Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 3, Episode 29 - Multilevel Marketing - full transcript

John Oliver talks about the legitimacy of Multilevel marketing companies that seem pyramid shaped. He also talks a bit about USA election 2016 once more.

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LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

SEASON III
EPISODE 29

Welcome to Last Week Tonight !

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you so much for joining us.

For the last time before the vote,
we begin with the 2016 election.

"Of course Election Day
is November 8th,"

"the latest possible date
the election could fall on,"

"the universe punishing us for all
the masturbating we've done 2016".

The two candidates spent most
of this week furiously campaigning.

For Hillary Clinton, that meant
calling in help from Beyoncé and Jay -Z,

who she thanked by ruining
one of his songs in front of him.



Jay memorably said
something we should all recall...

Rosa Parks sat
so Martin Luther could walk,

and Martin Luther walked
so Barack Obama could run,

and Barack Obama ran
so all the children could fly !

Cool !

I have to say, with that cadence,
flow, and swag,

Hillary Clinton is truly
the Hillary Clinton of rappers.

As for Donald Trump,
the equivalent of a clear plastic bag

filled with cheeseburgers
and Confederate flag belt buckles,

he spent the week making
a visible effort to restrain himself.

Stay on point, Donald,
stay on point.

No sidetracks, Donald.
Nice and easy. Nice.

Trump's inner monologue
has the tone of a serial killer

stalking his prey at a food court:



"Stay on point.
They haven't seen you yet."

"Be nice and easy.
You're just here for a Cinnabon."

"Niiiiice."

Before we taped,
there was breaking news

regarding new emails
found on Anthony Weiner's computer

that started a shit -storm last week.

The FBI and have said they warrant
no new action against Hillary Clinton.

A big deal. Although, watch Trump
campaign manager Kellyanne Conway

try to minimize it
in truly incredible fashion.

I don't believe it is politically
good or bad information.

We have not made this
a centerpiece of our messaging.

Seriously ?
In the word-cloud of your campaign,

"email" is right up there
with "wall", "Mexicans", "big-league",

"unintelligible",
"sniffle" and "wrong !"

Who knows if this new information
about the emails will change minds ?

If you're still undecided,
I don't know if I can help you.

Our main story later won't have
anything to do with this election.

You have to vote, even if you live in a
state where you think it won't matter.

There are some important things
to vote for downballot,

the races that you don't think about

until you're in the voting booth
thinking "Comptroller ?"

"Shit, I did not study for that.
I hope this person's not a Nazi."

But it's not just candidates.
In many places,

there are important ballot initiatives,
from raising the minimum wage,

to legalizing marijuana,
to which I say: dank...

To the death penalty.
It can be confusing language.

Nebraska is voting whether to repeal
an earlier repeal of the death penalty

so voting to repeal
will actually reinstate it.

Which is, I would say: un-dank.

So you should prepare
before you vote.

It's easy if you Google "view
my ballot" and type in your address,

you can see who or what
is on the ballot in your area.

And after that, you can type
"dog dressed as a walrus" into Google

as a little treat for yourself,
because now you actually deserve it.

The point is that there is
a lot to consider on Tuesday.

And barring recounts this nightmare
of a campaign will be over.

Which is good, this election hasn't
so much appealed to our better angels,

as it has groped our better angels,

mocked their weight,
and called them "sixes at best".

We are at a point where this man
has a genuine shot at the presidency,

despite having blown up
a political party,

undermined confidence
in our electoral system,

and unleashed a river
of racism and misogyny.

And I feel
like we've lost sight of this...

He has really stupid hair.
It's important to remember that.

It is frankly hard to believe
that there was a time

when people thought a Trump
candidacy would be funny.

But there was such a time.
As you may remember, three years ago,

I guesthosted The Daily Show,
and there is something you should see.

Republicans better have
something special up their sleeve.

Donald Trump confirmed
that he's considering a run in 2016.

Do it. Do it. Look, look at me.

Do it. I will personally write you
a campaign check now,

on behalf of this country, which
does not want you to be president,

but which badly wants you to run.

Now, in my defense...
I have no defense for that,

and was hoping to think of one before
finishing this sentence: "It's over".

Listen... I want to believe
that America will reject Donald Trump.

That our innate sense of decency
will kick in like some moral autopilot.

But I have been spectacularly
wrong before.

