Photo of Donnelly L. McDowell

Email
(202) 342-8645
Bio

In its third recent Penalty Offense Authority notice, the FTC today notified more than 1,100 companies offering “money-making opportunities” that it intends to pursue civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation for misrepresentations related to potential earnings and related characteristics about the opportunity.  Recipients of the notice include virtually every major direct selling company and others in the gig economy such as Amazon, DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber.

That makes more than 1,800 companies that have been put on notice of penalty offenses in the past month.  It also crosses another alleged deceptive practice off the list laid out in the October 2020 paper authored by current Bureau Director Sam Levine and former FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, entitled The Case for Resurrecting the FTC Act’s Penalty Offense Authority.  Next up?  Well, if the Chopra/Levine paper points the way (and it appears to), we should expect future notices that focus on allegedly unfair and deceptive data harvesting and targeted marketing.

In addition to the eight categories of misrepresentations in today’s notice ranging from the amount of earnings possible to the amount of training provided, the sample cover letter published online also includes a section on endorsements and testimonials.  This means that each company receiving today’s notice also will receive the notice published last week on endorsements and testimonials, which over 700 companies also received (with some minimal overlap in that list).
Continue Reading Next Up – Earnings Claims:  Notice of Penalty Offenses Sent to 1,100 Direct Selling Companies and Others in the Gig Economy

Making good on promises to creatively explore all of its options for enforcement, the FTC yesterday notified 70 for-profit higher educational institutions that it intends to use its long dormant Penalty Offense Authority to obtain civil penalties when institutions make misrepresentations about their programs and job and earnings prospects.  The move closely follows recommendations proposed

The Senate yesterday confirmed current FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra as the new Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The 50-48 vote to confirm was along party lines and followed Vice President Harris’s breaking of a 50-50 tie to invoke cloture and end debate on Chopra’s nomination.

With Chopra’s departure from the FTC

TINA.org continues to aggressively beat the enforcement drum.  Today, its leaders sent a letter to Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Samuel Levine encouraging the FTC “to implement a penalty offense program targeting the direct selling industry and its market-wide practice of utilizing deceptive earnings representations and false health claims.”

As we discussed

The FTC yesterday took two actions that on their face seemed part of the regular course, but that could signal notable changes for financial institutions and multi-level marketing companies.  First, the FTC filed an amended complaint against RCG Advances, a merchant cash advance provider, alleging that the company violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and seeking civil

The Senate Commerce Committee today voted overwhelmingly to move forward with Lina Khan’s nomination as FTC Commissioner, signaling that Khan is likely to ultimately be confirmed as the youngest Commissioner ever at 32.  As we previously discussed here, Khan is primarily known as an antitrust scholar advocating for more exacting scrutiny of big tech

In a significant but unsurprising move, the CFPB announced today that it was rescinding a policy statement issued in January 2020 that sought to tether the Bureau’s “abusive” authority to certain limiting principles.  The move signals that the Bureau is likely to interpret its authority to prevent “abusive acts and practices” under the Dodd-Frank Act

President Biden’s nominee to serve as CFPB Director, Rohit Chopra, today testified in front of the Senate Banking Committee about his potential regulatory and enforcement priorities as head of the consumer finance regulator. As we previously discussed, President Biden tapped Chopra, three years into his tenure as FTC Commissioner, to serve as Director

Ad Law Access PodcastOften when people think about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) they say to themselves, “well, I’m not a bank so that doesn’t really apply to me.” But consumer financial protection laws are actually much broader and cover all aspects of consumer financial products, any way that consumers bank, pay, or finance transactions and the