A Baltimore-based publishing company will pay more than $2 million to repay customers, settling charges filed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 that it tricked seniors into buying products that falsely promised a cure for Type 2 diabetes or help with a government-affiliated check program.
The agency said in a news release Monday that Agora Financial LLC and some of its affiliates agreed to the payment after the commission alleged they schemed seniors into buying pamphlets, newsletters and other publications. The payment will be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.
The settlement also bars Agora Financial and its affiliates from making other false and unsupported claims, the FTC said. The commission approved the proposed settlement unanimously.
In a statement released Wednesday, a spokesperson for Agora Financial and NewMarket Health said the companies were relieved to resolve approximately 15 months of litigation and to focus on publishing opinion and research for their subscribers. Allison O’Brien said the settlement meant the companies were not culpable, though they’ve both pledged to change.
“The entirety of the $2 million in settlement funds will be used to issue refunds to all consumers who purchased either of the two promotions at issue in the case — refunds which are consistent with the companies’ liberal refund policies — even if they were happy with the service,” Allison O’Brien said. “Neither company has admitted liability as part of the settlement. As such there were no fines or penalties; merely an agreement to issue these refunds.”
She added that the companies have “used this case as a catalyst to improve their internal review and approval processes to ensure all promotions are as transparent as possible.”
However, Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protections, described the companies’ actions as more devious.
“These defendants preyed primarily on older consumers with false or unsubstantiated claims about curing diabetes and free money from the government,” Kaufman said in a news release. “The FTC has a long history of taking legal action against deceptive claims such as these, and companies that fail to substantiate their scientific and financial representations can expect to face the consequences.”
The commission said Agora and some of its affiliates targeted consumers nationwide in publications like “The Doctor’s Guide to Reversing Diabetes in 28 Days (The Doctor’s Guide),” which touted a scientifically proven way to permanently cure Type 2 diabetes in 28 days without any changes in diet or exercise.
According to the October 2019 FTC complaint, the businesses touted a “100% success rate” and said that “mainstream” treatments are ineffective and in some cases, may even make consumers’ diabetes worse.
The FTC said Agora and another group also marketed other publications, including a book, “Congress’ Secret $1.17 Trillion Giveaway,” that falsely promised to show readers how to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars to which they are entitled in “Congressional Checks” or “Republican Checks.”
After purchasing the products, consumers learned the publications were an investment strategy focused on dividend-paying stocks, requiring consumers to risk thousands of dollars to obtain the promised amounts.