The Slatest

The New Attorney General Promoted Hot Tubs for a Scam Company That Got Shut Down by the FTC

Whitaker sitting at a table. He's bald. The view of him is partially blocked by a different bald guy.
Matthew Whitaker at the Justice Department on Aug. 29. Allison Shelley/Reuters

Much of the attention around the appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has involved how he might try to undermine Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. That’s understandable. But attention should also be focused on how, quite recently, Matthew Whitaker was involved in hyping alleged innovations in hot tub design for a super, super shady company that recently got shut down by the federal government.

The Miami New Times has more details: Whitaker, at some point after he served as a U.S. attorney in Iowa but before he got hired by the Trump administration, was involved with a Miami-based company called World Patent Marketing. World Patent Marketing claimed to customers that, for a price, it would evaluate and help produce new inventions. Whitaker, as you can see above, was supposedly one of the people who did the “evaluation” of, I guess, hot tubs and other invention stuff. The catch, as alleged by the Federal Trade Commission, was that World Patent Marketing took a lot of money from a lot of people (for such products as a “$995-to-$1,295 ‘Global Invention Royalty Analysis’ ”) without ever actually helping them patent or sell any products. (Among the problems identified by the feds: “The company’s patent applications weren’t drafted by patent attorneys.” D’oh!)

In a 2014 press release touting the extension of his membership on the “World Patent Marketing Advisory Board,” Whitaker described the company as “a first class organization” and praised its commitment to behaving ethically. In May, a federal judge ruled that World Patent Marketing owed $26 million in damages for what the FTC described as systematically deceptive practices that defrauded some customers of their life savings. The judge also ordered that WPM’s founder be “permanently restrained and enjoined from advertising, marketing, promoting, or offering for sale, or assisting in the advertising, marketing, promoting, or offering for sale of any Invention Promotion Service.”

The May federal ruling further enjoins “officers, agents, and employees” of WPM from “suppressing the availability of truthful negative comments or reviews through any means, including threats, intimidation, non-disparagement clauses, and suppression of online content.” In one 2015 email uncovered by the New Times, Whitaker accused an individual who’d criticized WPM’s practices of “possible blackmail and extortion” and told him that there would be “serious civil and criminal consequences” if he continued to criticize the company online or filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. (Whitaker does not appear to have commented publicly on his affiliation with World Patent Marketing since it was sued by the FTC. He has not been accused personally of any civil or criminal misconduct regarding his work for the company.)

Also, this, from an earlier New Times exposé, is just a tremendous combination of words:

Most inventors found the company through its website, which listed … prominent board members such as former U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Whitaker and world karate champion Moti Horenstein.

When you can’t trust a Florida-based bullshit service endorsed by world karate champion Moti Horenstein, who is there left to trust???