Because, as you might remember,
eight years ago,

I was working as a correspondent
for The Daily Show,

and there's something you should see.

Cubs fans are considered
a subset of the stupid.

Absolutely Jon.
They've had 100 years to figure out

that what they want will never
happen, yet they still yearn for it.

- And that is stupid.
- Yes, it's very stupid.

- Because the Cubs will never win.
- No, that's right, Jon.

The Chicago Cubs will never,
ever win the World Series.

I'm an idiot. But that clearly shows:
no outcome is certain.

If you are thinking
you don't have to show up to vote,

because the impossible
could not happen,

take it from somebody who has learned
from experience.

You are wrong about that.
And now: this !

The inevitable sad consequences of
morning shows celebrating Halloween.

This is WITN News, early sunrise.

Just keep swimming !

- Here's our costumes !
- Happy Halloween. Note the stems.

You're supposed to dress up
as your favorite thing.

Is that not perfect ?

- This is Prince over here.
- Like my guitar ?

- And it's even got the symbol.
- Awesome you did a great job.

We need to chill on this fog machine
cause you can't even see us.

In spots such as Uvalde,
Cotulla, Pleasanton, Gonzales...

This is much tougher
with Tyrannosaurus Rex arms.

It be a nice weather today, we be
looking at some beautiful weather

to start our Halloween
in our work week.

It is a spooktacular night
here in the heartland.

We be sailing the high seas
with some gorgeous conditions.

CBS this morning is gonna have
more on the big stories of the day.

The man who fired several shots from
the semi-automatic rifle of the south

end of the parking lot
at a Sports on Tap

about 12:30 Saturday morning
is still not in custody.

Moving on.
For our main story tonight,

I would like to talk to you
about an exciting opportunity.

I need 30 minutes to explain it,

but it has the potential
to transform your life.

I'm talking about multi-level
marketing companies, or MLMs.

Companies like Mary Kay,

Rodan and Fields,
Nu Skin, Amway, and Herbalife.

Generally MLMs
have two main things in common.

You don't see them on store shelves,
you buy them through distributors,

like friends,
family and coworkers.

Those distributors are always
looking for more people to join them

and they have
an attractive message.

- Why Herbalife ?
- You are your own boss.

- Earn extra money.
- Work from home.

- Raise your children.
- Name your hours.

- Make part time or full time money.
- Paying the bills.

Share this with 10 people.

That you care about that you love
that you adore that you admire.

- 20 people ! 30 people !
- What're you waiting for ?

100 people ! Share it with everybody !
They want what we have ! We got it !

I'm supposed to share that with 10
people I love, adore, and admire ?

A tough ask. There are the judges
on this season of Project Runway.

That's three. There's Tim Gunn.
That's obviously four.

If you count Tim Gunn twice,
that's five,

but I'm still five short,
and I am out, now.

Before you brush this industry off,
you should know:

it did around 36 billion dollars
in retail sales last year in the US.

You probably know someone
who is considering joining an MLM,

or who already has,

and is posting about it ten times
a day on Facebook or Instagram.

If you do know someone like that,
or have considered signing up yourself,

this story is important.

Let me explain
how the system is supposed to work.

Generally, distributors have
two main ways to make money:

sell the product itself whether it's
makeup, vitamins, or health shakes.

And this is key.
Recruit other people into the company,

get money based on their sales,
and the sales of people they recruit.

Just look at Vemma.

A few years ago,
a hidden camera caught a distributor

walking a prospective recruit
through just how easy it can be.

Let's say you signed up 3 friends.
You and I would help those 3 friends

sign up their 3 friends and get their
$700 check, so there's 9 people.

Then we help those 9 people
sign up their 3 friends,

then they get their 7,
so everyone kind of gets money back.

You king of get your money back ?!
That's as reassuring as hearing

a doctor say he "kind of" knows
where your appendix is.

"It's probably
somewhere near the spleen."

And if you are thinking: "That
business structure sounds familiar"

"isn't that a pyramid scheme ?"

There was a journalist waiting outside
to ask the same question.

It's not an illegal pyramid scheme,
it's a direct-selling network company.

- Is it shaped like a pyramid ?
- Yes.

- It's not an illegal pyramid scheme ?
- No.

I get it. So, it's not a pyramid,
it's just pyramid-shaped.

Like a Dorito, or an Angry Bird.
Or just a pile of bullshit.

