USANA Health Sciences
|Traded as||NYSE: USNA|
Russell 2000 Component
|Industry||Multi-Level Marketing of Nutritional products|
|Founded||West Valley City, Utah (1992 )|
|Founder||Myron Wentz, Ph.D.|
|Myron Wentz, Ph.D. (Founder & Chairman)|
Kevin Guest (CEO)
|Products||Nutritional supplements, weight management, energy, personal care|
Usana Health Sciences, Inc., or USANA, is a Utah-based multi-level marketing company that produces various nutritional products, dietary supplements and skincare products. Usana products, most of which are manufactured at the company’s West Valley City facility, are sold in 24 countries via a network of independent distributors (referred to as "associates"). In 2015 Usana was the 24th largest multi-level marketing company in the world by revenue. The company has sponsored and provided products to several athletic organizations. Most of Usana's independent distributors make less money than the cost of the initial qualifying purchase. According to New Zealand government statistician for the Commerce Commission, Dr. Murray H. Smith, "you can make a very strong argument that this [Usana] could be a pyramid scheme." In 2007, several of Usana's executives were discovered to have made false statements in their resumes.
Usana was founded by immunologist and microbiologist Myron Wentz. Usana, based in West Valley City, Utah, sells its products through multilevel marketing: distributors recruit and profit from other distributors. The products are not available through retail channels, but instead can only be obtained through one of its independent distributors (referred to as "associates") or by direct order through the company. At the end of 2014, The company had 349,000 active associates and 81,000 active "Preferred Customers" in its worldwide distribution network. In 2012, 91% of product sales was purchased by associates As of 2013, its products are marketed in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia, Philippines, France, Colombia and Thailand.
Beginning in 1993, Dallin A. Larsen served as Usana's vice president of sales (and later as consultant to Usana's president and special advisor to the board of directors) prior to founding the MLM beverage company Monavie in 2005.
From 2004 to 2006, Usana was named on Forbes “200 Best Small Companies” list. In 2007, Usana was not included on Forbes' 200 Best Small Companies” list, and an article in the magazine quoted industry and government experts who had raised questions about Usana's business practices and products. Usana responded by issuing a press release denying that the company had breached a $40 million loan agreement with Bank of America.
In 2007, Usana faced repeated controversy after several of its executives were discovered to have made false statements regarding their qualifications. The executives included Denis Waitley, a member of the board of directors who had falsely claimed to hold a master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School; sales associate Ladd McNamara, who quit the company's medical advisory board after it was discovered that his license to practice medicine had been revoked; Vice President of Research and Development, Timothy Wood, who was found to have a doctorate in forestry, as opposed to biology as he had claimed; and the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Gilbert Fuller, who had continued to use the title of CPA, though his CPA license had expired 10 years before he joined Usana in 1996.
In August 2007, Usana announced that it had been notified by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that its shares were subject to delisting from the NASDAQ because the company had failed to have the financial information in its quarterly Form 10-Q reviewed by an independent auditor. Usana reported this was due to their public accountant resigning and not yet being replaced. In October 2007, Usana announced that NASDAQ had determined they were in compliance and their stock would continue to be listed.
On 10 May 2011, it was announced that 4 of Usana's executives (President and COO Fred W. Cooper, CFO Jeffrey A. Yates, EVP of Sales Mark H. Wilson, and VP of Finance Riley Timmer) had unexpectedly resigned their positions at the company to pursue an unspecified business opportunity.
In fiscal years 2012, 2013, and 2014, Usana expended $4.7 million, $5.1 million, and $5.1 million, respectively, on product research and development activities, while earning $648 million, $718 million, and $790 million in total revenue during those same years, respectively. Thus, representing less than 1% of the company's annual revenues.
Usana produces three product lines: Usana Nutritionals (Essentials, Optimizers, and Digestion/Detox nutritional supplements), Usana Diet & Energy (Reset meal replacement shakes, protein bars, and Rev3 energy drinks), and Sensé personal care (skin care, skin treatment, and hair & body care products). Usana manufactures 90% of its products in-house, including all of its tableted nutritional supplements.
