To make a long story short, most of McDonald’s Monopoly promotions in Europe are illegal and violate the EU directive 2005/29/EC on unfair commercial practices. The McDonald’s Monopoly promotion even qualifies, in France at least, as organized fraud. In France, investigations have started [2017-02-07 please read our update, see top menu]. McDonald’s is now facing hefty fines and many executives prison sentences.
This is an unofficial website about Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonald’s corporation. This website is primarily targeted at investors in McDonald’s stock (MCD). McDonald’s, through its various European branches, has violated the European Directive 2005/29/EC and has also committed fraud. We will explain in details why by focusing on one specific country: France. We understand perfectly that you might be skeptical about such a claim. We would like you to think one moment about the Volkswagen fraud. Before the scandal broke out, who would have thought such a thing to be possible? We will try our best to base our claims on facts. We will also try to keep our explanations as concise as possible.
In the event you wanted additional information, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will answer within 24 hours. It’s our utmost conviction that Mr. Easterbrook should face trial for being part of an organized fraud as an accessory after the fact. He knew about the fraud, he had the power to make it stop, he didn’t. It’s also our utmost conviction that Mr. Easterbrook has deliberately misled investors by omitting to warn them about the very serious legal issues the company was facing in Europe.
And please bear in mind that it’s not because the frauds took place over the course of many years that it makes it legal. McDonald’s’ practices are illegal! Again, we undertand you might be skeptical. That’s why we try to explain things clearly and let you be the judge.
The core of the frauds are related to the organisation of the McDonald’s Monopoly sweepstakes in Europe. European laws and more specifically the European Union (EU) Directive 2005/29/EC prohibit such sweepstakes to be organized in the first place due to the fact they mislead the consumers. Sweepstakes are not forbidden but the misleading ones are. This EU directive took effect in 2008. McDonald’s had introduced the Monopoly in some European countries as early as 1997 if not earlier.
First, we would like to clarify that it’s not only Mr. Easterbrook who should face a trial but other executives too. We believe that Gloria Santona, Malcolm Hicks, Nawfal Trabelsi, Jean-Pierre Petit and Françoise de Borda should also face the consequences of their actions, or inactions.
Second, we would also like to explain to you why we chose France to demonstrate that McDonald’s practices constitute fraud. France is the 2nd country in the world in terms of profit for the McDonald’s corporation. Furthermore, we’ve already contacted French authorities including some high-level officials. Our explanations were enough to convince them to open official inquiries into this matter. We have absolutely no doubt that these investigations will lead to the indictment of McDonald’s France, its franchisees, and many French and possibly foreign executives. Furthermore, a civil action was filed in a French court on November 15th 2016.
STEVE EASTERBROOK AND OTHER HIGH-LEVEL EXECUTIVES KNEW ABOUT THE FRAUD
Facts: McDonald’s executives claimed in late 2015 to take this case seriously (for your information, the Monopoly 2016 edition in France was radically transformed). Here is an email which was sent to us by McDonald’s general counsel Gloria Santona :
Facts: a few days later, we received a new email from the vice-president and general counsel of McDonald’s Europe, Mr. Malcolm Hicks. In his email, even though it’s not per se an admission of guilt, Malcolm Hicks admitted he had doubts about the legality of the Monopoly game in France.
Remark 1: you can read Mr. Hicks’ complete email by clicking here.
Remark 2: why is Mr. Hicks talking about an “outside French lawyer”? Because we explained, late 2015, to the American executive team that had “mistakes” been made in Europe, whether by executives and or their lawyers, they would never have admitted it.
Facts: as you can see for yourself if you’ve read Mr. Hicks’ entire email by clicking on the previous link, Mr. Hicks’ promised to get back to us after getting an independent opinion from a law firm not involved in the initial fraud. Did Mr. Hicks get back to us as he said he would? No. From that moment on, McDonald’s and all of their executives became completely silent on that matter.
Facts: as of December 15th 2015, Steve Easterbrook was fully aware of the delicate position McDonald’s was in. We did warn him directly by contacting him on his email address and even though he has never acknowledged in person receiving our emails, Steve Easterbrook connected on numerous occasions to our websites. He was the only one to have access to some pages which weren’t referenced yet at the time on search engines. As you can see, shortly prior Christmas, direct connections were established from Rickmansworth. These connections caught our attention and we realized that Rickmansworth is located right next to Watford. It’s therefore obvious that these connections were made by Mr. Easterbrook in person probably from his home in England.
