You're sick of the Neasham case: Why you should care
By Frank Laise, CLU
Capital Wealth Advisory, LLC
What's in it for you might very well be your ability to continue in your chosen career, whether or not you actually participate directly with the client/customer at the point of sale.
This article is not about Glenn Neasham. It's about you. It's about your continued future in the financial services industry. And it's about your continued ability to serve the financial security, wealth accumulation and retirement distribution needs of millions of Americans who need your help.
Who are you?
You're an insurance agent. You're a registered rep. You're the principal of an FMO, IMO or boutique brokerage firm. You're an RIA or IAR. You're an employee of an insurance company or brokerage firm. You're on staff at NAIFA, NAILBA, NAFA, SFSP or one of many other professional financial service organizations. You're a vendor to the financial services industry.
In short, you are anyone who makes a living via the manufacture, distribution, promotion or servicing of insurance and/or investment products. You are a committed professional.
What’s in it for me?
OK, why should you care about Glenn Neasham?
It's really all about you, and collectively about us. To quote Neasham, "This battle must be fought with the precise weaponry (the right counsel) because an undesirable, unjust precedent for the industry can't be set."
As of today, Neasham has been convicted of a felony: larceny, also known as theft. His crime? He helped a referred prospect who approached him apply for an annuity that she specifically requested. The product she wanted was approved for sale in her state, and Neasham followed all the compliance and suitability standards required by both the California Department of Insurance and the insurance company, Allianz.
By any measure, Neasham is not a criminal. And neither are you.
Today Neasham; today an annuity. Tomorrow, you; tomorrow whole life, indexed life, disability insurance, a bond or mutual fund, a REIT, an indexed CD, or any other approved financial product available for sale in your state, or manufactured and distributed by your company.
Again, why should you care? Let's get personal. It's all about WIIFM: what's in it for me? What's in it for you might very well be your ability to continue in your chosen career, whether or not you actually participate directly with the client/customer at the point of sale.
See, without a committed professional advisor able and willing to take the time to build trust with and educate the client/customer on planning concepts and/or products just a little bit more complicated than your average CD or term insurance, there's no need for your company or your continued employment with them.
Face it, if companies could sell these products without agents/advisors they would.
Right now, I want to share something with you that I hope will get under your skin. I hope it will make you think. Moreover, I sincerely hope it will make you mad. And finally, I hope it will make you abandon your complacency and take action.
I just finished reading Bill O'Reilly's book, "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity." Don't let your opinion of O'Reilly get in the way here. Until this weekend, my perception of "The Bloviator" had been colored by his somewhat overbearing, in-your-face on-screen personality. I now have a new-found respect. In a section titled "The Eternal Struggle," Bill reminds readers, "When it is all over, when you are dead in the ground or in an urn, your legacy will be defined by two simple questions: How many wrongs did you right, and how many people did you help when they needed it?"
"That's it. Nothing more. No one will care how much money you made or what kind of car you drove. Those things don't inspire memorable eulogies."
O'Reilly continues, "My core belief, as stated in my book “Culture Warrior,” is that life is a constant struggle between good and evil. That each person has free will and must choose a side. Refusing to choose puts one in the evil category by default, because bad things will then go unchallenged. The German people during the Nazi era demonstrated this better than anyone else. Most Germans were not Nazis, but most stood by and allowed incredible atrocities because they were either afraid or apathetic."
He concludes with this: "But most evil is not as obvious as the work of Hitler and his pals, who flat out told the folks that they were murderous racists. No, most bad people, out of cowardice or self-interest, attempt to disguise their evil. Some get justice, but some do not. For me, that's the most frustrating part of life: seeing evil individuals continuing to harm people with impunity."
Financial services industry under attack
Make no mistake, the financial services industry is under attack. That's no secret to most of you who have been in this field for a while. To be sure, some of the criticism and attacks are deserved, but most of them are not.
The warriors leading the attack against us portray themselves as mercenaries protecting the public welfare. Some are attorneys; some are prosecutors; still others are regulators at both the state and national level; and many are citizen activists.
Some of these warriors truly believe that they see Mother Teresa when they look in the mirror. Sadly, many are acting out of career-enhancing, promotional self-interest. A (hopefully) decided minority are really evil. And unfortunately, too many are completely ignorant about the financial products they view as being harmful, too complicated or that do not serve (in their opinion) the best interests of both ordinary and affluent Americans.
Regardless of their motivation for leading the attack, it is important that all of us within the industry recognize that these collective efforts, left unchallenged, will surely result in a diminished menu of financial products that will be made available to provide security and enhanced prosperity for our clients and customers.
These attacks are not the blatant, horrific frontal assaults that were employed by the Japanese and al-Qaida at Pearl Harbor and the twin towers. Those abhorrent acts instantly united Americans with a sense of purpose and an emotional need to obtain revenge. People instantly engaged.
Contrast those attacks with the precision, surgically targeted strikes against our industry that fly under the radar of everyone but those directly affected; indexed annuities via SEC 151A; long-term care insurance; employer-provided, insurance-based health care; mutual fund and 401(K) fee abuses; and others, including Glenn Neasham.
As witnessed here on ProducersWEB, the divisiveness created among the members of the fragmented financial services community is exactly what our opposing attackers and critics hope to achieve. To wit, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
So what can you do?
Martin Luther King, Jr. often said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Some of the contributing writers and readers who have commented on articles published here on ProducersWEB have expressed the view that something about the Neasham case "bothers them." For some it is the suitability of the particular annuity that Neasham's client applied for; for others it's whether any annuity is suitable for people beyond a certain age; a minority have concluded that "Dr. Neasham" should have diagnosed his clients undisclosed, undetected but emergent dementia and suspended the sale; and still others wonder whether anyone paid what they consider to be a sizeable upfront commission is or can be perceived to be a trusted advisor.
I would like to submit that these are all opinions. As such, they are, by definition, subjective. But collectively, they sabotage the effort that will be required to overturn what most here rightfully and objectively consider to be an unjust criminal conviction and miscarriage of justice.
That's why the fear of selective prosecution through the criminalization of what most believe is legal behavior sends a chilling effect throughout the financial services industry. And with good reason.
Like it or not, Neasham's case will become legal precedent going forward one way or the other. It can have either a positive or negative effect upon your career and upon the financial security of ordinary Americans who have no idea that this drama is currently unfolding in California.
So what can you do about it? More importantly, what are you going to do about it?
May I suggest that you participate, get involved and contribute to helping overturn Neasham’s conviction? Neasham just happens to be the unwilling gladiator that fate and circumstance has thrust into the arena to face the lions.
And don't be fooled. These lions (the Attorney General office in the state of California) will bring almost unlimited resources (which is absurd considering the financial crisis the state is in and has been experiencing) to the fight to uphold Neasham's criminal conviction.
"We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."