Analysis of Proposed Consent Order to Aid Public Comment
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement containing a consent order from Ellery Coleman, individually and doing business as Granite Investments ("respondent").
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received, and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.
Respondent sells and distributes various computer software programs and training for buying and selling S&P futures contracts on a daily basis. Respondent advertises on his Internet Web site, www.choicedaytrades.com. This matter concerns allegedly deceptive representations of the earnings and profit potential, as well as the extent of risk involved in using respondent's trading methods.
The Commission's proposed complaint alleges that respondent made unsubstantiated claims that users of his S&P futures trading programs can reasonably expect to achieve substantial profits on a consistent basis (e.g., $25,000 per futures contract); that specific trades or investments enumerated in respondent's advertisements were actually made and resulted in the substantial profits stated in the advertisements; and that testimonials appearing in the advertisements for respondent's S&P futures trading programs reflect the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the programs.
In addition, the complaint alleges that respondent misrepresented that users of his S&P futures trading programs can reasonably expect to trade profitably with little financial risk; that testimonials appearing in the advertisements for his S&P futures trading programs reflect the actual experiences of consumers who have used the programs; that he personally uses his S&P futures trading programs to trade profitably on his own behalf; and that the trades recommended by his S&P futures trading programs, as enumerated in the advertisements, were actually made in many cases.
The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to prevent respondent from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future.
Part I of the proposed order requires respondent to have a reasonable basis substantiating any representation that users of his S&P futures trading programs can reasonably expect to achieve substantial profits on a consistent basis; that specific trades or investments were actually made and resulted in substantial profits; about the amount of earnings, income, profit or the rate of return that a prospective user of any trading program could reasonably expect to attain; about the percentage, ratio, or number of trades that a prospective user of respondent's S&P futures trading programs could reasonably expect to be profitable; or about any financial benefit or other benefit from any trading programs offered by respondent.
Part II of the proposed order prohibits respondent from misrepresenting that users of any trading program can reasonably expect to trade profitably with little or no financial risk; that respondent personally uses his trading programs to trade on his own behalf; whether trades recommended by respondent's trading programs were actually made or were hypothetical; that any testimonial or endorsement of respondent's trading programs or training reflects the testimonialist's or endorser's actual experience and current opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences; or from misrepresenting the extent of risk to which users of any trading program are exposed.
Part III of the proposed order requires respondent to disclose, clearly and conspicuously, "FUTURES TRADING [or STOCK, CURRENCY, OPTIONS, ETC., as applicable] TRADING involves high risks and YOU can LOSE a lot of money," in close proximity to any representation he makes about the financial benefits of any trading program. This disclosure is in addition to, and not instead of, any other disclosure that respondent may be required to make.
Part IV of the proposed order prohibits respondent from representing without a reasonable basis that the experience represented by any user, testimonial or endorsement of any trading program represents the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the program; or respondent must disclose either what the generally expected results would be for users of the trading program, or the limited applicability of the endorser's experience to what users may generally expect to achieve, that is, that users should not expect to experience similar results.
Parts V-XI of the proposed order require respondent to keep copies of relevant advertisements and materials substantiating claims made in the advertisements; to provide copies of the order to certain personnel; to notify the Commission of changes in Granite Investments that may affect the order; to notify the Commission of changes in respondent's employment status for a period of ten years; and to file compliance reports with the Commission. Part X provides that the order will terminate after twenty (20) years under certain circumstances.
The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order. It is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.