‘Murder insurance’ or protection in self defence cases?

By Lisa Marie Pane


ATLANTA _ The National Rifle Association is offering insurancfor people who shoot someone, stirring criticism from gun-control advocates who say it could foster more violence and give gun owners a false sense of security to shoot first and ask questions later.

Some are calling it “murder insurance,” and say that rather than promoting personal responsibility and protection, it encourages gun owners to take action and not worry about the consequences. And, they say, it’s being marketed in a way that feeds on the nation’s racial divisions.

Guns Down, a gun-control group formed last year, is running an ad campaign to criticize the NRA’s new insurance. It’s just the latest group to take aim at the NRA’s offering.

“The reason I call it murder insurance is because if you look at the way this is marketed, it’s really sold in the context of ‘There’s a threat around every corner, dear mostly-white NRA member,’ and that threat is either a black man or a brown man or some other kind of person of colour,” said Guns Down director Igor Volsky.

“So when you inevitably have to use your gun to defend yourself from this threat around every corner, you have insurance to protect you.”

Carry Guard insurance was launched this past spring by the NRA. Rates range from $13.95 a month for up to $250,000 in civil protection and $50,000 in criminal defence to a “gold plus” policy that costs $49.95 a month and provides up to $1.5 million in civil protection and $250,000 in criminal defence.

The NRA isn’t the only gun lobbying group offering such insurance. The United States Concealed Carry Association has been in the business much longer and provides up to $2 million in civil costs and $250,000 for criminal defence. But the NRA is the most prominent gun-rights group in the country and it offered similar insurance previously. And Carry Guard is more comprehensive and being marketed more aggressively than it has been previously. It’s drawing attention to a type of policy that was relatively obscure until now.

Guns Down’s advertising campaign casts a spotlight on the policies and asks the two insurance companies involved with it Lockton Affinity, which administers it, and Chubb, the underwriter to drop it. The campaign includes a video message from Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen shot and killed in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman whose case drew nationwide notoriety.

The video featuring Fulton begins with images showing some of the most racially divisive moments in recent history _ from the white supremacists who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, to surveillance footage showing Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine African-Americans in 2015 during a prayer meeting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

“They spend millions lobbying for laws that allow them to ‘shoot first’ and ‘stand their ground.’ But that just makes it easier to get away with murder,” Fulton says. She criticizes the insurance and implores viewers to tell Chubb and Lockton Affinity to drop the insurance and to not purchase their products until they do.

Lockton declined to comment to The Associated Press. In a statement, Chubb told the AP that it provides insurance for a wide range of risks and when customers are engaged in “lawful activity,” including hunting, shooting at gun ranges or when a firearm accidentally discharges. It noted that Carry Guard includes training and safety courses.

Neither Chubb nor Lockton would provide data on the number of policies sold or the claims filed.

Carry Guard was aggressively promoted during this year’s NRA annual meeting, with life-sized posters featuring spokeswoman Dana Loesch holding a card that offers three tips for what to do after shooting someone: Call 911, wait for police to arrive and then call the Carry Guard number for legal assistance. It advises gun owners to not speak with police about the incident until speaking first with an attorney.

The NRA insurance doesn’t require policyholders to take any safety or tactical training courses but encourages them to do so. Initial training courses cost $850 per student for a three-day session.

Peter Kochenburger, an insurance expert at the University of Connecticut School of Law, has been following the emergence of gun insurance. There’s no way to track the number of policies sold or the number of claims filed, though he suspects the latter is fairly small.

Such insurance might benefit society, he said, because it could compel the industry to research ways to make gun ownership and storage safer or by providing discounts to gun owners who take safety courses.

But it could also lead to a “moral hazard” of unintentionally emboldening a gun owner to shoot someone by offering a false sense of security. And the potential backlash against the insurance companies involved might not be worth the revenue such a niche policy could generate, he said.

“Is the potential public relations mess worth the small amount,” Kochenburger said. “‘Murder insurance’: That’s terrible p.r.”

Lisa Okill managed Sears Canada locations in Ontario for more than 2 decades

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Black, female insurance exec on quest to mentor teen girls

By Jonathan Landrum Jr.


