As any former Punk'd viewer can tell you, Ashton Kutcher prefers to disclose some things after the fact. And while the celebrities of 2004 forgave him, the Federal Trade Commission might take a tougher stance. As Gawker first pointed out, "The Social Issue," an online Details project edited by Kutcher, bears something of a resemblance to his investment portfolio. With a focus on start-up companies, it contains numerous mentions and profiles of ventures in which Kutcher has a financial stake, including Foursquare, Flipboard, and Airbnb. (Apparently, one article recommended eight products he's backed.)
However, his personal interest in the success of these operations only comes up once, in the introduction, which praises the actor for "[Putting] his money where his mouth is, backing many of the companies he champions here.” That just might not be enough to let readers know that they're looking at a big advertorial, says the FTC's Richard Cleland:
“If you’re out there promoting individual products that you have a specific investment in, it needs to be disclosed ... If you have a significant economic investment that is not otherwise apparent, that may potentially affect the credibility of your endorsement, and I see that as a potential problem.”
He added: “It’s certainly a possibility that a case like this could be investigated.” And even if the FTC passes, the Securities and Exchange Commission might be interested in the matter. Under their rules, Kutcher would be in trouble for plugging companies that he knew were planning to raise money through an initial stock offering, along with any whose shares are traded on secondary markets.
Poor Two and a Half Men fans — they'll never get the stability they need.
Update: The FTC tweeted that it " is not and has no plans to investigate Ashton Kutcher." So that's that, apparently.