The "legal" response of Stansberry & Associates was to justify what they had done as fair. In a reply to TINA's Laura Smith, the company's lawyer Ms Fisher, quoted yet more alleged testimonials from customers:
"Ken H from Damascus, MD said: 'If you don't do this, you're missing the boat. I have made approximately $60,000 - $70,000...'"
"Nick G from Tulsa, OK told us: 'I'm sitting on more than $1.6 MILLION thanks to this secret...'"
"Ralph S of Junction City, CO, said: 'I'm up over 335% so far!'"
According to Ms Fisher, such quotes "are directly taken from our subscribers emails" and that, in some cases, "Stansberry toned down the praise in an effort to present a more responsible and balanced picture". She also said that cases criticized by TINA - such as those of the 10-year-old child, a trucker and a sales clerk - were taken from newspaper stories for Stansberry's mailings, rather than the files of Stansberry & Associates. "In all cases, its is abundantly clear that these are not subscribers," she said.
To explain how the same testimonial could appear in several places with different names attached to them, Fisher outlined what she said were working practices at Stansberry & Associates.
"Your letter states that some of our testimonials are located in more than one place on our website, and under different aliases, raising questions about their authenticity... the names of our customers are changed when we publish their testimonials to protect their privacy. Since our staff contains a great many writers, the new names are not always identical, but the name of the customer is not material to the reader."
To some, this might appear to be an admission of deception, although not the one that TINA is concerned about. But, whatever the truth, there is something misleading, as Ms Fisher seems to confirm more than once. In her final rejoinder to the complaint, for instance, she protests at the criticism of the "free silver" promotion, in terms that seem decidedly odd.
The "free silver" tip had been cited by TINA as a headline example of how Stansberry does business. Written in the name of "Dr David Eifrig", who claims that his friends call him "Doc", it offers for sale what Eifrig calls a "research report" called "The free silver loophole", as part of a package including "Retirement Millionaire".
Eifrig tells customers "I recently heard a wild rumor about a major loophole in the US retail banking system" and that "the claims I've been hearing are absolutely astonishing". The top testimonial's include one from an alleged Mark H who is alleged to say: "I was so excited when the teller told me to come get my treasure! I got 18 ounces of silver courtesy of UNCLE SAM!" A John C is reported to have obtained 160 ounces of silver bullion in eight months, free. And a Maury D is said to have claimed: "I never thought this would work. But it did! I tried it, and to my surprise, I got 34 silver coins from a single bank."
But, challenged by TINA, the Stansberry explanation sits poorly with Eifrig's claims. In fact, the "free silver" secret, offered for sale, is nothing more than the fact that it is possible to go into a bank and exchange paper money for coins, with the theoretical possibility that, if real old ones remain in circulation, they might actually contain some silver.
Here is the lawyer Ms Fisher's account:
"Your letter asserts that our Retirement Millionaire newsletter claimed that it would provide information about obtaining 'free silver' from US banks, when the silver is not free and is present in only half dollars issued before 1971. The topic of this promotion is the ability for any person to visit the bank and request to exchange some amount of paper money for that same amount in half dollars, with there being a chance that the person could be given one of the coins that contains 90% pure silver. Since the promotion clearly states that we are referring to coins 'originally produced during the early part of the 20th century and that the 'free silver' is in reference to its value above the actual legal tender value of the half dollar, I fail to see what could be construed as false or misleading.
"For example, if a person were to exchange $10 of paper money and receive even one pre-1965 coin, at the current price of silver that's more than 250% return on the initial $10... And if the person's roll of half dollars is nothing but post-1971 coins, they've lost nothing."
But these are only the formal - legally-drafted - explanations. Porter Stansberry himself took a different approach.