Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kevin Trudeau: Deceiving Customers (2014)

Kevin Trudeau's book

Kevin Trudeau is a 50-year old man who has been in and out of federal prison since the early 1990's. His last scheme was tricking customers, using his popular infomercials, for his self-help book, "The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About", released in 2009. Trudeau has sold about 850,000 of his self-help, weight-loss book which produced an estimate of $39 million. In addition to this scheme, in 2004, Kevin Trudeau was given a court order that prohibited him from running false ads relating to the weight-loss book. However, Trudeau defied the court order and allegedly aired the infomercials at least 32,000 times. Due to this act of defiance related to the court order, Trudeau's lawyer's request of a sentence of two years was denied, and a sentence of ten years in federal prison on Monday, March 18, 2014 was given. Trudeau has also been investigated for his other books, such as "Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About" and "Debt Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About". In "The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About", Kevin Trudeau depicted an enduring, difficult, 500 calories a day diet, which also included hormone treatment. However, what was written in his book, and what was said on the infomercials, were two completely different ideas. In Trudeau's infomercials, he claimed that his book was "a simple, no hunger...diet-free method of losing weight" (Associated Press). This fabrication is what led to the lawsuit; many people were tricked into buying the book because Trudeau made it seem the process was simple and easy in the infomercials, but in the book, Trudeau wrote about a demanding diet. Therefore, Trudeau cheated thousands of customers and robbed them of millions of dollars in total.

The Individualist Theory's goal is to act within the best interest of their stakeholders, and maximize profit for them, within constraints of the law. In addition, the Individualist Theory also believes in respecting other's rights to pursue their own choices and options. It is obvious that Kevin Trudeau did not act in the best interest of his customers and did not maximize the profits for the stakeholders at all. Trudeau did not act within the best interest of his stakeholders, or in this case his customers, because deceiving your customers out of millions of dollars and lying to them, is not part of the Individualistic Theory. Trudeau was more focused on the profit that he was going to make, instead of acting in the best interest for his customers. In addition, Trudeau did not act within the constraints of the law, what he did was illegal, and ethically wrong. When he lied during his infomercials, he did not have the best interest of anyone in mind, relative to the profits of the customers or the best interest for them; he was only concerned with himself. If Trudeau did have the best interest of his customers and stakeholders in mind, he would not have cheated people out of their money, and would not have lied to them; he would have been truthful and did what was best for them, not himself.

Trudeau advertising his book after court prohibits such infomercials

According to the Utilitarianism Theory, an action is considered ethical if it promotes happiness to the majority of the people. People should be maximizing happiness in themselves and others. The Utilitarianism Theory also concludes that happiness is the only thing that is valuable, and how the actions hurt, or are beneficial to the people involved, such as the customers and stakeholders. The buyers of the book, "The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About" were not happy about Trudeau's actions, hence the reason the lawsuit was brought on. The customers were displeased when they watched the infomercials and believed that the book provided by a pain-free diet and easy way to lose weight, and then found out when they purchased and read the book, that the book completely contradicted what was said in the infomercials that aired. There were no benefits regarding the stakeholders or customers in this scheme. Customers lost money and were cheated, therefore, only harm came to the stakeholders and customers. No one was happy regarding the lies the book and Trudeau proclaimed, which presumes this action as unethical.

Another business ethic theory called Kantianism, believes that every duty or action is performed out of good will. An action must not be done for any selfish reasons, and it must be done without your self-interest in mind in order for it to be deemed ethical. Kantian's believe that one must do something, or perform an action, because it is the right thing to do, not because you know it's the right thing to do or you think you will get some kind of prize or reward for doing it. In addition, it is a rule in the business world that a company or business owner should always be truthful and honest with their customers and employees. However, there was nothing ethical about Trudeau's actions. The only results from Trudeau's actions benefited him. Trudeau did not tell the truth to his customers and nothing good came from his actions. The customers did not benefit at all from any of his duties and actions, and everything he did was based on selfish reasons. Trudeau wanted more money, so he lied in his infomercial to wrongly promote his book so that more people would buy it. Additionally, he swindled people out of their money by not giving them the right information they need in order to healthfully lose weight, so for almost every customer, it was a waste of money. When Trudeau performed these actions, the only interest he had in his mind was himself, and there was no good will involved. His actions were done for selfish reasons and was not performed for the good of the people, which based on Kantianism, means his actions were unethical.

Virtue Theory
Trudeau has been in federal prison
since the 1990s after robbing millions

 The Virtue Theory is the fourth business ethics theory. It consists of four components which include courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. In order for the business to be ethical under the Virtue theory, all four of these characteristics must be present. The courage trait represents the ability and risk-taking means to take a stand for the right ideas. Trudeau did take a risk by lying to his customers and putting inconsistent information in the infomercials and the book, but it was not for right or moral reasons. Trudeau was selfish and just wanted money and fame. The second trait of the virtue theory is honesty. Honesty is being truthful with everyone in the business, such as employees and customers. Trudeau was not honest with his customers in the infomercials and the contents of his book. He tricked people into believing the infomercials contained accurate descriptions and summaries as to what was in the book, however, it was not, and people lost money by buying the book; they did not get what they thought they were paying for. Temperance is the third trait of the Virtue theory. Temperance means the business has to have realistic expectations and desires. Trudeau did have expectations and desires, which consisted of maximizing only his profit and hoping no one caught him. Although these desires and expectations may not seem realistic or sensible to most people, or sounds risky, Trudeau thought he could get away with it, which for this reason, is why he went along with it. The last trait of Virtue theory is justice. Justice is hard work, quality products, good ideas, and fair practices. Some may argue that Trudeau worked hard on his book, and that may have been true, however, his "hard work" was not fair to customers and workers and that is not something that I think can be overlooked because he clearly has not learned his lesson, even though he has been doing this for several years. The book was not a quality product because many people complained about it and were very unsatisfied with the results, which also ties along with the good idea aspect of justice. If he thought his book was such a good idea, then why did Trudeau think he had to lie on his infomercials to get more customers? As a result of these traits, since not all four were met, Kevin Trudeau actions were unethical under the Virtue theory as well.


Associated Press. "TV Pitchman Kevin Trudeau Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Bilking Customers." Fox News. FOX News Network, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2014

Hill, James. "Kevin Trudeau: Chasing the Dream Seller." ABC News. ABC News Network, 29 May 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Salazar, Heather. Business Ethics Lectures. WNEU. Spring 2014.

Salazar, Heather. “Kantian Business Ethics,” in Business in Ethical Focus, ed. Fritz Allhoff and Anand J. Vaidya (Broadview Press, 2008).

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