The Federal Trade Commission has asked a federal district court to halt a nationwide job-placement service operating out of Monroe, Michigan, following charges that the firm's sole proprie- tor, Debra Mink, and her telemarketers have made a host of false and misleading claims to clients. The FTC is seeking both temporary and permanent injunctions to prohibit Mink, who does business as International Services, from engaging in similarly deceptive employment schemes in the future, and an order requireing her to pay redress to clients of the firm who paid up to $350 each for its services.
The FTC alleged in the complaint it filed in court that Mink placed ads in newspapers in many states, leading consumers to believe that International Services was filling openings for spe- cific positions, commonly financial analyst positions. An ad placed in the Asheville (North Carolina) Citizen Times, for exam- ple, read: "FINANCIAL ANALYST. To work for a local banking firm. Prefer a business graduate. Will train the right person. $28,000 to start. Call xxx-xxx-xxxx." Those who called the telephone number given in the ads reached telemarketers, and sometimes Debra Mink herself, who allegedly made a variety of false claims. Among them were alleged claims that International Services:
- marketed clients' resumes primarily to businesses with unpublished job openings in the clients' geographic areas and business fields;
- marketed resumes primarily to entities with which it had business arrangements under which International screened and pre-qualified applicants for job openings;
- more -
- placed the vast majority of its clients in jobs within a short period of time; and
- would return a portion of clients' up-front fees after it deducted charges for the services it had rendered. For example, the complaint states that the defendant or her telemarketers made statements such as: "If a client is not satisfied with International's services, all but $49 of the $350 retainer fee is refundable," and "We do work on a refundable basis.... $49 of our fee is non-refundable.... The remainder would be pro-rated...as to how far you are in the service and how much work was done on your file. And you would get...an expense release form, and it would detail out to you...how much work was done on your file."
In fact, the FTC charged, International Services routinely and indiscriminately sent unsolicited resumes to businesses that may or may not have had the promised job openings, and placed, at most, a small minority of its clients in jobs. In addition, according to the complaint, International Services in numerous instances fabricated the work it purported to have performed for clients in order to justify keeping a large portion of the fees the clients had paid.
In its complaint, the FTC asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order that, pending further hearings, will prohibit the deceptive practices and freeze Mink's assets to preserve any funds for consumer redress. A hearing on the FTC's request is set for Friday, May 5 at 10 a.m.
The FTC received assistance in the case from the Better Business Bureau serving Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan, the Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State of Michigan's Department of Commerce and its Attorney General's Office, the Florida Attorney General's Office, and the City of Monroe Police Department.
The FTC vote to file the complaint was 5-0. It was filed May 1 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, in Detroit.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
The FTC has developed a free brochure for consumers called "Job Hunting: Should You Pay?" that lists tips and questions to ask. Copies of the brochure and complaint are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsyl- vania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
(FTC File No. 942 3303)
(Civil Action No. 95-CV-71780-DT, Judge Gerald E. Rosen)