Leave it to KSHB’s steady investigative reporter Ryan Kath to generate another award-worthy story during the November TV Sweeps period.
After all, he captured five Emmy Awards this year—the most of any reporter.
This time Kath has turned his journalistic focus on Kevin Trudeau, who is well-known spokesperson, best-selling author and infamous infomercial marketer. Trudeau’s latest venture is a group called the Global Information Network (GIN).
Kath noted that Trudeau, probably best known for his best-selling book “Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,” also has served two years in prison for credit card fraud. He has also been charged over claims that a product he had would cure cancer.
Kath’s story ran Monday night after months of investigation on the NBC affiliate and has generated more than 80 responses on the station’s Web site. (See below)
Depending how you term it, GIN is either a pyramid scheme, multi-level marketing or as Trudeau refers to it “affiliate building program.” Basically, the concept is that members pay a hefty fee to join GIN and then will make more money based on how many others they can recruit to join the group.
Kansas Citian Abe Husein is featured in the story as he heard a Trudeau infommercial and eventually got into the GIN program. The initial cost to join was $1,000 with monthly dues of $150. However, level dues and upgrades can go as high as $40,000.
Kath told Bottom Line he spoke to a few Kansas Citians about the GIN group, but a request to the FTC really opened the investigation.
“The open-records request to the FTC added an important element, showing there have been similar complaints throughout the country (and world),” he says, “and then, finding Trudeau’s court case for the $37 million fine provided more credibility. It appeared federal authorities had taken an interest in GIN’s finances to prove Trudeau has the resources to pay the penalty. The court documents raised some interesting questions about GIN’s revenue and who is in control of that money.”
But Kath and photographer Michael Butler decided to attend a GIN event in Nashville.
“I’m really glad we got this opportunity because it provided a very valuable perspective for the story. Three days was also an incredibly long time to be on an undercover shoot!” he notes.
Kath and Butler signed up as “affiliates” for the event, which meant they were not members yet. Affiliates are interested in recruiting members to GIN and receiving a portion of the commission.
“The thing that amazed me the most about the conference was the diverse crowd: people of all ages and all demographics, coming to Nashville from all points of the globe,” he says. “People we spoke with at the conference had an overwhelmingly positive take on GIN. Many told us it had changed their lives. Some people really enjoyed the motivational speeches and the support structure. Others liked the networking and the ability to meet people from around the world.”
Kath says there was no major common denominator among attendees at the conference.
“Some people were in the midst of a career change, but others seemed to have stable jobs,” he notes. “For instance, there was a Kansas City area business owner at the conference who was a Level 6 member. This means he has probably paid at least $40,000 in membership dues and level upgrades (not to mention travel costs to events like the one in Nashville). I contacted him for an interview, but never heard back.”
Despite Trudeau’s controversial past, that does not seem to make much of a difference to GIN members.
“As I mentioned, everyone seems aware of Trudeau’s controversial past because he brings it up all the time and portrays it as an important battle that he’s chosen to fight against the government,” Kath says.
“I’ve received plenty of positive feedback from former GIN members or other people who say they’ve been deceived by Kevin Trudeau. I’ve received negative feedback from current GIN members.”