Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stupid Agent Tricks: Annuity and Jail

First, let me be clear that the (unfortunate) victim of this story, (former) insurance agent Glenn Neasham, is not stupid. From all accounts, his conduct was appropriate and aboveboard; he appears to be the victim of a vindictive and over-zealous prosecutor.

The "stupid" folks here are my fellow agents, who could give lemmings a run for their money (straight off a cliff). Stephen Forman, an agent himself, sums it up nicely:

"Should I not be optimistic that our fellow producers wish to band together and help Glenn Neasham? At first blush, you'd think so. But my experience in this industry leads me to believe the cavalry may not be coming ... I was only too happy to sign the pledge at America Needs Agents ... just over 1,100 have signed the pledge out of 228,000 health agents"

[ed: I just learned about the pledge and signed it; the current total is 1,136]

He goes on to list other, similar efforts, all doomed to failure because agents just can't be bothered to actually step up.

Now, you may be thinking: Henry, surely these are anomalies - agents care about their livelihoods, after all.

I wish.

Let me share my own experience in a similar situation. About 10 years ago, a major carrier decided to change their commission structure from a percentage of premiums to a flat per member fee. Fair enough. But they went a step further, making this change retroactive, in clear violation of the agent's agreement.

About two dozen of us met at a local restaurant to compare notes and plan strategy. One colleague brought along an attorney friend who specialized in arbitration. We agreed that we would proceed, in accordance with the agent's agreement.

One of the hats I wear is Continuing Education instructor, primarily for folks who work in the health side of the business. In that capacity, I had a fairly large contact list of agents all around the state, folks who would be directly impacted by this. I offered up my list, and we sent out a mass mailing to about 300 or so fellow agents, asking them to join us in our fight.

We got back maybe a handful of replies. In fact, by the time we eventually settled with the carrier, there were exactly 8 of us (out of the original 24 plus the additional 300 from the mailing) left standing.

Mind you, joining us would have required zero financial contribution, nor did we ask for any time or effort. Just some words of support.

Cue the sounds of crickets chirping.

So it comes as no surprise to me that Mr Neasham is left to twist alone in the wind, nor that out of hundreds of thousands of agents, less than one half of one percent can even be bothered to click a link and supply an email address.

So who's worse, the prosecutor or us?

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