Some products from the Usana Nutritionals range are listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).[non-primary source needed] Several of Usana's products are certified for product label accuracy by NSF International in the "Dietary Supplements" category.[non-primary source needed] Usana Essentials were tested in 2011 by ConsumerLab.com in their Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements Review of 38 of the leading multivitamin/multimineral products sold in the U.S. and Canada. The Essentials passed ConsumerLab's test, which included testing of selected index elements, their ability to disintegrate in solution per United States Pharmacopeia guidelines, lead contamination threshold set in California Proposition 65, and meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling requirements.
Commenting on the relatively high cost of Usana's supplements, Anthony Almada, Chief Scientist of the nutritional supplement industry consulting firm Imaginutrition, told Forbes "The economic reality of Usana, and other multilevel marketing entities, mandates that their products invariably lack robust distinctiveness and convincing evidence of consumer relevance and superiority—achievable through rigorous clinical trials only—to their retail counterparts." These comments were supported by natural health product specialist Prof. Jean-Louis Brazier of the University of Montreal's Faculty of Pharmacy who examined Usana's products for Radio-Canada's consumer report show La Facture. Brazier found that they cost two to three times the price of equivalent store-bought items, and no evidence that Usana's products were of better quality than their competitors.
John Cloud, senior writer for Time Magazine, conducted an evaluation of nutritional supplements in which he took a regimen of Usana pills, protein bars, powder drinks and psyllium fiber as recommended by the company's online evaluation. Cloud took a blood test prior to taking the products to determine the levels of calcium, protein, sodium, cholesterol, glucose, and other substances, and then was tested again five months after taking the supplement regimen, which included 3,000 pills at a cost of $1,200. The follow-up test revealed a change in only two values; a 75% increase in vitamin D levels (attributed to the vitamin D3 supplement Cloud had been taking) and a 28 mg/dl increase in high-density lipoprotein, which could not be accounted for. Cloud also experienced a placebo response where that act of taking the supplements made him feel more vigorous despite no physiological reasons being present. This response also led to a 10-lb increase in weight, as the belief he was more vigorous led to his making poorer dietary decisions—a phenomenon referred to as the "licensing effect".
Usana, a multilevel marketing company, sells its products primarily via non-employee distributors known as sales "associates" as well as via the Internet. Associates may be eligible to receive commissions based on their own product sales as well as through sales made by any new distributors they recruit (referred to in multilevel marketing parlance as a "downline"). Usana's compensation plan awards commissionable 'points' for sales volume. When the points reach a pre-determined number, the associate is paid. If the points do not reach the payment threshold, they accumulate towards the next week. The firm requires that associates purchase a minimum of 100 volume of products (equivalent to approximately $110–$130) every four weeks in order to remain eligible to receive compensation. If this minimum is not maintained, the distributor loses the points that have accumulated but not yet been paid. According to documentation from Usana corporate, 87% of associates fail to make enough from commissions to recover the cost of their qualifying purchases with 67% of all associates making no commission; 72.2% of the company's commissions are earned by the top 2.31% of associates. According to a 2011 article published by the Salt Lake City Tribune, the firm's FY09 income disclosure statement indicated that the average yearly income of the company's 165,710 associates, which includes those just starting out, was $617, while the "top-of-the-pyramid distributors earn an average of $857,865 annually".
The firm's 2010 income disclosure statement defines "associates" as those who are actively building a business, acting as wholesale buyers, or are new distributors. The firm's 2009 SEC 10-K filing draws a distinction between associates and preferred customers. Associates are independent distributors of Usana products who also purchase their products for personal use. Preferred customers may purchase products, at wholesale prices, strictly for personal use and are not permitted to resell or to distribute. As of July 2011, the firm had 222,000 active Associates and 68,000 preferred customers.
Usana's associates are bound by distributor agreements, which forbid distributors from making "misleading income claims" to potential associates, and from making health claims for the products. However, an investigative report aired by Radio-Canada in February 2009, which included hidden camera filming of recruitment and other sessions, found that one group of associates appeared to violate the company's policies. The program contrasted the information about potential revenues presented at meetings and in written materials with the Canadian legal requirements for multi-level marketing schemes to provide clear, frequent and complete information about the revenue of the typical participant. In addition, the same group of associates were filmed making recommendations for using USANA products to treat illnesses including leukemia.
