Advisor to the Pyramid Scheme Alert Board of Directors
Mr. Brooks is a lawyer based in Concord, Massachusetts. Over the past 30 years Mr. Brooks has litigated a wide variety of civil cases nationwide, including matters involving franchising, dealerships and product distribution, as well as securities, antitrust and consumer protection class actions.
Mr. Brooks has substantial experience representing the victims of fraudulent and deceptive multi-level marketing (“MLM”) schemes. He has represented MLM distributors in putative and certified class actions in state and federal courts, and is frequently consulted by consumer advocates, the media and other attorneys concerning MLM issues. Mr. Brooks was class counsel in one of the most significant MLM cases, in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a MLM firm could not avoid being characterized as a pyramid scheme simply by having rules against inventory loading and requiring retail sales; it has to actually enforce rules which ensure that distributors retail products to persons who are not themselves part of the sales force. See Webster v. Omnitrition International, Inc., 79 F.3d 776, 782 (9th Cir. 1996), cert. den. 519 U.S. 865 (1996). Mr. Brooks represented a class of Nu Skin Canada distributors and won rulings that MLM distributors in Canada could sue under the federal securities laws, and that such claims should be certified for class action treatment. See Capone v. Nu Skin Canada, Inc. Case No. 93-C-2855 (D. Utah). In a case involving victims of a “buying club” which sold memberships through a MLM system, Mr. Brooks successfully argued that securities claims should be upheld and that an arbitration clause in the MLM distributor contract should not be enforced because it violated the public policy of the State of New York. See Rhodes v. Consumers’ Buyline, Inc., 668 F.Supp. 368 (D. Mass. 1993). Mr. Brooks obtained substantial class settlements for distributors in two cases involving Herbalife “lead generation systems.” See Jacobs v. Herbalife International, Inc., Case No. CV 02-01431 (C.D. Cal.) and Minton v. Herbalife International, Inc., Case No. BC 338305 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cty). Mr. Brooks successfully defended the operator of the www.mlmsurvivor.com web site against claims of defamation by a high level Amway distributor. See Deimler v. Scheibeler, et al, No. 2003 CV 1405 CV (Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania).
Mr. Brooks has worked pro bono for a number of non-profit organizations involved in the effort to educate and protect consumers from deceptive and fraudulent MLM schemes, including Pyramid Scheme Alert (www.pyramidschemealert.org), the Consumer Awareness Institute (www.MLM-thetruth.com), Quackwatch (www.quackwatch.com and www.mlmwatch.org), MLM Survivor (www.mlmsurvivor.com), and the Rick A. Ross Institute (www.rickross.com).
Since 1995 Mr. Brooks has participated in rule-making proceedings by the Federal Trade Commission concerning its proposed business opportunity rule in which he has argued for disclosure and conduct regulation of the MLM industry.
Representative Decisions: NXIVM Corp. v. Ross Institute, 364 F.3d 471 (2nd Cir. 2004) (Mr. Brooks successfully opposed efforts to obtain a preliminary injunction against his client, a non-profit anti-cult organization, in lawsuit alleging Copyright and Lanham Act violations, including plaintiff’s appeal to the Second Circuit and petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court; Mr. Brooks is representing the defendant pro bono); Wolinetz v. Berkshire Life Insurance Co., 361 F.3d 44 (1st Cir. 2004) (Mr. Brooks obtained a ruling reversing summary judgment in a “vanishing premium” case); In re: AOL Version 5.0 Software Litigation, 168 F.Supp.2d 1359 (S.D.Fla. 2001) (Mr. Brooks represented internet service providers suing America Online for distributing software that interfered with customers seeking to use their services); Scheck v. Burger King Corp., 756 F.Supp. 543 (S.D.Fla. 1991) (widely cited case in which Mr. Brooks successfully opposed summary judgment in encroachment claim by franchisee), further opinion, 798 F.Supp. 692 (S.D.Fla. 1992) (denying motion for reconsideration); Szymanski v. Boston Mutual Life Ins. Co., 56 Mass.App. 367 (2002), rev. den., 438 Mass. 1106 (2003) (reversing summary judgment in vanishing premium litigation); Oganesov v. GNC Franchising Inc., Bus. Franchise Guide (CCH) ¶11,808 (Pa. Ct. Cmn. Pl., March 3, 2000) (awarding $700,000 judgment for franchisee in encroachment litigation; Mr. Brooks represented the franchisee at trial and in the franchisor’s appeals), aff’d, Bus. Franchise Guide (CCH) ¶12,163 (Pa.Super. 2001); Gentle Wind Project v. Garvey, 2005 WL 40064 (D.Me. January 10, 2005) (Mr. Brooks successfully obtained dismissal of claims by alleged cult against operator of cult information web site); Richards v. Arteva Specialties SARL, 66 Mass. App. 726 (2006) (Mr. Brooks successfully obtained reversal of trial court ruling dismissing indirect purchaser antitrust action under Massachusetts consumer protection law).
Admissions: Mr. Brooks is a member of the bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First and Third Circuits. He has been admitted pro hac vice in many state and federal courts across the country.
Bar Associations: Mr. Brooks is a member of the American and Massachusetts Bar Associations and a member of the Forum on Franchising of the American Bar Association. Mr. Brooks was a speaker at the 1995 Annual Forum on Franchising of the American Bar Association, where he delivered a paper entitled “Survey Evidence – Use of Collected Data in Encroachment Cases” and has been a speaker at conventions of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and the American Franchisee Association.
Education: Suffolk University Law School (J.D. 1982) (Note Editor, Suffolk Transnational Law Journal, 1981-82); Northwestern University (B.A. 1979).
Douglas M. Brooks, Esquire
60 Thoreau Street, No. 219
Concord, MA 01742