Defendants must give up $1.5 million under settlement with FTC

The operators of a work-at-home scheme the Federal Trade Commission sued earlier this year for deceptive practices are banned from selling business opportunities and business coaching services under a settlement with the Commission.

The settlement order resolves an FTC case brought in August 2017, alleging that the scheme lured consumers into buying an online system, falsely promising they would earn thousands of dollars working from home. Operating as Work At Home EDU, Work At Home Program, Work At Home Ecademy, Work At Home University, Work At Home Revenue, and Work at Home Institute, the defendants used online “native” advertising – promotional content that resembles the non-advertising material beside it – to reach consumers who were researching work-at-home opportunities on the internet. For example, they placed a link to their Work At Home EDU website near an article about working from home on the website Forbes.com.

The defendants – Bobby J. Robinson, Michael Sirois, Bob Robinson LLC, Mega Export 2005 Inc., Mega Export USA Inc., and Netcore Solutions LLC – were charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule. The Rule requires business opportunity sellers to make certain disclosures to help consumers evaluate the opportunity, and prohibits such sellers from making earnings claims without adequate substantiation. For instance, a business opportunity seller is required to provide consumers with a written statement that explains how many other consumers actually achieved the earnings the seller claimed are possible, among other things.

The settlement order also prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, imposes a partially suspended judgment of $35.1 million, and requires the defendants to turn over funds and assets valued at approximately $1.5 million.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, entered the order on December 7, 2017.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.