Let's put that pyramid question aside,
because from the outside,

these companies
do have the trappings of legitimacy.

Many have high-profile
celebrity endorsers.

Vemma had noted science
expert Jenny McCarthy.

Advocare has esteemed
ball-thrower Drew Brees,

and an MLM called Max International
had this guy.

After more than a year
of due diligence,

Gena and I
joined Max International

as home-based distributors
and media spokespersons.

To be a fly on the wall
while Gena and Chuck

were poring over the numbers
during that due diligence session,

Gena with an adding machine,
Chuck randomly kickin' stuff.

It'd be like watching Lennon
and McCartney write Sergeant Pepper !

Still, for many MLMs,
the biggest celebrity is their founder,

who can enjoy cul-like status.

Just look at J.R. Ridinger,
CEO of Market America.

At company conferences,
the guy makes quite an entrance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

J ! R ! Ridingerrrr !

Fourth string wedding chapel Elvis,
calm the fuck down.

That's his walk on. Once he gets going,
he puts on a real show,

demonstrating
how you can pump money,

dramatizing the rat race by sweatily
running around in a giant wheel,

and screaming
at the gravestone of "Joe Nobody",

who never fulfilled his potential.

Joe, c'mon, man !
The dreams you told me about !

We can actually do them now !
We don't have to wait, man !

It works ! And I'm doing it !

And I wanna help you do it
because it's so good, Joe !

This is amazing !
We can have vacations and sailboats

and we can have multiple homes,
and you can give your wife

the jewelry that she deserves !

You're gonna be a hero !
C'mon, Joe, let's do it !

Get up, Joe, get up !
Before it's too late, get up !

Holy shit ! All I can say is,
thank goodness funerals

don't have a "speak now or forever
hold your peace" section.

He'd be at every cemetery
delivering motivational speeches.

"She lived a good life ? Fuck you.
Your grandmother died a loser."

"Come back to life, Ethel !
You can still have that yacht !"

"Come back to life !"

And the dangling
of vast lifestyle improvements

is at the heart of the MLM pitch.

Their materials feature flashy cars
and luxury travel that you can achieve.

And just watch
a distributor from Youngevity

walk you through a future
dream scenario, in exquisite detail.

In two years
this is what's gonna happen to you:

you are gonna drive to your work,

you're gonna walk
into your boss' office,

you're gonna sit down,
and you're gonna quit your job.

You're gonna explain that
that little "pyramid scheme" thing

that you almost got terminated
for last year,

you're now an entrepreneur and
you're gonna be doing that full time.

Back up, back up: did you just say
"pyramid scheme" ?

And then "almost got terminated" ?

And then you're going to go out
to the parking lot,

you're going to get into your silver
Mercedes that Youngevity has paid for

and you're gonna drive home...

No, wait, actually first
you're gonna drive to the bank.

I'm sorry: I hate to dwell on this,

but you definitely said
"pyramid scheme" back then,

but I'm sorry, now we're suddenly
going to the bank ?

You're gonna walk into the bank and
you're gonna deposit your coding bonus

and the lady's gonna say
"will that be checking or savings ?"

and you're gonna say:

"I don't really care,
I get these all the time."

And the lady's gonna say
"That's fantastic,"

"but I need to know
which account this goes into."

You're gonna say; "Makes no
difference to me !" She's gonna say:

"I can't deposit this unless
you specify which account."

You're gonna say "It's all gravy !"

She's gonna say "The checking ?"
You're gonna say "I'm lovin' it !"

And she's gonna say
"do I need to get security ?"

And you're gonna say
"the account ending in 8424, please".

Now, Youngevity told us
that that woman's claims

"are not authorized by the company,
and are against Youngevity policy".

"Although, that video was taken
at one of their official events,"

"and the woman, Denice Chenault,"

"is featured with her husband
on the company website,"

"with the words "Denice
and Tom Chenault are Youngevity".

You don't let someone embody your
company if you don't agree with them.

If Flo turned out to run
a dogfighting ring,

Progressive would wipe her
off their website immediately.

And you know that's coming.
You can see it in her eyes.

There are dead dogs dancing in there.

But you cannot deny the picture
that she paints is enticing.

Who doesn't want to tell their boss
to go fuck themselves ?

Half my staff would do
it right now if they could.

But MLM's hold out the hope
that if you work hard,

you can take control of your life,

start your own business,
and help your family.

But how real is the opportunity ?

