Apparel company caught ripping out ‘Made in China’ tags, replacing with ‘Made in USA’ will pay

Made in the USA isn’t just a kitschy sales gimmick where the law is concerned and one Utah-based retailer profiting off patriotism learned that lesson the hard way after a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint led to a major fine.

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign to Make America Great Again helped galvanize a movement of passionate entrepreneurs who recognized that American-made used to mean something. To stand out in a market filled with great designs, retailers could edge out their competition by offering products made right here at home, but for fledgling businesses, the cost-prohibitive nature of over-regulated domestic production often remained out of reach.

In an unscrupulous move, apparel company Lions Not Sheep owner Sean Whalen was caught marketing his merchandise with “Made in the USA” tags when, in many cases, the gear had in fact been originally tagged “Made in China,” according to the Deseret News.

The FTC complaint detailed that from May to Oct. 2020, Whalen adorned his products with labels that read “100% AMERICAN MADE,” “Made in America,” and “Are your products USA Made?” and that he had, in fact, posted a video to social media claiming he could “conceal the fact that his shirts are made in China by ripping out the origin tags and replacing them with tags stating that the merchandise was made in the United States.”

This practice led the FTC to issue Whalen a $211,335 fine after a 5-0 vote on the case and, “In addition to the monetary judgment,” the FTC ordered Whalen and his company to “Stop making bogus Made in USA claims” and “Come clean about foreign production.”

While selling products with slogans like “FJB,” “Let’s Go Brandon” and “Trumpinator” with Trump depicted as the Terminator with the catchphrase “I’ll Be Back,” the company also utilized celebrity sponsors to endorse their products like UFC fighters Dan Henderson and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, along with former U.S. Navy SEAL Robert J. O’Neill who claimed to be the individual responsible for killing Osama bin Laden.

Whalen had contended that what Lions Not Sheep was doing was “white labeling” as the FAQ section of the website explained the process and how many of their products originate in China, Korea, and Bangladesh but are finished in American facilities allowing them to label garments “Produced In The USA with Imported Materials.”

To resume any such claims of American made, the FTC required Whalen to “show that the product’s final assembly or processing–and all significant process–takes place here and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced here.”

“Any qualified Made in USA claims must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or process,” the FTC wrote and added, “Finally, to claim that a product is assembled in the United States, Whalen and Lions Not Sheep must ensure that it is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and U.S. assembly operations are substantial.”

Lions Not Sheep did not respond to Deseret News’ request for comment.


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