Utah’s governor highlighted a controversial essential-oil MLM as a way to protect school kids from a COVID-19

Utah governor spencer cox doterra
Vote Smart listed the Utah governor as receiving over $US10,000 ($AU13,725) from doTerra International in 2020. Chad Hurst/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival and Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz
  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox expressed gratitude to multi-level marketing company doTerra on Twitter.
  • doTerra has offered to give 1 million wipes to Utah schools to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
  • The company received a reprimand from the FTC over promoting its products as COVID-19 cures.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox took to Twitter to thank doTerra, a controversial direct-sales company, for donating its products to prevent COVID-19 transmission in schools. doTerra is a multi-level marketing company that sells essential oil-based products.

In the 2020 election cycle, doTerra International donated $US10,200 ($AU13,999) to Cox, according to non-partisan research firm Vote Smart.

doTerra has described its On Guard wipes as containing ingredients like “Eucalyptus, Wild Orange, Clove, Cinnamon, and Rosemary essential oils,” along with 70% ethyl alcohol. In 2020, Federal Trade Commission ordered doTerra to stop promoting its oils as COVID-19 cures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally recommend frequent handwashing, and listed “touching mucous membranes with hands soiled by exhaled respiratory fluids containing virus or from touching inanimate surfaces contaminated with virus” as causing infectious exposure to COVID-19.

The governor’s office and doTerra did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Before he became governor in 2021, Cox served as the state’s lieutenant governor for Gary Herbert starting in 2013. In 2016, Herbert presented at the World Trade Association of Utah, where doTerra was recognized as the International Company of the Year.

Cox’s tweet underscores Utah’s strong connection to MLMs. In 2016, local station KUTV reported that the state had the most MLMs per capita. MLMs based in Utah include Nu Skin Enterprises, Young Living, USANA Health Sciences, Morinda, Inc., and Younique.

In the world of MLMs, doTerra has attracted controversy since its founding. The direct-sales company first launched in 2008. Founders David Stirling, David Hill, and Emily Wright previously worked as executives at essential oil giant Young Living. Young Living sued doTerra over allegations of corporate espionage. In 2018, a judge ruled that Young Living acted in “bad faith” and ordered it to pay attorney fees amounting to $US1.8 ($AU2) million to its competitor, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

But the battle against Young Living doesn’t capture the entirety of doTerra’s legal history. Insider identified 27 bankruptcy cases naming doTerra as a party. These cases took place between 2008 and 2020, and involved individual doTerra sellers declaring bankruptcy. Financial difficulties or outright ruin are common outcomes for MLM sellers: A 2018 survey from the AARP Foundation finding that 73% of respondents who participated in MLM schemes either lost money or made no money. Of the quarter of respondents who did earn money, 53% made less than $US5,000 ($AU6,862).

doTerra is also an defendant in an ongoing civil case from a Minnesota seller named Ruth Van Horn, who alleged that the company’s green tea extracts caused her liver to fail.

The company’s philanthropic efforts have also attracted scrutiny. In 2018, the Pacific Standard reported that the company’s foundation was accused of pocketing donations intended for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

If you have a MLM story to share, email [email protected]