. I know it may be a bit inconvenient, but I’m sure you would be glad if we
stopped someone else from using your card on their account without  your authorization.”

VII. Questions from DSR
III. How rampant is credit card fraud in the system?
i. Lately we have had several issues with Fraud. I don’t have an exact  number on how many issues we have, but it is a growing concern. As a result, we are currently working on changing our credit card policy to ensure an added level of protection for our associates.

According to USANA's 2010 internal document, credit cards can only be used on the card holder's own distributor account. Here USANA discusses trying to tackle credit card fraud. Yet, in their latest internal document just recently written they allow over 15 active associates to all use the same credit card.

So why does any of this matter at all? For starters, it allows a distributor to recruit anyone from anywhere into their downline. All they have to do is use the sponsoring distributor's address and credit card. The sponsoring distributor is simply reimbursed by those in his or her downline who reside in countries that are not authorized to participate in MLM companies. This leads me to China.

For several years now I have been writing on my blog about mounting evidence that USANA has been signing up Chinese Nationals into their MLM compensation plan. It is against the law for Chinese Nationals to own or operate a MLM distributorship. USANA is not authorized to conduct MLM activities within mainland China.

So one possible way USANA can circumvent China's laws is to sign up Chinese Nationals in other countries such as Hong Kong and use the sponsoring distributor's Hong Kong address. By doing so, it removes any paper trails within USANA's computer system and from auditors eyes. The shareholders simply see USANA's Hong Kong market rise sharply while the rest of USANA's markets hold steady or even decline. This sharp rise in sales and distributorships in Hong Kong sends USANA's stock price soaring. When the price is right, insiders dump millions of dollars worth of stock (Myron Wentz sold over $30,000,000 in November and December).

In November, Citron Research released evidence of Chinese Nationals being recruited in USANA's MLM compensation plan by a distributor from Hong Kong. Each of the Chinese Nationals used the address of the distributor from Hong Kong. They were also instructed to open up bank accounts in Hong Kong as well. This internal memo is strong evidence that USANA has in place a policy that allows for such questionable recruiting activities. USANA filed a response with the SEC regarding the Citron report and simply stated that they operate BabyCare Ltd. in mainland China and do it legally. USANA's response diverges from the actual issue, which is the recruitment of Chinese Nationals into USANA's MultiLevel Marketing plan through Hong Kong, not the BabyCare SingleLevel Marketing plan already established in mainland China.

With unethical hidden policies like these it's no wonder USANA executives are leaving like rats on a sinking ship. Someone should ask USANA during their financial conference call next week "how many associates share the same address with three or more other associates and what percentage of net sales did they account for."

I'll finish with one of my favorite non-disclosures by USANA revealed in the older internal USANA document:
IV. What is the biggest market that buys our products that we are not eligible to operate in?

i. Once again I couldn’t give you an exact answer on this. Since I work with our Asian markets, I know that a large sum of product ends up in China, but I’m sure product somehow gets shipped to other unauthorized markets as well…

A Large Sum sounds like a lot to me.

Now that the FTC has shut down MLM company Fortune Hi Tech (FHTM), could USANA be next in their sights? I will discuss this in my next article.

Disclosure: I have no stock position in USANA or any of their competitors. I have never and will never hold a stock position with USANA. I am not paid to write this article. I make no money from this blog. I have never and will never be a USANA distributor or a distributor of any other MLM company.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Number One Product USANA Distributors Sell is the Business Opportunity Membership. Is This Worse Than Herbalife and Amway?

USANA distributors' number one selling product is not a vitamin supplement or skin care product. It is actually the business opportunity membership. That's right, a $19.95 startup fee someone pays when they are recruited into USANA's business opportunity and placed in the distributor's downline. This might sound unbelievable but I believe it is true. USANA product cannot be retailed for a profit because 1) “preferred customers” get the product at the same cost as distributors and 2) the product is absurdly overpriced because of the percentage of “distributor incentives” paid out, so there is zero demand for the product above the distributor's cost. So the only thing reasonably priced is the actual membership fee to join as a USANA distributor. All the distributor has to do now is convince others that they too can become rich by signing up in USANA's business opportunity.

USANA claims distributors aren't paid commission from this signup fee and claims that doing so would make them an illegal pyramid scheme. USANA claims that if commissions are paid based on product sales, then it is not a pyramid. However, this $19.95 fee alone doesn't let the newly recruited distributor even start their USANA business. Their business venture does not begin until they “activate” a business center. To do this, the new distributor must “personally purchase” over $220 worth of product, which is 200 “personal sales volume” (PSV) as USANA calls it. Once activated, the new distributor can take part in USANA's compensation plan.

USANA considers this required personal purchase to activate the new distributor's status as a “sale”. Did the distributor who recruited this new member sell the product to the new distributor? Absolutely not. Did the new distributor purchase the product from the person who recruited them? Not at all. The only product that was sold by the distributor was a membership (recruitment). So USANA gives Group Sales Volume (GSV) points to every upstream member above the newly recruited distributor based on the $220 worth of product purchased. These GSV will travel all the way up to the very first USANA distributor if it needs to. Once enough GSV points are accumulated, they are converted into commission dollars.

After the newly recruited distributor has activated their business center, they must now personally purchase 100 points worth of product ($110) every 4 weeks to remain active. If the associate fails to make this personal purchase, that distributor is no longer considered active, is no longer able to make any commission, and loses all their accumulated GSV points (if they had 10,000 GSV, they now have 0).

Now imagine over 220,000 USANA active distributors all making their required personal purchases in order to stay active. Many are required to personally purchase 200 PSV since they have multiple business centers. That's a lot of product purchased from USANA but none actually sold by USANA distributors. Again, the primary product sold by USANA distributors is the membership. So why should any of these distributors make any commission whatsoever from these “required” product purchases made by every active distributor?

The only real customers are the USANA “preferred customers”. There are around 64,000 of them. In 2011, preferred customers only account for 10% of USANA's net revenue, which is virtually insignificant. 10% of $589 million is only $58.9 million. The amount of commission paid out is 45% of net revenue. So preferred customers only account for around $26 million in commission paid out. However, USANA paid a total of $265 million total. Where did the remaining $239 million in commission funds come from? USANA distributor's required personal purchases.

The FTC wrote a letter tothe Direct Selling Association back in 2004 the states the following: (my emphasis in bold)
...a multi-level compensation system funded primarily by payments made for the right to participate in the venture is an illegal pyramid scheme.
Modern pyramid schemes generally do not blatantly base commissions on the outright payment of fees, but instead try to disguise these payments to appear as if they are based on the sale of goods or services. The most common means employed to achieve this goal is to require a certain level of monthly purchases to qualify for commissions.

There is no question about it, USANA is operating as a pyramid scheme. Federal regulators have completely ignored complaints from thousands of MLM distributors and critics and have instead made it easier for these kinds of scams to exist (FTC's business opportunity rule exempts multilevel marketing business opportunities). Hopefully the recent attention Herbalife has been receiving from pyramid scheme allegations of their own draws enough attention to the MLM industry that federal regulators are forced to investigate frauds like USANA. Hundreds of thousands of USANA distributors are losing money and never even had a chance to make a profit. A 99% failure rate cannot and should not be ignored. And don't forget, USANA's #1 product sold by its distributors are memberships into the business opportunity.