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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC seeks injunction against online investment training academy for deceptive claims

Federal Issues FTC Enforcement Consumer Protection FTC Act UDAP Deceptive Consumer Review Fairness Act

Federal Issues

On February 12, the FTC filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against a California-based investment training operation alleging use of deceptive claims to sell costly “training programs” targeting older consumers. According to the complaint, the operation allegedly violated the FTC Act and the Consumer Review Fairness Act by using false or unfounded claims to market programs that purportedly teach consumers investment strategies designed to generate substantial income from trading in the financial markets “without the need to possess or deploy significant amounts of investable capital.” The FTC also alleges that the operation’s instructors claim to be successful traders who have amassed substantial wealth using the strategies, but are actually salespeople working on commission. However, the FTC asserts, among other things, that the operation fails to track customers’ trading results and that its earnings claims are false or unsubstantiated. Moreover, the FTC alleges the operation requires that dissatisfied customers requesting refunds sign agreements barring them from posting negative comments about the operation or its personnel, and specifically prohibits customers from reporting potential violations to law enforcement agencies. Among other things, the FTC seeks injunctive relief against the operation, as well as “rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, the refund of monies paid, disgorgement of ill-gotten monies, and other equitable relief.”

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