Another Fake News Site Operator Settles with FTC, Will Surrender More than $2 Million in Assets
Circa Direct LLC and Andrew Davidson will pay more than $2 million to settle the FTC complaint charging them with deceptive advertising by operating fake news websites to promote acai berry weight loss products. This follows September’s $1 million settlement with the Coleadium, Inc. affiliate network, also known as “Ads4Dough,” and its owner will pay $1 million to settle a similar FTC complaint.
Like the Coleadium complaint, the FTC charged Circa and Davidson with running Web sites that presented what looked like legitimate news but actually were advertisements for their products. Using titles such as “News 6” and “New Jersey Job Report,” the websites purported to provide investigative journalists’ reports on weight-loss products, work-at-home schemes other “consumer” news, but were, according to the FTC, deceptive ads that made false and unsupported claims about acai berry products. The FTC complaint also alleged that the Circa and Davidson failed to disclose their financial relationship to the sellers of the products and services promoted on the sites.
The settlement imposes a monetary judgment of nearly $11.5 million that will be suspended when the FTC receives assets worth more than $2 million from the defendants’ personal and corporate bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, and proceeds from the sale of other assets.
Under the settlement, Circa Direct and Davidson are required to make clear when their commercial messages are advertisements, disclose any financial connections they have with merchants and refrain from making deceptive claims about health-related products, such as the acai berry weight-loss supplements they marketed, and any other products