Let me Google Jesse Willms for you
Negative-option marketer loses his coat in settlement with U.S. authorities
by Geoffrey Morgan
Sherwood Park-based Internet marketing mogul Jesse Willms will be shopping for a new fur coat (and car, and house, and art for his walls) after settling his dispute with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week.
Willms agreed to a $359-million judgment with the FTC, which will be suspended when the 24-year-old turns over all his corporate and personal assets. In September, when Willms’s assets were frozen by a Seattle judge, his net worth was estimated to be $450 million.
Willms describes himself as the “Internet good guy” who is “bringing honesty to Internet marketing.” The FTC would disagree. Willms made his fortune selling everything from teeth whiteners to health supplements through his company, Terra Marketing Group, and consumers claimed they had been defrauded. They allege that Terra’s free trials were not, in fact, free. They were charged for the products and unless they deliberately opted-out, were charged again and again.
But you might not have known that about Jesse Willms. If you Google his name, you’ll get a mix of websites touting his accomplishments and philanthropic endeavours and – since the FTC settlement – news articles decrying his Internet marketing company as a scam.
Canadian Business uncovered a bit of Willms’s Google magic last summer, revealing that Terra had paid search engine optimization companies to create blogs, like the Internet good guy, in an attempt to salvage Willms’s online reputation. That’s why you’ll find pages like this one, and this one, and this one touting the Sherwood Park marketer’s ethics. Opt out of reading those blogs.