"So what? Every big company gets sued."
So goes the typical response of the still "plugged in" distributor to the information contained in these lawsuits. Like most of the excuses and rationalizations offered by Amway defenders, this one is vague to the point of being meaningless, makes unsupported (and probably unprovable) assertions, and fails completely to address the specific facts and issues that have been raised. Even if we assume that all big companies do get sued (as may very well be the case), that would prove nothing one way or the other about these specific lawsuits and what their significance might be to current and potential distributors.
It seems likely to me (though I have no data to prove or disprove it) that any company the size of Amway is going to become involved in lawsuits. Employees file discrimination or wrongful termination suits, companies wrangle over trademark and patent issues, companies sue and are sued by local governments over land use issues, etc. And indeed Amway has been involved in these types of lawsuits. I have not bothered to include them here, however, because they are for the most part generic in nature and have little, if anything, to do with Amway's unique characteristics and problems. Since the purpose of this site is to provide information on issues relating to Amway as a business opportunity, such suits would have little relevance.
These lawsuits indicate a long-standing pattern of unethical, abusive behavior on the part of Amway and its distributor organizations. The specific charges made in these lawsuits are made plausible not only by their remarkable consistency--despite having been made over a period of many years, and by distributors hundreds and thousands of miles apart--but by Amway's own past admissions that the abuses being alleged not only existed, but were widespread and serious. (See the "Directly Speaking" article for more information.)
The lawsuits also represent only a fraction of the number of such lawsuits that must have been filed over the years. It is not only common sense that tell us so, but Amway's own attorneys. In Setzer v. Amway, 1985, Amway Diamond and ADA board member Rick Setzer sued Amway Corp. (Stay tuned to AUS for more information on this one.) During the discovery process, Setzer's attorneys requested from Amway:
"Copies of all lawsuits filed against Amway corporation and or Richard DeVos and or Jay VanAndel for the past 10 years." -- Plaintiffs First Request For Production of Documents
To which Amway's attorneys responded, in part:
"The request imposes an undue burden in that the number of lawsuits filed against Amway Corporation and/or Richard DeVos and/or Jay Van Andel for the past ten years represents literally thousands of lawsuits, with the file on each lawsuit varying from several pages to entire rooms filled with documentation." -- Affidavit in Support of Defendants' Objections to Plaintiffs' First Request For Production of Documents
Even if we interpret "thousands" conservatively to mean 3,000, that works out to 25 lawsuits per month over the period in question. If only 10% of those lawsuits were distributor lawsuits, that's still almost 3 per month, year after year. And it seems likely to me that the number of distributors who actually get as far as filing a lawsuit represents only a tiny percentage of those who have similar complaints.
So why the relatively small number of lawsuits on AUS? Primarily because there is no easy way to know if and when a lawsuit has been filed. To my knowledge, there is no centralized computer database of court filings, so even a law firm--much less someone with my limited time and resources--would find it difficult or impossible to locate every lawsuit filed across the country in a given time period against a particular person or company. I know about the lawsuit on this site only because I was told about them by someone or read some mention of them in a book or article. This, of course, has been greatly to Amway's advantage, as it has made it very unlikely that current or potential distributors would find out about these lawsuits and the embarrassing (to Amway and the AMOs) information they contain. It would hardly surprise me to find that Amway long ago decided that it was unwilling and/or unable to clean up its own mess, and that it would be cheaper and easier in the long run to outspend, outlast or pay off plaintiffs when possible, and to count on gag orders, "spin control" and the court system itself to keep the dirt swept neatly under the rug and out of public view. Those who are fond of claiming that "Every big company gets sued" must also acknowledge that every big company must therefore consider legal costs an ordinary part of their overhead, like the garbage bill. With all the billions that Amway claims to rake in, it can certainly afford to pay millions per year in legal fees and still have enough left over to keep Rich and Jay in houses, cars, boats and planes.
It is important to also state that the information presented here is not complete, nor is it intended to be. Any lawsuit that goes beyond the initial filings will generate copious amounts of documentation, and it would be impossible to present it all here even if I had it, which I don't. When the outcome of a lawsuit is known to me, I've included it. If and when I learn of significant updates to ongoing cases (and if I can document them), I'll post them here. It is important to remember that all the information here is already publicly available to anyone who wishes to see it, and is willing to expend the effort to get it. I strongly encourage you to do your own research, and not to rely solely on this site or any other single source of information.