Steve Garvey Cleared In Celebrity Endorsement Case

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A federal judge exonerated former baseball star Steve Garvey in a case involving allegations of deception in his endorsement of a diet supplement, Garvey's law firm said yesterday.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess in Los Angeles dismissed charges brought in September 2000 against Garvey by the Federal Trade Commission, according to Washington law firm Venable LLP, which represented Garvey. The ruling should ease marketer worries about the use of celebrity endorsers, Venable said.

"The ruling clarifies that celebrity endorsers are essentially paid spokespeople, not experts responsible for advertising claims," the law firm said in a statement.

The FTC charged that Garvey could not have reasonably believed statements he made in support of the "Fat Trapper" and "Exercise in a Bottle" weight-loss supplements in a 30-minute infomercial. Garvey's lawyers countered that the former Los Angeles Dodger had been paid to read a script and was not required to substantiate the claims.

Many marketers took the FTC's action against Garvey to mean that the federal government would begin to hold celebrity endorsers responsible for statements made in marketing campaigns. The FTC sought to force Garvey to repay $1.1 million he received as royalties for his endorsement.

An FTC spokesman said the agency had not yet seen the judge's final ruling and could not comment. The FTC settled out of court with Encino, CA-based Enforma Products, the company that produced the diet supplement Garvey endorsed, prior to bringing charges against the athlete.

The agency first took action against a celebrity when it went after singer Pat Boone in the 1970s for his endorsement of an acne product. The singer later agreed to pay money to consumers who had bought the product while his endorsement ran.

In Florida, state authorities have filed suit against Youree Harris, who as Miss Cleo formerly endorsed the Psychic Readers Network, on charges of misleading consumers. The case is pending.

According to Venable, a University of North Alabama study found that advertisers spend about $500 million on celebrity endorsements annually.


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