Let's take a look at one
of these companies in depth.

Herbalife.
You saw its pitch earlier.

It was the one that you were supposed
to send to 10, 20, 100 people.

It sells nutritional supplements
shakes, and vitamins,

and it's one of the biggest
MLM's around,

with net sales
of $4.5 billion last year.

It has celebrities
who talk up its benefits,

from superstar athletes
like Cristiano Ronaldo,

to pretty much the last person
you're expecting to see.

- You have a great product.
- You're a product of the product.

I am.

It has every combination
of things that I like.

It's a very good product,
delivered by really good people.

Yes, that is Madeleine Albright,
talking to Herbalife's CEO,

claiming she's a product
of the product !

So forget studying
at Columbia and Johns Hopkins.

If you want to be like
the first female secretary of state,

just chug a couple of vanilla-adjacent
nutri-shakes a day

and thank her in the morning.

And about those products:
in its early days,

Herbalife was accused
of overstating their benefits,

claiming in the '80s that one product
"helped relieve everything"

"from venereal disease
to tumors to bedwetting."

Their founder, Mark Hughes
was asked by a senate subcommittee

to answer experts who'd called
his diet products into question

and this was his response.

If they're so expert on weight loss,
why were they so fat yesterday ?

I'm not trying to make any jokes, but I
think that they oughta use our product.

First: he seems great.

But why would anyone in the '80s
take Herbalife to lose weight ?

They had cocaine !

Come to think of it,
we also have cocaine.

The point is: cocaine
is an effective weight-loss option.

It's not where I thought I was going,
but it is where we have ended up.

To be fair,
that was 30 years ago,

and a lot has changed
at the company since then.

Although, when ABC News
filmed some Herbalife distributors,

they found some claims that seemed
to echo the company's past.

This Herbalife distributor
in New York told us the story

of a woman who overcame
a brain tumor thanks to Herbalife.

Whatever it is that the product did,
it helped her a lot.

New recruits were told, Herbalife
products help to treat heart disease.

24 years ago, I had early congestive
heart failure. Nothing worked.

And even helped
one woman get pregnant.

I am 40 years old.
I have my first pregnancy.

That is obviously bullshit.

Nutritional shakes can't
help you get pregnant.

Only three liquids
that can do that:

a glass of merlot,
the honey-smooth music of Sade

and good old-fashioned jizz.

People might be
making claims like that

because they are desperate
to move excess product.

Broadly speaking,
under Herbalife's system,

distributors can get bonuses and
massive discounts on products,

based on how much they buy,
a huge incentive to buy in bulk.

Let's say you're selling Herbalife's
disgusting creamy chicken soup powder

for $13,35 a box.

Cheaper you can buy it
from Herbalife,

the more profit you could make.

To stay qualified for those discounts,
you have to keep buying product.

It might not be easy to sell
that extra soup. It's a little pricey.

We tried it, it tastes like the wood
shavings inside a gerbil cage.

As one former top distributor
will tell you,

if you are accumulating product,
that can lead to a problem

common enough
to have a special name.

We'd call it garage qualified.

They would stack as much product
as they can in their garage.

At some point they would realize
they have to quit.

People buy product,
more than they can sell.

It sits in a garage.
What happens ?

- There's gotta be an endpoint here !
- When they run out of money.

Exactly. So Herbalife may be
an industry leader

in worthless crap
people stick in their garage,

along with, of course,
the PT Cruiser,

the car that looks like
a sporty version of a hearse.

As a distributor,
it is not easy to figure out

how you are going
to make money.

Watch this Herbalife
video from a few years ago,

explaining one narrow part of their
convoluted compensation plan.

Okay, here we go:
take a look at this example.

When E places a $4 000 volume
point order at 42 percent,

this counts as personal volume
for you.

Since this qualifies E to supervisor,
with a one-month qualification,

that volume now becomes encumbered
for everyone in the upline.

Each upline distributor needs
to accumulate

1 000 un-encumbered
volume points

if they want to qualify
for supervisor, as well.

It's simple. And if you accumulate
10 000 un-encumbered volume points,

those are grouped into
an "unencumbered batch",

which qualifies
Benedict Cumberbatch

for one un-encumbered
cucumber cummerbund.

And while yes,
that is absolute nonsense,

it makes exactly as much sense as
everything that came before it.

To hear another former distributor,
your main focus in the business

might be less on products,
than on the people below you.

