John Oliver Tackles MLM and Herbalife

I’ve never seen any episodes of HBO’s late night talk show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver before but this one caught my attention while browsing YouTube.

It’s from late last year and he’s talking about Multilevel Marketing which happens to be one of the topics of this website.

The episode is an interesting, funny and revealing look at MLM with a focus on Herbalife and how they do business.

If you’ve ever considered trying multilevel marketing before then this video will change your mind and you’ll probably be better off for it. After all, you don’t want to end up in a pyramid scheme, do you?

Some Highlights From the Video

These are some really great highlights from the video that you need to see and some of my thoughts as I watched the video.

  • A Vemma distributor tells a reporter that his MLM isn’t an illegal pyramid scheme (yet it’s shaped like a pyramid). Vemma was later shut down in 2015 by the FTC for being an illegal pyramid scheme.
  • Celebrities like Chuck Norris and Jenny McCarthy who endorse these MLMs. Reminds me of Donald Trump and his endorsement of ACN.
  • JR Ridinger, CEO of Market America and his over the top performances at conferences.
  • The Youngevity claims by company ambassador is deemed unauthorized by company. I believe they just felt embarrassed because they were asked about it.
  • The dreams sold by MLM companies and how enticing they seem
  • Facts about Herbalife and their spotty history with their bogus product claims. The bogus claims continue to this day.
  • The confusing compensation plans people just don’t have time to understand.
  • The 14:30 mark in the video is very important. It’s something a lot of people involved in MLM just don’t seem to get. It’s what defines an illegal pyramid scheme and is something I see with a lot of traditional and online MLM opportunities today.
  • The shocking truth about how much distributors of some MLMs really earn.
  • There’s a couple clips from Betting on Zero, a documentary film about Herbalife now showing on Netflix.
  • What would Ghandi do?

MLMs Mentioned in the Video

Herbalife isn’t the only MLM company that gets beat up on by John. Some other companies are referenced for their practices or briefly mentioned including:

  • Mary Kay
  • Radiant Fields
  • NuSkin
  • Amway
  • Market America
  • Vemma
  • Advocare
  • Max International
  • Jeunesse
  • Youngevity
  • Kyäni
  • Le-vel
  • Jusuru (has since been acquired by Mōdere).

I haven’t got around to doing reviews on all these companies as yet but I’ll definitely look into them at some point as long as I have this website. You can click the link to see reviews of the ones I’ve talked about.

John Oliver’s video is one of the best arguments I’ve seen against MLM probably because it’s not boring and it hits on all the points that I would normally point out to someone who is considering joining one of these things.

What do you think? Let me know what you think in the comment section below after you’ve watched it.


  1. Hi Jay,

    I do enjoy watching a lot of John’s episodes and I do remember this one quite well.

    It is interesting that there are so many of the schemes in practice and amazing how they can be endorsed by people you would assume would know better.

    You should look at those other MLMs and see if they are as bad as John says they are.

    • Those celebrity endorsers get paid a ton of money to do their part. It’s business for them. If you read my review of ACN, you’ll see how Donald Trump was involved with them and how it turned out once he was elected to run for president of the USA.

      When I was younger, I used to think once a celebrity said something about a product then it must be good but now I know better.

      I’ll definitely check out the other MLMs but I’m not expecting them to be any better than what I already think about them.

  2. Thank you for the entertaining and informational page. I had a room mate that was in Amway, and I think the only money he made was what he sold to himself. Really great laundry detergent, terrible business model. I look forward to coming back and seeing more of your reviews.

    • Yes. Amway products are great but selling them was a pain for me. Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you enjoyed the video.

  3. Hi Jay.

    The video was funny. I thought it was strange that people would buy more than they could sell and stack it in their garage until their money ran out. What I hate about these schemes is having to recruit your friends.

    They look promising; but don’t really deliver. Some people seem to be able to make it work and recruit enough people to make a good living; but not most.

    Thanks for showing your readers the problems with MLM’s.


    • I agree and that’s why I never got far with MLM. I just couldn’t stand to ask my friends and hear them say no to me. It’s like the opposite of winning friends and influencing people.

  4. I’ve been down this path before and tried a couple as well when I was younger. One of them was pre paid legal which I think is still around. It’s a shame some people still fall for these scams. I usually attend professional networking meetings twice a month and there is always someone pushing the latest MLM scheme, whether it is Doterra oils, Herbalife or Mary Kay. It’s always something.

  5. Hi Jay.

    Thanks for sharing that interesting video with us all.

    I have heard a lot of whispers about these “MLM Scams” and had always wondered what that actually meant and who was running these scams.

