On May 19, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced a consumer settlement with Response Marketing Group LLC and its principals for $15 million and a lifetime ban against selling money-making products and training services nationwide. The settlement — the largest ever for the Utah AG’s consumer protection division — concluded a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Utah AG’s office (representing the Utah Department of Commerce – Division of Consumer Protection (DCP)), alleging violations of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and several Utah statutes. Two Response Marketing celebrity endorsers also agreed to pay $1.7 million in redress cumulatively.
Through infomercials and social media advertising, Response Marketing attracted consumers to free nationwide events, where celebrity endorsers promised to share their investing techniques. During these events, Response Marketing promoted additional three-day workshops for around $1,000, where it falsely offered access to special tools to become successful in real estate investing and deceptively pitched additional training programs, costing tens of thousands of dollars. Afterward, Response Marketing upsold its $30,000 “Inner Circle” coaching program to consumers through telemarketing. According to the FTC and the Utah DCP complaint, consumers attending these programs never became successful real estate investors, nor did they recoup their training costs.
In June 2022, the district court granted the FTC and Utah DCP’s motion for summary judgment, finding that “Response Marketing made false or misleading claims, such as telling consumers they would get offering customers special access to a funding network for real estate deals without using their own money, providing students with letters that would supposedly allow them to make discounted cash offers, and having buyers for houses they wanted to flip for flipped homes.” The May 2023 settlement order resolved all claims against the defendants.
Why It Matters
The Response Marketing case further illustrates Utah’s strong commitment in protecting its consumers’ rights. According to Utah Department of Commerce Executive Director Margaret Busse, this historic settlement “holds Response Marketing and its affiliates accountable for the serious financial harm to consumers across the country,” while also putting on notice “Utah businesses that seek to take advantage of consumers.”
Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team
|Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
|Clay Friedman – Co-leader
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
Judy is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement (RISE) practice, based in the Richmond office. She brings experience serving as chair and commissioner of the Virginia State Corporate Commission (VSCC) from 2006 through 2022, which includes regulating the utilities, insurance, banking, and securities industries. She also served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2005-2006.
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
As a former government official at the state and federal level, Ketan leverages extensive experience in the public and private sectors to skillfully represent client interests.
Tim is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, with a primary focus on financial services litigation.
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
Susan is an associate in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group, and focuses her practice on consumer financial services matters. She has defended several of the nation’s largest and most influential financial institutions in individual and class action litigation involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and other consumer privacy statutes. Susan also represents banks, fintechs, and financial services companies in connection with regulatory examinations and investigations brought by the CFPB, state attorneys general, and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
John represents clients in a wide variety of general and complex litigation matters, shareholder disputes, products liability, and privacy claims.
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
Trey is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement practice. His experience includes serving as a summer associate at the firm in 2021.
An experienced litigator, Daniel advises and represents regional, national and international companies, financial institutions and insurers in all facets of business, complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation. He is committed to working with his clients to find creative solutions to meet their needs.
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.