You don't make money
from selling products.

You make a little, not enough to pay
the bills that are racking up.

You make money
from signing people up.

Like that famous salesmanship motto
from Glengarry Glen Ross:

A-B-S-T-C-O-S-T-O-S.

Always Be Selling The Concept
Of Selling To Other Salespeople.

That "pyramid scheme" question
set aside earlier has to be addressed.

If distributors' earnings come
primarily from selling products

to customers outside of the company,
that is probably a legitimate business.

If those earnings come primarily
from selling product

to the distributors
you've recruited below you,

and their sales of product to
the distributors they've recruited,

all within the company,
that may be a pyramid scheme.

And any business that is set up
that way has a big problem,

for a reason that, and I will
warn you, does involve math.

Almost all of these schemes
tell you that you can make money

by just recruiting three
or four or five, let's say.

Then you let the five do their five.
That gives you twenty-five.

What they don't show you is
that you can only do that 13 cycles.

And you would exceed
the population of the Earth.

It's true ! Within fourteen cycles,
you run out of people.

That is assuming that everyone
wants to be a protein shake distributor

and I can think of at least a few
who have better things to do.

Alan Alda, for instance.
Or Malala Yousefzai.

Or Morten Harket,
lead singer of A-Ha.

Still swimming in "Take on Me"
money. He doesn't need this shit.

Herbalife's CEO, Michael Johnson,
has an interesting way

of deflecting that
pyramid scheme question.

I go back to any company.
I started in Disney as a director,

I went to be executive vice president

and then president of the international
entity of the company.

I moved up six or seven levels.
And at the top was sitting

the CEO of the company,
Michael Eisner.

Is that a pyramid ? It's different
than what we're doing ?

Yes !
Disney was a corporate ladder !

Those were all salaried
positions with benefits.

The company wasn't banking on
you personally filling your garage

with cases of unsold DVDs of
"The Lion King II: Simba's Pride".

Johnson could've made a stronger
"non-pyramid" case,

if he could've shown
how much money distributors get

from selling product
to actual retail customers.

But Herbalife didn't keep
records of those figures.

The FTC recently finished a multiyear
investigation into the company

and filed a blistering complaint
walking right up to the line

of outright calling it
a pyramid scheme.

They alleged Herbalife's "program
doesn't incentivize retail sales,"

"but the recruiting of additional
participants who fuel the enterprise"

"by making wholesale purchases
of product."

Which sounds like
how pyramid schemes work.

When people pointed this out,
FTC chair made an amazing statement.

It sounds like what you're saying
is that this company

had all the hallmarks
of a pyramid scheme, right ?

Our focus isn't on the label.

The word pyramid
does not appear in our complaint.

Not determined
not to have been a pyramid.

Think about
what she just said there !

Not determined "not" to be a pyramid.
How is that not a huge warning sign ?

If FDA announced

"we have not determined cotton
candy not to be clown pubes",

you would never risk
eating that shit ever again.

Who knows why
the FTC stopped short ?

Perhaps it ensured Herbalife
agreed to a settlement,

in which they neither admitted
nor denied wrongdoing,

but did pay $200 million and
agreed to significant new changes.

The contents of this
complaint are mind-blowing.

The FTC claims that the overwhelming
majority of Herbalife distributors

who pursue the business opportunity
make little or no money

and a substantial percentage
lose money.

The FTC even stated:

"Herbalife is going to have
to start operating legitimately."

Which implies
they hadn't been up till then.

And yet, amazingly, Michael Johnson
characterized this as a victory.

We've got great news.

We've reached an agreement
with the US FTC

that ensures our mission to improve
people's lives will continue to thrive.

This is really good news,
when our business is growing

bigger and better
than ever before.

Fuck you.

He didn't just polish that turd,
he put it in a bottle

and convinced people
they could make a fortune

selling nutritional turds
in their spare time.

Whether Herbalife is a pyramid, not
a pyramid, or not "not" a pyramid,

it is true
that Herbalife is growing.

A lot of that growth
come from Latino communities,

where Herbalife has been
expanding for years.

They even bought a sponsorship on
the hit telenovela "La Fea Mas Bella".

It's subtle,
see if you can spot it.

Look. It's called Herbalife.

This is going to help you
have more energy

and it's also going to help you
face all the problems you have.

- Really ?
- I drink it every day. It's delicious.