Facts: on January 25th 2016, Steve Easterbrook gave an interview to investors stating that
Germany’s successful monopoly promotion featuring premium products along with our focus on add-on items help drive average check in a highly competitive environment. […] Despite these headwinds, our brand remains strong in France. Successful monopoly promotions, along with the introduction of new premium products are increasing average check. No mentions were made about the fact McDonald’s was facing hefty fines due to the fact these promotions were in fact illegal in Europe.
Remark: you might wonder whether it’s possible that Mr. Easterbrook didn’t know or didn’t realize yet that the way these promotions were run was illegal. Our conviction is that it’s not possible not to understand except if you are trying not to understand on purpose. As you will see later, a lawyer is not even required to realize that the way the promotions were run were clearly fraudulent. This being said, even McDonald’s France own lawyer wrote an article in a law review a few years earlier explaining that these kind of sweepstakes would not be allowed anymore after a ruling from the Cour of Justice of the European Union in the landmark case C-428/11.
Questions: why would Steve Easterbrook make such a statement to investors? Why mislead investors by not telling them that McDonald’s was facing serious legal challenges, that their promotions might most likely have constituted organized fraud? If he knew the promotion was a fraud, as we are sure he did, he should have ordered the fraud to cease which would in turn trigger questions from the public. We think he was trying to create an alibi for himself. Why would he need an alibi? Because back in 2015 while the fraud was happening in France, we’ve put huge pressure on the U.S. executive team (including Mr. Easterbrook) so that they would give the order to the French branch to cease the ongoing fraud immediately. We had launched at the time the website, among others, France-v-McDonalds.org to warn consumers about the fraud. Even though it was a modest and unknown website, lots of victims contacted us. In return, we kept emailing Mr. Easterbrook, Ms. Santona and Mr. Hicks to warn them that they should make the fraud cease. It was a hard decision to take since it would have made the company look very bad. They refused to make the call. Many of the victims’ testimonies are heartbreaking.
As an investor, you might think business is business… survival of the fittest… you might think that if consumers don’t read the fine print, it’s their problems. The problem is that nothing was written in the fine print nor in the official rules, hence the term “fraud”. We use the term fraud like in true fraud, not figuratively speaking but legally speaking. We will get back to this topic later, but you must realize right now that the promotion was a fraud, strictly speaking, from the legal point of view!
Remark: in case you wonder whether Mr. Easterbrook and/or Ms. Santona and/or Mr. Hicks had the power to order the French branch to cease what they couldn’t ignore was a fraud, the answer is yes. We have proofs that such calls had been made before regarding issues which involved other promotions which didn’t even involved criminal misconduct. We therefore believe that it was their legal obligations to make it stop.
THE RELEVANT EUROPEAN UNION LAWS
Facts: the relevant laws come from the European Union directive 2005/29/EC. You can read a small summary by clicking on this link . There is a good explanation about what constitutes misleading omissions:
These arise when material information that the average consumer needs, according to the context, to take an informed transactional decision is omitted or provided in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner and thereby causes (or might cause) that consumer to take a purchase decision that he or she would not have otherwise taken.
If you are interested in reading the complete directive, click this link. The annex I lists the
COMMERCIAL PRACTICES WHICH ARE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES CONSIDERED UNFAIR. From point 1 to point 23 are listed the
misleading commercial practices. From point 24 to point 31 are listed the
aggressive commercial practices. It’s important to understand that even though a commercial practice is not listed in the annex I of the EU directive, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t violate the directive. In that event, the practice must be judged on a case by case basis. This being said, we would like to bring your attention on the aggressive practice mentioned at point 31 of annex I. Here is what it states :
31. Creating the false impression that the consumer has already won, will win, or will on doing a particular act win, a prize or other equivalent benefit, when in fact either:
— there is no prize or other equivalent benefit, or
— taking any action in relation to claiming the prize or other equivalent benefit is subject to the consumer paying money or incurring a cost.