In 2008, two Canadian Usana distributors were awarded $7 million in compensation for damages related to their wrongful dismissal from the company. The firm had terminated their positions in 2003 because it believed the distributor had violated the companies' policies and procedures.
New Zealand government statistician for the Commerce Commission, Dr. Murray H. Smith, who served as an expert witness in every pyramid scheme case brought by the Commission preceding 10 years, opined in 2008 that very few Usana distributors are likely to become wealthy, and stating "you can make a very strong argument that this could be a pyramid scheme." When asked by the National Business Review to review the firm's business structure and compensation plan, it was Smith’s opinion, from a statistical not legal standpoint, that the firm demonstrated a number of characteristics commonly occurring in pyramid schemes including that most members recoup less than what they pay to participate; that those at the top of the structure are more likely to make more than those on the bottom of the structure; and that as the company grows it will become harder to recruit others. Dr. Smith also noted the company’s significant turnover in distributors making it necessary to continually recruit.
Usana has been a paid sponsor of various athletic organizations. Usana offers an "Athlete Guarantee Program" to select sponsored athletes. The program permits selected participants to enter into an agreement with company stipulating that, should an athlete enrolled in the program test positive for a banned substance (included in World Anti-Doping Agency regulations) as a result of taking Usana products, the company will compensate the athlete up to two times his or her current annual earnings up to $1 million USD.
In 2006, Usana signed a co-sponsorship agreement with the WTA tour and extended the agreement in 2011. As part of the agreement in 2011, Usana donated $1 to Children's Hunger Fund for every ace scored at a WTA tournament beginning at Wimbledon and continuing through the end of the season.
In 2003, Usana became the title sponsor of the USANA Amphitheatre, an outdoor amphitheatre based in West Valley City, Utah with a seating capacity of 20,000. In May 2012, United Concerts announced a continued naming rights partnership with USANA Health Sciences through March 2018.
On 20 February 2007, Barry Minkow, founder of the Fraud Discovery Institute, distributed a 500-page report to officials at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accusing Usana of operating an illegal pyramid scheme. Usana countered by lodging suits against Minkow and his company claiming defamation and stock manipulation.
According to an article published in the San Diego Reader, Usana was subsequently the subject of an investigation by the SEC. The SEC conducted a probe of Usana's business practices in March 2007 and found nothing incriminating, concluding its inquiry with no enforcement action recommended. The company's longtime auditing firm, Grant Thornton, resigned in July 2007 because it could not agree with Usana on procedures for an outside, independent investigation of the charges. Because it had no auditor, Usana was late with official government filings and was not in compliance with SEC and NASDAQ requirements.
On the day Minkow's report was released, Usana's shares had traded at $61.19 but by August the share price had tumbled to less than $35. Minkow acknowledged that he was shorting Usana's shares, hoping to profit from a drop in the stock price. However, in reference to Usana's lawsuit, news columnist Herb Greenberg commented that the criticism of Minkow "is a bunch of malarkey; he has a right to publish his research, as long as people know his position [in the stock]." Minkow had revealed in the report that he was betting for the stock to go down. Usana dropped the defamation suit and in March 2008 U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell threw out four of the five claims brought by Usana against Minkow ruling that Usana's claims violated California's anti-SLAPP law for suing Minkow for fair criticism. and that Usana did not show a reasonable probability of winning on those claims. The judge also cited two examples where Usana failed to refute Minkow's claims that their products were overpriced and of no better quality than other lower-priced brands. The remaining charge of stock manipulation was settled in July 2008 when Usana and Minkow reached an undisclosed settlement, which included the removal of all Usana-related materials from the Fraud Discovery Institute website, a related Chinese website, and from YouTube. Minkow also agreed to never trade in Usana's stock again. Separately from the settlement, the company paid $142,510 in attorney fees to Minkow and his institute under an order from federal Magistrate Samuel Alba. Court documents show that Usana never pursued others whom they suspected of being part of the alleged stock manipulation nor did they ask for an injunction, their only avenue of release in this case.
Minkow had previously served a 7-year prison term starting in 1987 for stock fraud. Minkow has since returned to prison in 2011 for securities fraud unrelated to Usana.
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