0023024

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BEFORE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

COMMISSIONERS:
Robert Pitofsky, Chairman
Sheila F. Anthony
Mozelle W. Thompson
Orson Swindle
Thomas B. Leary

In the Matter of

R.S. of HOUSTON WORKSHOP a company,
RONALD J. SCHOEMMELL,
individually and as an owner and principal of the company and
VALDIMAR THORKELSSON,
individually and as an owner and principal of the company.

Docket No. C-3994

DECISION AND ORDER

The Federal Trade Commission ("Commission"), having initiated an investigation of certain acts and practices of the respondents named in the caption hereof, and the respondents having been furnished thereafter with a copy of a draft complaint which the Bureau of Consumer Protection proposed to present to the Commission for its consideration and which, if issued by the Commission, would charge respondents with violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act; and

Respondents and counsel for the Commission having thereafter executed an agreement containing a consent order, an admission by respondents of all the jurisdictional facts set forth in the aforesaid draft complaint, a statement that the signing of said agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by respondents that the law has been violated as alleged in such complaint, or that the facts as alleged in such complaint, other than jurisdictional facts, are true and waivers and other provisions as required by the Commission's Rules; and

The Commission having thereafter considered the matter and having determined that it had reason to believe that respondents have violated the said Act, and that the complaint should issue stating its charges in that respect, and having thereupon accepted the aforementioned executed consent agreement and placed such agreement on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days, now in further conformity with the procedure prescribed in 2.34 of its Rules, the Commission hereby issues its complaint, makes the following jurisdictional findings and enters the following order:

1. Respondent R.S. of Houston Workshop is an unincorporated entity, a d/b/a of Valdimar Thorkelsson, who filed a Certificate of Operation Under Assumed Name on November 17, 1997, in Harris County, TX ("company"), with its principal office or place of business at 1419 Diamond Brook Drive, Houston, TX 77062.
 
2. Respondent Ronald J. Schoemmell is a fifty percent owner and principal of the company respondent. Individually or in concert with others, he formulates, directs, or controls the policies, acts, or practices of the company. His principal office or place of business is the same as that of R.S. of Houston Workshop.
 
3. Respondent Valdimar Thorkelsson is a fifty percent owner and principal of the company respondent. Individually or in concert with others, he formulates, directs, or controls the policies, acts, or practices of the company. His principal office or place of business is the same as that of R.S. of Houston Workshop.

ORDER

DEFINITIONS

For purposes of this order, the following definitions shall apply:

1. "Clearly and conspicuously" shall mean as follows:

A. In an advertisement communicated through an electronic medium (such as television, video, radio, and interactive media such as the Internet and online services), the disclosure shall be presented simultaneously in both the audio and visual portions of the advertisement. Provided, however, that in any advertisement presented solely through visual or audio means, the disclosure may be made through the same means in which the ad is presented. The audio disclosure shall be delivered in a volume and cadence sufficient for an ordinary consumer to hear and comprehend it. The visual disclosure shall be of a size and shade, and shall appear on the screen for a duration, sufficient for an ordinary consumer to read and comprehend it.
 
B. In a print advertisement, promotional material, or instructional manual, the disclosure shall be in a type size and location sufficiently noticeable for an ordinary consumer to read and comprehend it, in print that contrasts with the background against which it appears.
 
C. On a product label, the disclosure shall be in a type size and location on the principal display panel sufficiently noticeable for an ordinary consumer to read and comprehend it, in print that contrasts with the background against which it appears.

The disclosure shall be in understandable language and syntax. Nothing contrary to, inconsistent with, or in mitigation of the disclosure shall be used in any advertisement or on any label.

2. In the case of advertisements disseminated by means of an interactive electronic medium such as the Internet or other online services, "in close proximity" shall mean on the same Web page and proximate to the triggering representation, and not on other portions of the Web site, accessed or displayed through hyperlinks or other means.

3. "Commerce" shall mean as defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C.  44.

4. "Trading program" or "trading method" shall mean any program, method, service, course, instruction, system, training, manual, computer software, or other materials involving the purchase or sale of stocks, currencies, commodity futures, options, or other financial instruments or investments.

5. Unless otherwise specified, "respondents" shall mean R.S. of Houston Workshop, a company, its successors and assigns and its officers, owners and principals; Ronald J. Schoemmell, individually and as a fifty percent owner and principal of the company; and Valdimar Thorkelsson, individually and as a fifty percent owner and principal of the company; and each of the above's agents, representatives, and employees.

I.

IT IS ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any company, corporation, subsidiary, division, trade name, or other device, in connection with the advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any trading program or trading method, in or affecting commerce, shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication:

A. That users of respondents' trading program or trading method can reasonably expect to earn large profits, or as much as $2,000 to $5,000 per day on some days;

B. That users of respondents' trading program or trading method can reasonably expect to earn profits of $500 to $750 or more per day;

C. That users of respondents' trading program or trading method can reasonably expect to approach trading as a business and earn a consistent living from the markets;
 
D. That users of respondents' trading program or trading method can reasonably expect to trade in volatile markets with low risk;
 
E. The amount of earnings, income, or profit that a prospective user could reasonably expect to attain; or

F. Any financial benefit or other benefit of any kind from the purchase or use of such trading program or trading method;

unless respondents possess and rely upon a reasonable basis substantiating the representation at the time it is made.