If that is happening on this show,

I can't imagine the real drama
happening in the commercials.

Mr. Geico Lizard, I want
to save 15% on car insurance,

but how can I when
you are sleeping with my wife ?!

The fact a large percentage of
Herbalife's business comes from Latinos

is a point of pride
for Michael Johnson.

We call it the Herbalife family
and we're not ashamed of that.

The Latino, the blood,
if you will,

it's in this company
and it feels great.

I love the blood of the Latino
community. I want to bathe in it.

I wanna bathe in your blood, Latinos.
How's this sales pitch going ?

I feel like it's going bueno.

To those supplying that Latino
blood, it can feel less than great,

as this community meeting of those
who feel burned by Herbalife shows.

In this business,
I lost a total of $22 000.

In nine months,
I lost $16 000.

Her husband continuously reminds her
about the $8,000 that she owes to them.

The product expires.
So if you don't get rid of it

and sell it at the price
you bought it, it's a big loss.

She knew
I didn't have that money.

And she was supposed
to be my friend.

When I asked her: "what
happened that I don't see any profit ?"

she said, "you have to put people
under you so that you can profit."

I told her: "You got it wrong.
I'm not going to swindle anyone."

I lost but no one
else is going to lose because of me.

Now might be
a good time to point out:

when someone says: "their blood
is in me, and it feels great,"

that is what
a fucking vampire says.

Friends of yours may say:

"That's just Herbalife.
My MLM is different".

But there are echoes of what
you've seen across this industry.

Herbalife is far
from the only company

that made bold product claims
regarding health.

When I started,
my body fat was 37.5

and now it's right around 16, 17.

The pain and the lethargy that
go along with fibromyalgia is gone.

Three days into the experience,
I was feeling 25 years younger.

When I found out they had a pet
formulation of Liquid BioCell,

I knew
I had something very exclusive.

After putting Rembrandt on
Liquid BioCell pet for three months,

he started walking again.

First of all, obviously:
good boy, Rembrandt.

Second: are you sure he didn't
just summon the energy to walk

because he was desperate to get away
from the liquid nonsense

you were shoving
in your pets' mouths ?

MLMs can
often have scientology-like levels

for you to ascend through.

With Usana, you may've gone
from sharer to believer

to builder to achiever
and beyond.

At Kyani, you pass through a series of
ranks with names of gemstones,

as one distributor explained
at a company conference.

I want to talk about
a millionaire mindset,

because if you got involved
in Kyani to become a jade,

you're selling yourself short.

If you got involved in Kyani
to become a diamond,

you're not thinking
big enough yet.

If you haven't already visualized
yourself a double black diamond,

you need to kick
yourself in the rear.

"Double black diamond"

is technically a skiing term
for particularly dangerous slopes.

Maybe you shouldn't choose
a term that basically says:

"if you even try this, you'll go
downhill and may end up in a ditch."

The "garage qualified" issue
is not exclusive to Herbalife either.

It's come up with multiple other
MLMs, including Mary Kay.

I saw the warehousing
of the product,

meaning they had basements
or closets or garages full of it.

Look ! Inventory from a consultant
who is leaving the company.

She showed us boxes of product
she said she bought to keep her status.

So it seems some distributors may've
been more customer than salesperson.

Like finding out Jamie Lee Curtis
was the one eating all the Activia.

I eat 146 containers a day
and I shit like a machine gun !

Mary Kay and Herbalife will tell you
that stockpiling is uncommon

and you can return
unsold product for a refund.

Those refunds can be partial
or may involve resigning.

MLMs may present themselves
as a great opportunity,

but your chance of success
is actually remote.

Look at
the income-disclosure statements.

Kyani's shows that under 40 percent
of "active distributors"

received a check for $10 or more,

meaning that most
didn't even make that.

Nu Skin's says around 18% of active
distributors earned commission checks.

Which is worse than it sounds,
because "active distributors" represent

only around 36 percent
of total distributors.

If you do the math,
which they conveniently didn't,

that would mean that 93 percent
of all Nu Skin distributors

receive zero commissions from
the company in an average month.

So even if you have never
heard of Nu Skin before,

it may be paying you just as much
as it does 93% of its distributors !

MLMs will insist those percentages
are misleading,

that many of their distributors
aren't in the business to make money,

they went to all the trouble
of signing up

to get discounts
on their amazing rhino ejaculate

or, as they call it, soup.

