Arizona-based Vemma Nutrition Co. had its day in court Sept. 15, making its case and asking Judge John J. Tuchi to lift or modify the terms of the court order that has put a halt to the company’s business.
In August, the Federal Trade Commission sued Vemma, accusing the company of being a pyramid scheme, making false and misleading income claims, and failing to provide appropriate income disclosures. The FTC requested and received an ex parte temporary restraining order with asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver, which meant Vemma executives did not have an opportunity to offer a defense prior to the order being issued. The FTC has asked the judge to extend the government’s control of the company with a preliminary injunction. It is the first significant FTC action in the direct selling space since the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 2014 ruling that BurnLounge Inc. was an illegal pyramid scheme. The court’s final decision will join existing case law in shaping the legal standards that govern direct selling in the United States and may provide new insight into how federal regulators view the distribution channel.
The more immediate issue for Vemma, however, is that the temporary receiver appointed in the case has shut down all company operations, including its international business units and retail sales. “There is no doubt that if this injunction is left in place we are never going back,” Vemma’s counsel said in his closing summary before the judge. The temporary restraining order expires at 2 p.m. local time on Friday, Sept. 18, and Judge Tuchi said he will issue his ruling before that deadline.