False claims in weight-loss book leads to FTC action.
A federal judge has banned Kevin Trudeau from infomercials in which he has an interest for three years and ordered him to pay more than $5 million in profits from his book, The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About. The ruling confirms an earlier contempt finding against Trudeau — the second time he has been found in contempt of court in the past four years.
In August, Judge Robert W. Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois stood by his conclusion in 2007 that Trudeau "clearly, and no doubt intentionally," violated a provision of a 2004 stipulated court order that prohibits Trudeau from misrepresenting the content of books in his infomercials. The judge stated that "the Infomercial[s] falsely and intentionally led thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of consumers to believe that the Weight Loss Book would describe an 'easy,' 'simple' protocol that, once 'finished' would allow the consumer to 'eat anything' he or she wants."
Stating that Trudeau was "not a credible witness," the judge noted several "undeniably false" statements in his infomercials, finding that, contrary to Trudeau's claims:
- the diet protocol could not be done "easily" and "at home," because the protocol described in Trudeau's book requires colonics, which must be done at the office of a licensed practitioner, as well as injection of human growth hormone;
- dieters could not "complete" or "finish" Trudeau's four-phase program, because Trudeau's book states that "Phase 4 is for the rest of your life";
- dieters could not eat "anything" they want, because Trudeau's book prescribes that dieters following Phase 4 must eat "only 100% organic food," and no "brand name" food, "fast food," or "food served by regional or national chain restaurants"; and
- the diet protocol did not require "no exercise," because Trudeau's book states that three of the diet's four phases, including Phase 4, require walking one hour outside every day.
Given Trudeau's "history of deception and contemptuous violation of court orders" and his "willful efforts to deceive consumers" into believing that his weight-loss book contained material that it did not, the court confirmed its ruling that found Trudeau in contempt of the 2004 order.
The FTC filed its first lawsuit against Trudeau in 1998, charging him with making false and misleading claims in infomercials for products he claimed could cause significant weight loss and cure addictions to heroin, alcohol, and cigarettes, and enable users to achieve a photographic memory. A stipulated court order resolving that case barred Trudeau from making false claims for products in the future, ordered him to pay $500,000 in consumer redress, and established a $500,000 performance bond to ensure compliance.
In 2003, the Commission charged Trudeau with violating the 1998 order by falsely claiming in infomercials that a product, Coral Calcium Supreme, could cure cancer. The court subsequently entered a preliminary injunction that ordered him not to make such claims.
When Trudeau continued to make cancer-cure claims about Coral Calcium, he was found in contempt of the injunction.
In 2004, Trudeau agreed to an order that resolved the Coral Calcium matter. The order directed him to pay $2 million in consumer redress and banned him from infomercials, except for infomercials for informational publications such as books, provided that he "must not misrepresent the content" of the books.
The most recent contempt action stems from Trudeau's misrepresentations of the contents of his weight-loss book in infomercials. In November 2007, Judge Gettleman found Trudeau in contempt, stating that he had misled thousands of consumers with false claims that were "in flagrant violation" of the court's order.
In his August ruling, the court banned Trudeau "or any person acting in concert with him, from participating in the production or publication of any infomercial for any product, including books, in which Mr. Trudeau or any related entity has an interest, for a period of three years from the date of this order." The court also imposed a judgment against Trudeau of more than $5 million.