Authorities in California said today they have opened an investigation into Goldline International, a company that pioneered the practice of weaving its sales pitches into broadcasts by popular conservative political personalities -- including two former presidential candidates and Fox News host Glenn Beck -- to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold every year.
"There are two main types of complaints we're seeing," said Adam Radinsky of the Santa Monica City Attorney's office, which has launched what it described as a joint investigation with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
"One is that customers say that they were lied to and misled in entering into their purchases of gold coins," he said. "And the other group is saying that they received something different from what they had ordered."
In an interview to be broadcast on ABC News Nightline Monday night and Good Morning America Tuesday morning, Radinsky said the probe is in its early stages and involves more than 100 consumer complaints about Goldline and one other Santa Monica, California-based company, Superior Gold Group.
A lawyer for Superior said the company does not comment on investigations. Goldline officials said customer complaints are infrequent and it responds immediately to address them. The proof of its commitment to customer satisfaction, they said, is Goldline's top rating from the Better Business Bureau. "When we learn that customers have not received the experience they deserve, we investigate and take action," said Scott Carter, Goldline's executive vice president, in a letter to ABC News.
In launching the probe into gold sales, investigators in L.A. and Santa Monica are opening a new front in a long-running and very public dispute over the way Goldline has turned the sale of gold into a massive retail operation that capitalizes on popular conservative figures – most notably Glenn Beck.
The marriage of conservative talk and gold sales appears to make sense – both have traditionally targeted an audience that is skeptical of the government, concerned about the nation's economic future, and uneasy about inflation and the stability of American currency.
The promotional strategy appears to have been beneficial both to Goldline, which boasts $500 million in sales, and to such conservative figures as Beck and former presidential hopefuls Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee, all of whose broadcasts are peppered with Goldline advertisements.
The symbiotic relationship is on full display during broadcasts of Beck's daily television show, and on a promotional video Beck shot for Goldline where he said, "The people that I trust are the people at Goldline. And you can talk to the people on the phone. They're not going to pressure you. If it's the right thing for you and your family and you want some insurance, trust the people at Goldline." And on Goldline's website, where visitors can hear Beck's testimonials. And in the direct pitch from Goldline sales associates over the phone, where one recently told a caller, "Now just so you know, Glenn Beck is a client here. He's been with us several years."