Facts: the reason we’ve previously mentioned the aggressive commercial practice listed at point 31 of annex I of the EU directive 2005/29/EC is that there was a landmark case which was judged in front of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It’s the case C-428/11 of October 18th 2012 .
Jurisprudence of the CJUE: Paragraph 49:
As the United Kingdom Government, inter alia, argued and as noted in paragraph 38 above, the practice referred to in paragraph 31 of Annex I to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive is considered, pursuant to that directive, to be aggressive because the reference to a prize seeks to exploit the psychological effect created in the mind of the consumer by the perspective of having won something and to cause him to take a decision which is not always rational and which he would not have taken otherwise. It is, therefore, in order to protect the consumer that the concept of a true ‘prize’ should be preserved, by interpreting paragraph 31 of Annex I to that directive as meaning that a prize in respect of which the consumer is obliged to make a payment of whatever kind cannot be regarded as a ‘prize’.
That objective confirms the interpretation that it is not permissible to allow action to be taken in relation to the claiming of a prize pursuant to a multi-option scheme, proposed to the consumer by the trader, where at least one of the methods would not involve any payment. It is the very prospect of taking possession of the prize which influences the consumer and may cause him to take a decision he would not take otherwise, such as choosing the quickest method of finding out what prize he has won, even though that may be the most expensive method.
It is irrelevant that the cost imposed on the consumer, such as the cost of a stamp, is de minimis compared with the value of the prize or that it does not procure the trader any benefit;
It is also irrelevant that the trader offers the consumer a number of methods by which he may claim the prize, at least one of which is free of charge, if, according to one or more of the proposed methods, the consumer would incur a cost in order to obtain information on the prize or how to acquire it;
Remark: an often over-looked aspect of this judgement is the fact that psychological effects on consumers are now undeniably recognized at the highest level.
MAXIMUM FINES UNDER EUROPEAN UNION LAWS
Facts: the European Parliament resolution of 4 February 2014 on the implementation of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC clearly states on paragraph 19 that
the penalties imposed for failure to comply with the Directive ought never to be lower in value than the profit made through a practice deemed to be unfair or misleading
Facts: the maximum fine for a corporation found guilty of aggressive commercial practices is 10% of the annual sales.
Our conviction: we do believe that the fines which will be imposed to McDonald’s may hit the 10% limit per year. Due to the nature of the felony, we believe the fines will be imposed for at least the last 7 years the frauds took place. It might be more.
MCDONALD’S FRANCE LAWYERS KNEW THAT THESE KIND OF PRACTICES (AT LEAST THE ONES IN 2015 AND 2016) WERE ILLEGAL
Facts: as you can see in this article published in a legal review , McDonald’s’ lawyers knew that the kind of commercial practices McDonald’s used in 2015 and 2016 were illegal.
Questions: what happened? Did McDonald’s’ lawyers forget what they wrote a few years earlier in 2012? Did they fail to advise correctly their client? Or did they correctly advised their client but McDonald’s decided to ignore their lawyer’s advices, take their chances and deliberately commit fraud?
Remark: we don’t know exactly what happened. But the fact McDonald’s’ own lawyers knew is a stunning evidence. We think they took their chances.
THE FRAUDS IN 2015 AND BEFORE
Facts: despite the EU directive on unfair commercial practices having taken effects in 2008, from 2008 until now, McDonald’s kept claiming that their sweepstake was free even though it wasn’t the case. Remember what the CJUE stated in its judgement (see above). The simple fact to claim the game is free while it’s not is enough to qualify it as an “aggressive commercial practice”. Nothing prevented McDonald’s to charge consumers money to play, it would have been legal under the EU directive as long as the practice in question wasn’t misleading to consumers. But to claim the game is free while it’s not is a serious violation of the EU directive which is sanctioned by a fine of up to 10% of the annual sales.
Facts: another independent issue is the Monopoly itself. If you are familiar with the Monopoly sweepstake as organized in the United States, you may know that some stickers are rarer than others. In the United States, it is stated within the official rules. Furthermore, in the United States, the advertising material warn consumers that playing doesn’t increase your odds of winnings (Even though it’s factually a false statement since if you buy all of the stickers you are sure to win. Riddle : ask yourself why they say that then? (email us for the answer)). However, in Europe, with the sole exception (to the best of our knowledge) of the United Kingdom, McDonald’s didn’t warn consumers that the game was “rigged”. Worse, McDonald’s clearly stated that there were an equal proportion of each sticker! As incredible as it may sound to you, these are the facts! There were dozens of misleading advertising materials, here is an example of such claims :
Facts: in regards to the claims made by McDonald’s that there were an equal proportion of each sticker, bear in mind that there were no warnings stating otherwise in the fine print and there were no warnings stating otherwise in the official rules!