    I can’t believe some of the names they get to endorse these dodgy systems. Having faces like that immediately builds trust with people and will have them wanting to get involved. Awful to think how easy it is to scam people out of their cash.

    • Some of those names surprise me too. Chuck Norris? There were also a bunch of surprising names actually doing (not endorsing but working) the Wake Up Now scam before it was shut down a couple years back.

  6. Pretty good review, I’d say. I have to agree MLM’s are not for everybody but I have a couple friends that have done VERY well through it. Like anything, it takes a LOT of hard work if you want to ever make any money at it. I’d say the success ratio would have to be relatively the same. About 95% never make it whether it’s MLM, IM or Affiliate Marketing. I have also been involved in MLM and it wasn’t for me for the same reasons others have stated. One thing that has stuck in mind from past experience is that a regular 9-5 job truly only benefits the top of the food chain. Would that be considered a pyramid scheme as well? Point being, like anything, you have to do your homework plain and simple. There are some good but a lot bad.

    • I would disagree about the success ration being the same. Two people having the same success with affiliate marketing and MLM, the one doing affiliate marketing has a better chance at it in the long term because with MLM there’s always the chance of the one company they’re putting in all the work for getting shut down or their downline collapsing. You have more stability and room for growth with something like affiliate marketing. With a regular 9 to 5 job, the only room for growth is whatever your salary increases by every year if it does and you’ll be at the mercy of the employer if they decide to lay off people.

      Affiliate marketing has it’s set of problems too but it’s generally more stable than MLM.

  7. Hi, Jay,

    As you devoted a part of your excellent article on MLM companies on the Herbalife business opportunity, (discussed by John Oliver in a YT vid) I don’t know if you’re aware of what the Feds did to that company last year.

    There had been many complaints by people who got roped into this Herbalife opportunity as distributors. The problem is that these people, (mostly Latin Americans) worked their tails off trying to build up some sort of financial success at the company. Like many other MLM schemes, a person on the low-end of the totem pole has to go about recruiting others to go all in and join the company. It might mean giving away free samples of the company’s product, (in Herbalife’s business weight-loss pills, concoctions, etc). The free samples had to previously purchased by the distributor, coming out of his/her pocket.

    These people at Herbalife finally banned together and called out the company for what it was. It was a long court case, but the U.S. Feds, (based on the judge’s final decision) made the people at the top of the company’s pyramid scheme pay out in total some 200 million dollars to be split up equally to the distributors. I know that I’m not allowed to give any links in my comment. But, doing a simple Google search will confirm that this event did take place.

    About two decades ago, in the late 1990s, I thought about getting involved with Herbalife as a distributor. It was my mom, (now deceased) and a former nurse with a 40+ year career in the health/medical industry who posed a thought to me. What if a person who I had sold this company’s product had a negative reaction medically to the pills that I gave him/her and died? It would mean potential legal ramifications for me and did I want to go through it? I immediately ditched the fantasy of being an Herbalife distributor. My late mom was always a very wise woman!

    Personally, I would avoid many of these MLM online business opportunities. A high proportion of them have business models cleverly disguising the fact that they’re pyramid schemes.

    Looking at your list of other companies. (most of which I have never heard of), one that I do know – Advocare is a complete fraud as well – exposed last year by ESPN in an outstanding “Outside the Lines” journalistic film.


    • Thanks for sharing Jeff.

      I heard about the class action lawsuit and as John Oliver so funnily pointed out, it’s like Herbalife knew that they weren’t doing business the right way before the FTC came down on them.

      Many of these Herbalife (and other MLM) distributors don’t even really bother selling the products, they just work hard to build their teams and let them purchase and sell product. Many of them are flat out illegal pyramids schemes with hard to understand compensation plans to disguise the fact that they’re structured that way.

      I’d have to look for that film on Advocare. I’m interested in stuff like this when it comes to exposing MLM scams.

  8. Jay, thanks for highlighting this late night show’s spotlight on MLMs.

    I was addicted to MLMs until just recently when I finally realized that I wasn’t cut out for that kind of business. I used to think that it was the best way to residual income, but now I know better.

    And even generating residual income doesn’t guarantee you’ll always have it. There are many stories of MLMers who built huge teams and nice income and then lost it because the company went under or a big leader in their organization signed on for a better deal with another company.

    Keep sharing this info!

    Mike Jay

    • One MLM was enough for me. Glad I found affiliate marketing while I was on the verge of quitting Amway/Quixtar. Like you, I wasn’t cut out for that kind of business either.

  9. Interesting read and video. What John Oliver’s hit the points I wanted to say about MLM and Pyramid Schemes. I am very impressed with his speech indeed.

    Thanks for sharing this and I will definitively share this and spread to my social networks. Let’s stop all the BS about Pyramid and help people get back on track.

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