Both the Amway and Herbalife cases underscore one of the problems of prosecuting alleged pyramid schemes: There is no federal law defining the crime, leaving it to the courts to interpret and pricey lawyers to find wiggle room. The debate is also clouded by the rhetoric of free markets. At the far right end of that debate is the DeVos family, which has donated $200 million to Republicans over the years, and owns a company that combines Christian fundamentalism with extremist free-market ideology and maintains such a grip on many of those who join it that some, fearful for their lives and harassed mercilessly, went into hiding after they sought to expose it.

The reality is there’s nothing special about the stuff MLM companies sell. You can find whey protein and meal replacement shakes at your local CVS or online. You can buy essential oils at Whole Foods and Amazon. Your wife can buy quality make-up and skincare products at Ulta, Walgreens, or online. You can get pretty much anything an MLM sells and often for much cheaper, even when your MLM distributor discount is factored in (see the next section). There’s nothing significantly different about MLM products besides the marketing and branding.
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