Facts: another fraud was the claim that consumers had 1 chance out of 4 to win instantly. This claim was also made in the United States except that in the United States, McDonald’s warned, even though very ambiguously, that this odd of 1 in 4 was based on 2 stickers. The real odds were in fact 1 in 8. But in most European countries, McDonald’s omitted to warn consumers that the odds were based on 2 stickers! This is one additional count of fraud. What’s very interesting is why didn’t they claim in that case 1 chance out of 2? because it would have been too obvious that something was wrong.
Facts: in 2012, we sent of formal notice to McDonald’s asking them to cease their fraud and compensate the consumers for their loss. They ignored our warnings. In May 2013, a second formal notice was sent to McDonald’s warning them that their practices were criminal. We also sent a formal notice to 3 high level executives in the United States, one of them was Gloria Santona, general counsel of McDonald’s corporation. A few months later, McDonald’s France ceased to organize the Monopoly promotion. The Monopoly promotion didn’t happen in 2014 either.
Facts: in 2015, McDonald’s reiterated their fraud. There was one difference though, the false claim that people had 1 in 4 chances to win disappeared. They were now claiming that people were 100% sure to win! This new claim triggers new counts of fraud since it’s in direct violation with the EU directive 2005/29/EC.
Facts: in 2015, we launched the website France-v-McDonalds.org and started warning consumers about the McDonald’s fraud. As you’ve read earlier, we’ve put huge pressure on the foreign executives to force their branch to comply with European laws but they ignored our warnings. But in 2016, something which has never happened before happened : the core of the Monopoly sweepstake, the part which consists in collecting property sets simply disappeared and was replaced with a new concept.
Use your own judgement and think: as we will explain later the new 2016 concept also qualifies as organized fraud but for now, we want you to ask yourself these questions : why did McDonald’s cancel the 2013 edition? Why did McDonald’s cancelled the 2014 edition? Why did they start again in 2015 and why after receiving new formal notices and warnings in 2015, why did they feel compelled to modify radically the core concept of the Monopoly for 2016? If our claims that their promotions constitute organized fraud wasn’t true, what do they worry about? Where there is smoke, there is fire.
THE FRAUDS IN 2016
Facts: TO DO EXPLAIN 2016 FRAUD IN DETAILS : C-428/11, McD game wasn’t free. This is true not only for 2016 but for the previous years. Maybe create a section before 2016 fraud. Important : since 2005/29/EC, nothing prevented McD to organize a non-free game (paying). But to claim the game was free was a lie and it does have consequences.
Facts: however, the 2016 fraud (and the 2015 too as a matter of fact) has a more shocking aspect. Starting in 2015, McDonald’s stopped claiming the lie 1 chance out 4 to win and started claiming people had 100% chance of winning instantly. The instant prizes were vouchers to be used on e-commerce websites associated with the McDonalds Monopoly promotion.
Not only the game wasn’t free since McDonald’s refused to distribute free stickers directly in restaurants (1st violation), people had to pay extra money to make use of the vouchers they would win. For example, people could win a 10 euros voucher to be used on a website called PriceMinister. But even though the website in question has plenty of items sold for 10 euros or less, consumers were forced to choose from a selection of products which costed more than 10 euros forcing them to spend more to make use of their vouchers (2nd violation). But it’s not the worst part : the prices within the limited selection were often inflated. Therefore, even after applying the voucher of 10 euros, you would end up paying much more than if you had purchased the same product, without any voucher, on another website like Amazon (3rd violation). Here is an example :
Facts: on the website affiliated with McDonald’s’ promotion, the price of the item was about 201 euros. After you apply the 10 euros voucher, the price was 191 euros. On Amazon France, you could purchase the same item for about 151 euros. Not only consumers had to pay to participate, not only there were no items sold for less than 10 euros forcing the consumers to spend to make use of their “prize” (which therefore, according to the CJUE ruling wasn’t a “prize”), most of the time, they ended up paying much more than they would have otherwise.
