CA insurance broker scams Tom Hanks: Another damaging headline to cause clients to hesitate with their trust

By Vanessa De La Rosa

Well, looks like another insurance broker has made it into the headlines, and once again, it is not because he’s an expert in his field or a trustworthy source for his loyal clients. On the heels of the controversial Glenn Neasham case and the abominable Timothy R. Schlatre scam, the latest story details an insurance professional with less than questionable morals. Throw in a couple of celebrities for good measure, and you’ve got a headline goldmine that will once again give insurance brokers a bad name.

California insurance broker Jerry B. Goldman (ironic name, anyone?) was indicted on federal fraud charges for embezzling from his celebrity clients over the last 10 years. Actor Tom Hanks and former The Police guitarist Andy Summers have been confirmed on the list of Goldman’s victims.

The indictment claims that from 1998 to last year, Goldman altered documents with inflated insurance premiums, sending them to his famous clients on company letterhead “in order to lull his clients into a false sense of security.” He would then keep the surplus after sending the premiums to his insurance company. A source states “that he was also allowed to negotiate premiums for insurance coverage and was paid a commission for each policy.”

The investigative report refers to “insurance policies” as coverage of everything from cars, property and fine art to flood, fire, earthquakes, worker’s compensations and “personal employment practices liability.” The total amount embezzled is over $800,000. Goldman was arrested on Wednesday at his Thousand Oaks home, but shortly thereafter was released from federal custody when his wife posted a $25,000 bond, according to executive assistant U.S. attorney Stephanie Yonekura-McCaffrey. Goldman has pleaded not guilty as of Wednesday, and a trial date has been set for December 18.

Per the usual in today’s media, terrible — yet often rare — occurrences are exaggerated for dramatic effect and subsequently leave a lasting impression on viewers. I am reminded of the availability heuristic, a term in psychology that explains why people are more likely to remember the 143 people killed in a plane crash than the tens of thousands of people killed in car accidents each year, thus causing many to be more fearful of plane crashes than car accidents. (The heuristic is also responsible for our preoccupation with highly unlikely positive outcomes, like winning the lottery.)

Another ProducersWEB blog hits the nail on the head: “If the only people who recognize your name are your clients and prospects, you’re probably doing something right.” The public only hears about insurance professionals when a lone broker, agent or advisor violates that delicate trust that the rest of the industry works so hard to deliver. It’s no wonder prospective clients are so hesitant to invest in an advisor’s guidance and brokers are so committed to communicating their integrity.