II.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any company, corporation, subsidiary, division, trade name, or other device, in connection with the advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any trading program or trading method, in or affecting commerce, shall not misrepresent, in any manner, expressly or by implication,

A. That users of the program or method can reasonably expect to trade with little or no financial risk; or
 
B. The extent of risk to which users of the program or method are exposed.

III.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any company, corporation, subsidiary, division, trade name, or other device, in connection with the advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any trading program or trading method, in or affecting commerce, shall not make any representation, in any manner, expressly or by implication, about the financial benefits of such program, unless they disclose, clearly and conspicuously, and in close proximity to the representation,

"DAYTRADING involves high risks and YOU can LOSE a lot of money."

Provided, the disclosure required by this Part is in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other disclosure that respondents may be required to make, including but not limited to any disclosure required by state or federal law or by a self-regulatory organization. The requirements of this Part are not intended to, and shall not be interpreted to, exempt respondents from making any other disclosure.

IV.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any company, corporation, subsidiary, division, trade name, or other device, in connection with the advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any trading program or trading method, in or affecting commerce, shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that the experience represented by any user, testimonial or endorsement of the trading program or trading method represents the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the trading program or trading method unless:

A. Respondents possess and rely upon a reasonable basis substantiating the representation at the time it is made; or
 
B. Respondents disclose, clearly and conspicuously, and in close proximity to the endorsement or testimonial, either:

1. what the generally expected results would be for users of the trading program or trading method, or
 
2. 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.

For purposes of this Part, "endorsement" shall mean as defined in 16 C.F.R.  255.0(b).

V.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent R.S. of Houston Workshop, and its successors and assigns; respondent Ronald J. Schoemmell; and respondent Valdimar Thorkelsson shall, for five (5) years after the last date of dissemination of any representation covered by this order, maintain and upon request make available to the Federal Trade Commission for inspection and copying:

A. All advertisements and promotional materials (including packaging) containing the representation;
 
B. All materials that were relied upon in disseminating the representation; and
 
C. All tests, reports, studies, surveys, demonstrations, or other evidence in their possession or control that contradict, qualify, or call into question the representation, or the basis relied upon for the representation, including complaints and other communications with consumers or with governmental or consumer protection organizations.

VI.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent R.S. of Houston Workshop, and its successors and assigns; respondent Ronald J. Schoemmell; and respondent Valdimar Thorkelsson shall deliver a copy of this order to all current and future principals, officers, directors, and managers, and to all current and future employees, agents, and representatives having responsibilities with respect to the subject matter of this order, and shall secure from each such person a signed and dated statement acknowledging receipt of the order. Respondents shall deliver this order to current personnel within thirty (30) days after the date of service of this order, and to future personnel within thirty (30) days after the person assumes such position or responsibilities. Respondents shall maintain and upon request make available to the Commission for inspection and copying each such signed and dated statement for a period of five (5) years after creation.

VII.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent R.S. of Houston Workshop, and its successors and assigns shall notify the Commission at least thirty (30) days prior to any change in the company that may affect compliance obligations arising under this order, including but not limited to a dissolution of a subsidiary, parent or affiliate that engages in any acts or practices subject to this order; the proposed filing of a bankruptcy petition; or a change in the company name or address. Provided, however, that, with respect to any proposed change in the company about which respondent learns less than thirty (30) days prior to the date such action is to take place, respondent shall notify the Commission as soon as is practicable after obtaining such knowledge.

VIII.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent Ronald J. Schoemmell, for a period of seven (7) years after the date of issuance of this order, shall notify the Commission of the discontinuance of his current business or employment, or of his affiliation with any new business or employment. The notice shall include respondent's new business address and telephone number and a description of the nature of the business or employment and his duties and responsibilities.

IX.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent Valdimar Thorkelsson, for a period of seven (7) years after the date of issuance of this order, shall notify the Commission of the discontinuance of his current business or employment, or of his affiliation with any new business or employment. The notice shall include respondent's new business address and telephone number and a description of the nature of the business or employment and his duties and responsibilities.

X.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondents R.S. of Houston Workshop, and its successors and assigns; respondent Ronald J. Schoemmell; and respondent Valdimar Thorkelsson shall, within sixty (60) days after the date of service of this order, and at such other times as the Federal Trade Commission may require, file with the Commission a report, in writing, setting forth in detail the manner and form in which they have complied with this order.

XI.

This order will terminate on January 12, 2021, or twenty (20) years from the most recent date that the United States or the Federal Trade Commission files a complaint (with or without an accompanying consent decree) in federal court alleging any violation of the order, whichever comes later; provided, however, that the filing of such a complaint will not effect the duration of:

A. Any Part in this order that terminates in less than twenty (20) years;

B. This order's application to any respondent that is not named as a defendant in such complaint; and

C. This order if such complaint is filed after the order has terminated pursuant to this Part.

Provided further, that if such complaint is dismissed or a federal court rules that the respondent did not violate any provision of the order, and the dismissal or ruling is either not appealed or upheld on appeal, then the order will terminate according to this Part as though the complaint had never been filed, except that the order will not terminate between the date such complaint is filed and the later of the deadline for appealing such dismissal or ruling and the date such dismissal or ruling is upheld on appeal.

XII.

All notices required to be sent to the Commission pursuant to this Order shall be sent by certified mail to the Associate Director, Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. ATTN: In the Matter of R.S. of Houston Workshop.

By the Commission.

Donald S. Clark
Secretary

ISSUED: January 12, 2001

SEAL