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Snuggie Marketers to Pay $7.5 million in Customer Refunds
There's nothing cozy about allegations of deceptive advertising
 
Our obsession with “cozy” knows no bounds. No one ever really wants to go out; we only do it so that we can say later, with great pleasure mind you, “Hey, we gotta get back.” Back to what exactly? The comfort of hearth and home, the comfort of our Snuggie.
 
The Snuggie Phenomenon has led to a few things: Reported sales topping 30 million for the so-called “blanket with sleeves,” parodies poking fun at the product’s cult-like following, and now, decidedly less amusing, two settlements against the marketers of the “As Seen on TV” product.
 
Allstar Marketing Group LLC recently agreed to pay $7.5 million in customer redress to settle FTC charges it deceptively marketed “buy one, get one free” promotions for the Snuggie and other products such as Magic Mesh, Cat’s Meow, Roto Punch, and Perfect Tortilla. The company will pay an additional $500,000 to the New York State Attorney General’s office, which brought a separate action but worked with the FTC on the agency’s complaint.
 
The FTC and New York AG’s office alleged that Allstar’s promotions failed to adequately disclose additional fees that, when added to the advertised price, nearly doubled what consumers thought they were paying. Said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection:
 
Marketers must clearly disclose all costs. That includes processing fees, handling fees, and any other fees they think up. Working with the New York Attorney General, we’ll return millions of dollars to consumers that Allstar collected in undisclosed fees.
 
The complaints also alleged that a confusing ordering process led some consumers to mistakenly purchase more BOGO sets than they actually wanted. In a statement, Allstar admitted no legal wrongdoing but vowed to change its ordering process “to provide multiple opportunities for customers to confirm their orders before placing them,” and “to clarify ordering and return procedures.”
 
Consumers who believe they may be entitled to a refund can file a complaint with the FTC here and the NY AG’s office here.
 

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Fed Inspector General Reopens Leak Investigation
The move comes as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch demands more information about how a private newsletter obtained confidential details of Fed discussions 
 
The Federal Reserve Board’s inspector general has reopened an investigation into a two-year-old leak of confidential monetary information amid rising Congressional scrutiny into how the Fed has handled the matter, ProPublica has learned. 
 
Sources told ProPublica that the IG’s action came March 4 and was based on new information. Investigators had closed the leak inquiry last December after initiating it in March 2013.
 
Congressional attention to the leak has grown in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, joined those demanding more details about how the leak investigation was handled. 
 
Hatch sent strongly worded letters to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and to the board’s inspector general, Mark Bialek, expressing frustration over the fact that the original investigation and its results had remained private. He also complained that Bialek’s staff had been reluctant meet on the subject.
 
“Of course, that’s unacceptable,’’ Hatch said in the letter to Bialek, accusing his office of trying to “cloak information” by contending the investigation was a confidential “pre-decisional” matter of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which sets monetary policy that guides the economy. 
 
ProPublica reported earlier on the October 2012 leak, in which confidential information about key moves in the Fed’s bond-buying program found its way into a financial analyst’s newsletter. The information went to the analyst’s clients one day before the scheduled public release of the open market committee’s meeting minutes.
 
The newsletter revealed some of what the minutes would say as well as fresh details about the Fed’s internal plans and deliberations – information that could have provided traders with an edge. 
 
Spokesmen for Bialek’s office and the Fed acknowledged receiving the letters from Hatch but declined to comment on them. 
 
Fed protocol requires that in the event of a leak, the FOMC secretary and the Fed general counsel are to perform a preliminary review. Results are to be reported to the Fed chairman. The general counsel then decides if the matter warrants further investigation by the Fed’s inspector general.
 
After becoming aware of the leak, then-Chairman Ben Bernanke instructed Scott Alvarez, the Fed’s general counsel, and William English, the committee’s secretary, to conduct an internal inquiry. They sent a questionnaire to people who had access to the information that was disclosed. 
 
Hatch’s letter to the IG asks for a briefing on the investigation, who at the Fed was interviewed, whether the IG gathered phone or email records to look for contacts with the newsletter analyst and why there has been no report about it. 
 
“There is no record on the OIG’s public website to indicate that any investigation occurred, or of any attendant audit or audit report, or results of any investigation that may have occurred,” Hatch wrote.
 
The Fed never revealed the inquiry and only publicly acknowledged the leak in response to a public records request by ProPublica. 
 
In the letter to Yellen, Hatch wrote: “It does not appear that the Board has publicly disclosed any of its findings from its investigation into the potential severe breach of information security in this matter.”
 
Hatch’s interest adds a more bipartisan cast to concerns on Capitol Hill about the leak. 
 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., have also asked the Fed for more information about the leak. At a recent hearing on monetary policy, Warren sharply questioned Yellen about whether the Fed would provide a briefing. Yellen promised it would.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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SEBI bars Anmol India from raising funds from investors

Anmol India Agro-Herbal and its directors have been barred by SEBI from disposing of or alienate any of the properties or assets owned or acquired through the money raised 

 

Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) barred Anmol India Agro-Herbal Farming & Dairies Care Co Ltd from raising funds from the public with immediate effect. 
 
Besides, it directed the company not to launch any new scheme in the garb of plant cultivation and animal rearing. SEBI also asked the company and its directors--Mohammad Junaid Memon, Mohammad Umar Memon, Mohammad Javed Memon and Mohammad Khalid Memon --"not to collect any fresh money from investors under its existing schemes" as well as "not to launch any new scheme.
 
SEBI found that Anmol India was running 'collective investment schemes (CIS)' without obtaining registration from the regulator.
 
The company was inviting investments from the general public through its 'development and maintenance, rearing of the farms, animals and plants' scheme.
 
"... 'scheme' of sale, development and maintenance, rearing of farms,  animals, plants' offered by Anmol Agro with an intended promise of returns," when considered in light of peculiar characteristics and features of such scheme prima facie satisfies all the conditions under CIS, SEBI said.
 
They also have "to immediately submit the full inventory of the assets including land obtained through money raised".
 
Besides, the company and its directors have been barred from disposing of or alienate any of the properties or assets owned or acquired through the money raised.
 
Further, they cannot divert any funds raised from public at large which are kept in bank account of the company. They have to furnish all details of its investors, among other information, to SEBI.
 
These directions would take effect “immediately and shall be in force until further orders”.
 

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COMMENTS

integrity

2 years ago

Was their crime graver than Sahara's . Saharas are probably not barred from launching new schemes. Only two up based activist seem to be fighting against alleged fraudulent practices by Sahara Q ?

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