They'll say individual distributors,
don't speak for them,

their claims are against company
policies and violators get disciplined.

Most importantly, they will
all insist they are not pyramids.

And no one claims that in a more
spectacular manner than JR Ridinger,

who has an air-tight case,

based on "spelling the word
pyramid backwards."

We're actually the anti-pyramid.
The reverse pyramid.

The dimaryp.
We are in a dimaryp !

He sounds like a cult leader about
to demand his followers drink poison.

It doesn't help that he looks like
Jim Jones to a creepy degree.

But it is hard for the FTC
to investigate these companies,

the industry is large and opaque

and pursuing a case is a long,
arduous process.

They've only brought around two dozen
pyramid scheme cases against MLMs

in the last four decades.

MLMs have lobbying strength, there's
a direct selling caucus in congress,

with more than 40 bipartisan members,
including Jason Chaffetz,

who worked at Nu Skin
for more than a decade.

Herbalife has gone to remarkable
lengths to protect its name.

It's recruited two former top FTC
officials to work for the company.

It's willing to be petty. Remember
that clip of Herbalife victims ?

That is from an upcoming documentary
called "Betting on Zero"

and when it played at
a DC film festival earlier this year,

the screening
had 173 empty seats,

because an Herbalife lobbying firm
reportedly bought them out.

And that's not just petty,
it's stupid.

If you don't want people to see
a movie, don't buy out seats.

Put up posters saying
"starring Shia LaBeouf". Job done !

Nobody's there !

Even if the government did decide
to crack down on this industry,

many MLMs have been
expanding overseas.

Here is a video from India.

We change people's lives.

- You are the brand.
- We are growing every day.

Let's march toward one million,
one billion, one region.

They are lucky Gandhi isn't alive
to hear that song

because it would really test his
belief in non-violent protests.

"Fuck it. Everybody pick up a rock
and meet me at Herbalife headquarters"

"that song was unforgivable."

Online you can find videos of gigantic
Herbalife events around the world:

here is one in South Africa,
here is one in Mongolia,

here's one in Venezuela,
here's one in Malaysia,

and here is Michael Johnson
in Mexico, doing this.

Buenos dias, Mexico !

I don't say this lightly,

but that is douchebaggery
at a double black diamond level.

What can we do ?
Good, hard-working people

are going to keep getting caught up
in these companies.

There has to be a way to tell
the world about the dangers of MLMs.

I might know the perfect
distribution network.

That is why tonight, we are
starting our own pyramid scheme,

hashtag
"this is a pyramid scheme."

If someone you know is thinking
about joining an MLM,

this is a huge opportunity.

And let me show you
how it works...

I want to tell you
about a fantastic product

for you to share
with friends and family.

The product is this entire video
about why MLMs are awful.

Let me break it down for you.
By sharing this,

you can be an independent distributor
for a leading web video

about the dangers of MLMs.

You can do this full-time
or part-time

and give your family
the lifestyle they deserve

which is not getting caught up
in this bullshit.

Need scientific proof
that it works ?

We told a dog we were going
to produce this video and look !

The dog is walking now !

Was it able to walk before ?
We don't keep those records.

Here is how it works:
watch this video

and then forward it to five people,
and then instruct them

to send it to another five people,
and so on.

Within fourteen cycles, every
person on Earth will have seen this,

we will need to start fucking to
create more people to watch it.

If every single person on Earth
is watching this video...

Hello, Beyoncé.
I'm a really big fan.

Like MLMs, we would like to direct
a message to Latinos in particular.

We will be uploading two versions
of this segment to YouTube

with one in Spanish.

Because I do not speak Spanish,
it will be subtitled,

and this portion will be performed by
Jaime Camil, from "Jane the Virgin".

- Hola, Jaime.
- Hola, Juan.

You are clearly a more attractive
version of me in every way !

Yes, I am.

Share this video to stop people getting
involved with these schemes,

MLMs are hurting people

and we need to spread
the word about their dangers.

- Send this to twenty people.
- 30 people, 100 people !

What are you waiting for ?
This system will work.

And it is not a dimaryp.
It's an anti-dimaryp.

- This is a pyramid, right ?
- Right ! This is a pyramid !

We are in a pyramid !

That's our show !
Share this video !

We'll see you next week,
good night !

LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

END OF EPISODE 29,
SEASON III