Home Companies Herbalife Let’s Talk Herbalife and The Future Of MLM

Let’s Talk Herbalife and The Future Of MLM


Herbalife was recently in the news for being fined $200 million by the Federal Trade Commision.

Here is a snip from the FTC press release:

150423-ftc-745a_ee2181a8f64edea9b78dedb568c27eb5.nbcnews-fp-1200-800“This settlement will require Herbalife to fundamentally restructure its business so that participants are rewarded for what they sell, not how many people they recruit,” FTC Chairwoman Ramirez said. “Herbalife is going to have to start operating legitimately, making only truthful claims about how much money its members are likely to make, and it will have to compensate consumers for the losses they have suffered as a result of what we charge are unfair and deceptive practices.”

Even with Troy Dooly’s MLM Help Desk and BusinessForHome.org, the average Network Marketer probably doesn’t follow this stuff very closely. This site, MLMBlog.net used to be the go to for news about MLM, but in all honestly, I got really burned out while writing about lawsuits and scams all of the time. So I have since shifted the focus of this site to building a money making Network Marketing business.

But when news comes down this big, (to my knowledge) the largest fine ever levied against a Network Marketing company, I felt like I should post a few thoughts.

Let’s start with the past and work our way forward.

What did Herbalife do to deserve a $200 million fine from the FTC?

First I’ll give you what the complaint says, and then I’ll give you my opinion.

The complaint says:

…(Herbalife’s) compensation structure was unfair because it rewards distributors for recruiting others to join and purchase products in order to advance in the marketing program, rather than in response to actual retail demand for the product, causing substantial economic injury to many of its distributors…”

This is pretty close to what was actually happening at Herbalife.  Basically a group of Herbalife Distributors promoted the sales of large products packages (upwards of $8,500), followed by the sales of thousands of dollars in business leads. This would commonly be referred to as “front end loading”, where a new distributor would buy a large amount of product without having a real way to sell the products.

The good news is that Troy Dooly reports that this practice stopped a couple of years ago and the spearheaded this strategy have moved on.

But the damage was done.

Unless you own some type of retail store or gym where you can move inventory, no one should purchase more products than they can legitimately use, sell or use as samples in a given month. So buying $8,500 worth of products not reasonable.

In my opinion, you should be able to start your Network Marketing business for $100-$500.  Don’t be afraid to buy a reasonable product package to familiarize yourself with the product line.

What does this mean for Herbalife?

Here are the four things laid out by the FTC:

“The company will now differentiate between participants who join simply to buy products at a discount and those who join the business opportunity. “Discount buyers” will not be eligible to sell product or earn rewards.

Multi-level compensation that business opportunity participants earn will be driven by retail sales. At least two-thirds of rewards paid by Herbalife to distributors must be based on retail sales of Herbalife products that are tracked and verified. No more than one-third of rewards can be based on other distributors’ limited personal consumption.

Companywide, in order to pay compensation to distributors at current levels, at least 80 percent of Herbalife’s product sales must be comprised of sales to legitimate end-users. Otherwise, rewards to distributors must be reduced.

Herbalife is prohibited from allowing participants to incur the expenses associated with leasing or purchasing premises for “Nutrition Clubs” or other business locations before completing their first year as a distributor and completing a business training program.”

What does this mean for Network Marketing as a whole?

Here’s what we learned:

Vemma’s problems came down to promoting their business model to college students who probably were not prepared to start a business of their own. (Certainly the student’s parents were not prepared for their students to start an energy drink business).

Herbalife’s problems relate to classic front end loading.  Frankly, there is no excuse for this practice.  It’s been a big NO NO for a long time.

But both companies were dealt with in a similar manner.

The FTC wants to distinguish between people who are building a business and people who are just buying products.

Most people in Network Marketing just buy products.  I’m not going to dive into the psychology of why a person would sign up for a business and then only buy products without really making much effort to sell products or sponsor people. There are many reasons.

I will however, offer a simple solution for Network Marketing companies:

Make people qualify to become a distributor, representative, promoter, etc.

It’s common sense really.

I could say that I am a U.S. Marine and you would have a pretty good idea what that means. I would have went through skills training and spent time stationed in a location doing the work that Marine’s do.

Now, what if I told you I am a Marine, because I once signed up to be a Marine, even though I didn’t do anything further other than signing up. Truth is, signing up to be a Marine, does not make you a Marine. Your actions make you a Marine.

Same thing with the Network Marketing profession.

Signing up in Network Marketing and buying products doesn’t make you a Network Marketer. Your actions make you a Network Marketer.  Sell a product, sponsor a person, you qualify to be a Network Marketer.

Of course, becoming a Network Marketing professional is another topic altogether.

tribbleshotTy Tribble is the founder of MLMBlog and author of ‘Double Your Income with Network Marketing.

Ty writes, speaks and trains on the topic of using the Internet to Make Money Online.

Ty lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife of 26 years and two children.

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"Ty Tribble is an Internet entrepreneur, author and Work At Home Dad who lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Richelle and two children, Emma and Tyler. Ty has been featured in Entrepreneur and Success From Home magazine and is considered by many as the # 1 blogger in the world on the subject of Network Marketing. Author of the book, ‘Double Your Income with Network Marketing’, Ty teaches lead generation strategies through social media and blogging to tens of thousands of Network Marketers around the world."


  1. Hey Ty, I definitely have to comment on this post. I am very familiar with Herbalife. It was the first company I started with in 2002. At the time I got a little booklet in the mail. Was pretty typical. All success stories with no mention of Herbalife. So I ordered the $45 package, upgraded to $299 then went Supervisor at $4k. Then they hit me with “for another 1k in product you can come to our leadership weekend”! Then they hit me with the marketing plan that cost at least 2k a month. About 6 months after building the biz they were sued and had to pay out I think 12.5 million or something at the time. The marketing system NWTW that was a certain group within Herbalife. I definitely lost a good chunk of money but I had no regrets.

    I will say this. Starting Herbalife was a great lesson for me. It got me started in MLM so I have no complaints. However, there were definitely some greedy distributors within Herbalife that knew most of these people they were selling 5k packages to were going to do nothing. That was the problem. I remember these guys doing personal volume of 30k even some 60k a month. That was personal volume. So some of them were bringing in 10 plus Supervisors a month not counting there team. There is no way you could physically help and train all those people to sell all that product. They didn’t care. On the back end they were making millions off selling the “20k” marketing plan to basically anyone. People were buying phone dialars, spending 2k plus on direct mail, flyers, ads, etc.. it’s a bit different now. Many of those distributors left because herbalife told them they couldn’t promote such marketing systems. I won’t name names but many went to Vemma.. Now I think with some travel companies.

    Herbalife is definitely a great company. They have great products. I think their formula 1,2,3 is fantastic. There are also some great distributors and leaders. But you’re going to find sharks in most companies. I’m going to dive a bit deeper and read up on this just out of curiosity.. Thanks for the post.

  2. “Signing up in Network Marketing and buying products doesn’t make you a Network Marketer. Your actions make you a Network Marketer. Sell a product, sponsor a person, you qualify to be a Network Marketer.”

    That is some of the best advice ever.

    I don’t consider anyone a distributor until they have sponsored at least one person and found at least a couple of customers.

    Keep up the good work Ty. I love your blog man.


  3. Businesses like this work well especially if you are good at door to door sales or parties. If your trying to build it on line you need fresh new leads we can get you 100 leads a day.


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