By Eric Preven and Joshua Preven
The Malibu Triathlon at Zuma Beach–still a few days off–has already raised more than a million dollars for Children’s Hospital. Add to that the $96,000 pitched in last week by the LA County Board of Supervisors (approving Sheila Kuehl’s motion to “waive” the fees normally paid to the County for such events) and we’re just about ready for a round of high-fives…
Until we read the fine print, the thick green print we should say, of “Herbalife” logos plastered all over the Triathlon’s website.
Herbalife, you may remember, is the company which just last month, as reported in the LA Times, settled for $200 million a fusillade of Federal Trade Commission claims against it, with the chief allegation being that the company has for years been duping people into believing that they can quickly get rich by selling Herbalife weight-loss shakes, teas and other supplements.
“The days when I would earn a living cleaning houses are behind me,” said a distributor, in a Spanish-language brochure used until 2013 (according to the Times), “because now we are fully dedicated to our prosperous Herbalife business.”
On average, those dedicated to their “Herbalife business” spent $8,500 to open the enterprise with 57% reporting that they made no profit or lost money. The vast majority of those who didn’t lose money made far less than minimum wage. “Consumers have suffered,” according to the FTC complaint, “and will continue to suffer substantial monetary loss as a result of [Herbalife’s] violations” of federal consumer protection laws.
And yet the first of the two events at the Zuma Beach event this weekend is called the “Herbalife International Distance Race Triathlon.” The event’s website urges attendees to “stop by the Herbalife booth…to learn how to use their products as part of a healthy training regimen!” How many of the mothers and fathers who stop by that booth will Herbalife manage to ensnare, dooming the children in those families to years of poverty?
And why has the for-profit operator of the event been allowed to accept money from Herbalife in exchange for letting the “wolf” into our community? The LA County Board of Supervisors owes it to their constituents, including to the hard-working contestants in the triathlon, to make it clear to the for-profit operator of the event that he can either drop Herbalife from the event (removing all logos of the company from the website and at Zuma Beach on the day of the race and especially ensuring that there is no Herbalife booth or any other kind of presence), or he can find another County in which to hold the event next year. In no case should the event be cancelled this year, as that would unfairly and pointlessly punish members of the public.
At the same time, Supervisor Kuehl should revise the Board item she got passed last week, so that instead of waiving “$96,000 in gross receipts” (in which case the for-profit operator of the event gets the savings), the County should simply donate the money directly to Children’s Hospital, in which case, the hospital gets the benefit.
It’s not too late to right this situation