The Amway business has a "family" structure parallel to that found in organized crime. With respect to both organizations, the family orientation is twofold. First, every participant;in the business is considered a member of a "family," led by a particular individual at the top of a chain of command. Second, the business stresses involvement by participant's family members, such that wives and children are drawn into the business to perpetuate their family influence over time. Family dynasties result that may be passed from generation to generation.
The major Amway families do not, in most cases, have a formal legal relationship among each other. All distributors must enter into a distributorship agreement with Amway Corporation to recruit new distributors and sell Amway products and services, but Amway asserts that distributors are independent contractors, involved in their own businesses. Moreover, with regard to the tools business, there appears to be no legal relationship whatsoever between Amway Corporation and the major families - each family has its own tools program that it runs independently of Amway Corporation
The Mafia uses "omerta" and violence for control. Amway has other methods, with similar effect. Distributors must always honor their upline. No negative talk or action is permissible. A distributor who steps out of line is punished. Punishment may start off with being vilified by uplines as a "loser," as "negative," or as "brain-dead" which are typical Amway appelations for anyone who does not believe in the Amway system and the riches that allegedly flow from it. More serious offenders may be dealt with by having portions of their business taken away - e.g. they can no longer appear at rallies, or downline distributors are "re-routed." There are also reports of violence against those who attempt to take action against Amway.