The folks at Rexall Sundown, Inc. don't want the press looking into their questionable business practices, so they've done a smart thing: They hired an attorney who normally works for the press to make sure those snoopy scoundrels are held at bay.

It seems that, after we revealed the details of the Rexall Sundown direct-marketing scheme ("The Doctor Will Sell You Now," July 29, 1999) the daily newspapers became interested. Indeed, last week the highly esteemed Wall Street Journal mentioned that this paper's journalistic investigation led to a Florida attorney general's criminal investigation. Now the dailies want a piece of the action. The Palm Beach Post apparently desires the audit information that the AG is gathering through subpoena. But Rexall hired an attorney who knows how to block those efforts, The Palm Beach Post's attorney, Martin Reeder.

Rexall is going to court seeking a protective order to block "trade secrets" from getting out, and Reeder worked up the complaint. Rexall is afraid distributors' names and incomes will be revealed. That information might show that distributors make most of their money recruiting new distributors and a multilevel marketing scheme does exist. Or they simply don't want the names of their salespeople listed for competitors to steal away.

So Rexall hired Reeder to get around the Florida sunshine law. It seems attorneys who work for the press can also work against the press in Florida, a state where the term conflict of interest is not easily understood. When this conflict was pointed out, we're told, Reeder agreed to withdraw, delaying a hearing on the matter.

The WSJ story caused Rexall's stock price to fall and spurred these comments on the Rexall Sundown chat room on Yahoo!: (1) "The story in the New Times doesn't have credibility because the paper is free." (2) "The New Times does have credibility because it is owned by The Miami Herald." (3) "The New Times doesn't have credibility because it is owned by the Miami Herald."

One might assume that an openly gay judge might be a bit more sensitive to the rights of citizens who expect privacy in the area of their sex lives.

Broward judge Robert Lee is one of three judges who decided those people caught in Sheriff Ken Jenne's sex-club roundup ought to be publicly tried for having fun. Defense attorneys argued that the charges should have been dismissed because there was no illegal activity among consenting adults and no one was offended, except for Jenne. But Judge Lee thinks the clubs were operating as businesses and the members didn't have an expectation of privacy there. So now we'll have a show trial.

Lee, who is reportedly openly gay, has angered members of the gay community by his ruling that appears to go against what many gays believe, which is that the police have no business getting between consenting adults in private.

The judges did issue an unusual addendum that may go to the heart of the matter: "This order in no way should be read as expressing the personal beliefs of any of the presiding judges or their feelings as to the wisdom of these type of sting operations." Was this Lee letting his constituency know that he's still in their corner?

The sex-club customers had an expectation of privacy; it's apparent that gay political activists shouldn't have had a similar expectation that Lee would rule one way or the other because of his orientation.

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh