P&G Wins Satanic Panic Payout

I’m slightly late with this:

Procter & Gamble Co. has won a jury award of $19.25 million in a civil lawsuit filed against four former Amway distributors accused of spreading false rumors linking the company to Satanism to advance their own business.

…Rumors had begun circulating as early as 1981 that the company’s logo — a bearded, crescent man-in-moon looking over a field of 13 stars — was a symbol of Satanism.

…The former Amway distributors thought they’d be exonerated and were shocked by the jury’s verdict late Friday, said Randy L. Haugen, one of the defendants.

…The company alleged that Amway Corp. distributors revived those rumors in 1995, using a voice mail system to tell thousands of customers that part of Procter & Gamble profits went to satanic cults.

…P&G spokesman Terry Loftus said Monday that the corporation brought a handful of cases against various individuals — not just Amway distributors — through the 1980s, with the last one prior to this case filed in 1990.

This particular case has been rumbling along for a long time; back in 1999, P&G had the whole of Amway in its sights, and was after much more:

Procter & Gamble claimed that Amway “fomented the satanic rumors” since the early 70’s , including the assertion that the Procter & Gamble trademark incorporates satanic symbols. Dating back to the 1850’s the trademark shows a bearded “man in the moon” looking over 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies. Although the company has kept the trademark as part of its corporate identity, it did remove it from more than 300 of its products in 1985.

Seeking $595 million in damages, Procter & Gamble’s suit centered around a 1995 voice mail from a prominent Amway distributor to other distributors, claiming that Procter & Gamble’s president, while appearing on a national talk show, said that a portion of P & G’s profits went to the “Church of Satan”. The Amway distributor, who admitted sending the message, testified that he thought it was true. Although he issued two retractions the week following the voice mail, Procter & Gamble claimed its hotline was flooded with calls from angry consumers. Amway attorneys said the company did not encourage the rumor, and in fact tried to help Procter & Gamble stop it.

The Reuters story notes that in their opening arguments, Amway attorneys accused Procter & Gamble of filing the suit “because of concerns that Amway was eating into its sales in Asia.”

The claim was dismissed, and an appeal by P&G failed in 2003:

An appeals court has ruled that a federal judge in Utah was correct in dismissing a lawsuit by Procter & Gamble accusing Amway Corp. of spreading rumors linking P&G with the Church of Satan and devil worship.

The unanimous decision Jan. 6 by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a 2001 ruling by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball, who held that the rumors were not defamatory and that Procter & Gamble had not made a case for specific damages.

In its 25-page opinion upholding Kimball’s decision, the 10th Circuit panel concluded that throughout its “protracted and duplicative litigation, P&G has tried to evade the law of the case doctrine, and has squandered scarce judicial resources.”

P&G then went after Haugen and some other individuals. Some of the earlier court documents explain the origin of the saga. One, from 1998, claims that

In April of 1995, [Roger] Patton, living in Woodlands, passed the rumor to [Jeffrey] Musgrove, living in Katy, who allegedly passed the message to Randall Walker in Houston, who in turn, passed the message to Randy Haugen in Ogden, Utah. Haugen and his immediate upline sponsor, Don Wilson, live in Ogden and conduct their Amway businesses there.

Meanwhile, here we read that

Defendant Randy L. Haugen is a citizen of the State of Utah and a “Diamond” level distributor of Amway consumer products  in the distribution chain of The Amway Corporation. Defendant Haugen is a past co-chairman of the Business Operation Committee of the Amway Distributors Association Council  (hereinafter “ADAC”) Thirty Amway ditributors serve on the ADAC. Fifteen of the thirty distributors on the ADAC are appointed by The Amway Corporation. The “mission” of the  ADAC is to “advise and consult” with The Amway Corporation “on all aspects of the business and to take an active role in shaping Amway’s future.”…As announced in The Amway Corporation’s May 1995 AMAGRAM publication…Defendant Haugen is presently and at the time of the actions giving rise to this Complaint a member of the Executive Committee of the ADAC. The Executive Committee establishes goals and objectives for the Business Operations and the Legal and Ethics Committees of the ADAC. Defendant Haugen also conducts business as Freedom Associates, Inc. and Freedom Tools Incorporated, both of which are Utah corporations involving or related to the distribution of Amway products.

A transcript of Haugen’s Amvox message can be seen here; a blog that supports Haugen claims that he “accidentally disseminated” the story (actually, the blog says “accidentally decimated”, but we get what was meant).

Amway is now known as Quixtar, and this site claims that the lawsuit against Haugen brought other issues into the public domain, leading to the name-change.

Meanwhile, one wonders how the millions awarded to P&G compare with compensation given to those whose lives have been blighted by false allegations of Satanic activity. And let’s not forget the reason why the story about P&G was able to gain currency in the first place: because of popular Christian paperbacks that pushed lurid Satanic conspiracy theories. I’ve discussed some of those responsible before.