Facts: as some of the victims who contacted us rightly pointed out, it was often possible to find cheaper products on McDonald’s’ parteners’ websites! But consumers weren’t allowed to pick the cheaper products. They had to spend their vouchers on the dedicated pages where the prices where inflated! The different between the inflated price and the cheaper price being more than the value of the voucher!
Remark 1: if this isn’t organized fraud, we don’t know what is. In 2015, McDonald’s distributed the equivalent of half a billion euros worth of such vouchers. Internal documents from one of their advertising agency clearly proves that their intent was to make consumers believe that McDonald’s was “generous”. Not only it wasn’t true, their criminal practices misled millions of consumers. McDonald’s will try to reject the responsibility on their partners in crime. Legally, it won’t be valid. As the CJUE clearly stated
It is irrelevant that the cost imposed on the consumer […] does not procure the trader any benefit.
Remark 2: we wanted at first to mention another important fraud for the 2016 edition but it would require us to explain to you their new concept and we believe that what we’ve explained so far is enough to convince you that McDonald’s committed fraud. If you are not convinced they committed fraud yet, send us an email and tell us why. Maybe some of our explanations weren’t clear enough. English not being our native language, we might have to make some improvements.
THE INVESTIGATIONS HAVE STARTED IN FRANCE
Facts: a high-level French official working for the “Secrétaire d’État à la consommation“, Ms Pinville, informed us that an inquiry was being launched on that matter. For some reasons, we don’t want to give the name of that person but as you can see below, the person is a Cabinet member.
Facts: the DGCCRF, which we could say is to France what the Federal Trade Commission is to the United States, has also launched an investigation into this matter.
Facts: so far, as of November 29th 2016, 100% of the French officials we’ve contacted answered positively by launching investigations into McDonald’s practices.
Remark: this being said, we remain extremely vigilant. Former McDonald’s France CEO Jean-Pierre Petit published in 2013 a book called “J’ai vendu mon âme à McDo” (“I sold my soul to McDonald’s” as a reference to the saying
to sell one’s soul to the devil (even though it’s meant as a joke, what kind of person compare his company to the devil?)). In his book, he explained how he was trying to infiltrate political power. We strongly suspect some sort of corruption. That’s why we will keep notifying as many persons as necessary to keep the investigations heading forward.
Our conviction: we strongly believe that once the French authorities truly realize the extent of the frauds McDonald’s has committed over the years, they will notify their European counterparts and it will trigger investigations everywhere in Europe. These investigations will unavoidably lead to hefty fines and quite possibly prison sentences for some executives.
A CIVIL ACTION AGAINST MCDONALD’S AND ITS FRANCHISEES WAS FILED ON NOVEMBER 15TH 2016
Facts: the plaintiff asks over 16 million euros in damages. It’s very important to remember that there are no punitive damages in France and that lawyers are not authorized to make bogus claims in court. The lawyer representing the plaintiff holds a PhD in law, a Master degree in criminal procedures and used to be a law professor.
Facts: in France, class-action lawsuits are relatively new. Only a handful of non-profit organizations can launch them. We’ve already contacted such non-profit organizations and they’ve clearly expressed interest in this case.
Our opinion: about the class-action lawsuit, it might happen, it might not happen, it’s hard to say as of now. But if it does happen, the consequences will be devastating financially and in terms of image for McDonald’s.
Facts: a complaint has been filed with the S.E.C. Office of the Whistleblower at the end of 2015.
Our opinion: here is what they answered us :
As you may know, the SEC conducts its investigations on a confidential basis as a matter of policy and neither confirms or denies the existence of an investigation until [they] bring charges against a company or individual. This being said, we believe the S.E.C. won’t act until McDonald’s France or another European branch is indicted. Why? Because we also filed a complaint with the F.B.I. (we might explain why in the future) who answered us that if the fraud originated in a European country, they must be seized with a request for cooperation coming from that given country. We are not sure it’s right (it doesn’t sound right) but this is what we were told by the F.B.I. Beneath is the SEC’s email which we believe to be a standard “no comment” answer :