COLUMBUS, Ga. _ Teresa White, the first woman and African-American president of Georgia-based insurance giant Aflac U.S., has the knack to inspire. So says Seychelle Hercules, a formerly bashful girl who went on to win Georgia’s Miss Columbus pageant after hearing the trailblazing black executive speak.

Hercules’ life took a major turn after White told her and some other teenage girls about how she overcame obstacles and stereotypes in rising to the corporate suites of Aflac U.S., a $130 billion brand known for its TV commercials featuring a duck that randomly quacks out the company name to potential customers.

White told each young African-American girl present that they, too, were capable of success. Hercules walked away filled with hope.

“She inspired me that day,” said Hercules, who went on to win beauty pageants and now represents Columbus, a rural Georgia city south of Atlanta where Aflac is based. “She spoke with so much confidence and grace. One thing I love about Mrs. Teresa is that she looks like me. She gives me hope. I can soar to greater heights. She’s a pioneer in so many ways.”

Since joining Aflac in 1998, White stood out for her ability to write computer code _ a skill she says is uncommon for most African-American women around her at the time. Now 50, White landed the prestigious position of president in 2015, becoming the first woman and African-American to hold the title in the company’s 61-year history. Even today, the company’s information technology group still reports to her.

Not bad for a woman who originally wanted to be a beautician.

“I had plenty of people who told me since I was a female that I should stay on the beautician side,” White said. “Because I was African-American, the stats say you’re not going to make it here. But I said to myself that I’ll prove them wrong. That was the tingling in my fire to say ‘That’s what you think, but that’s not what I think.”’

White now oversees 3,500 employees for Aflac’s U.S. operations, focusing on product innovation and expanding distribution. She received several honours this year from the American Business Awards and was recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine as one the most powerful women in business.

Though African-American friends and peers have told her of their struggles to climb the corporate ladder, White says her ascent was made less difficult by Aflac’s initiative for diversity. Aflac’s executive leadership team is one-third female and two-thirds of the company’s workforce is comprised of women. About 40 per cent of employees are minorities.

“It’s what made me stay,” White told The Associated Press in an interview. “Certainly, I’ve had opportunities. But for me, you can’t replace an organization that has the groundwork already laid to allow people to be who they are and honour their work product and not their skin colour.”

During her tenure at Aflac, White has sought to uplift her colleagues with early morning devotion times, where employees join her to read Bible scriptures and meditate, sometimes in her spacious 12th-floor corner office at Aflac headquarters in Columbus. She also began a career development program for those in the company in 2014.

But White wanted to do even more in the community, specifically for young girls she felt needed mentoring in a major way.

In 2015, White created the Bold Moves, an eight-week summer program in Columbus to inspire African-American girls ages 13 to 17. The program is backed by Aflac and features nearly 30 women who are community and business leaders teaching various lessons ranging from personal finance and entrepreneurship to business etiquette, resume writing and more.

Hercules and many other black girls have been inspired by White and have taken part in Bold Moves. The program works with Girls Inc. to recruit girls such as Hercules _ who’s been involved with both programs for years.

“She cares about the people,” Aflac CEO Daniel Amos said. “When you know the boss cares about you, you work harder for them. It’s that caring attitude that really makes her the person she is. Then, it’s her IQ and her ability to manage and leadership skills … She’s got the combination of it all.”

White felt she could relate to the girls. She and her sister were raised by their single mother in impoverished public housing in Dallas, where drugs were rife and she recalled people around her who made a lot of “bad decisions.”

Mentorship, she said, helped her overcome the obstacles and set her on her career path.

“I want to be a lighthouse,” White said. “This is an opportunity to show a different picture of what success looks like.”

How an insurance transfer can benefit charities and policyholders

A little-known option is gaining recognition for people paying for coverage they no longer want or need.

More wealthy Canadians are donating certain life insurance policies they no longer need – and assumed had no value – to charity.

The little-known option is gaining more recognition among policyholders and larger Canadian charities looking for new ways to shore up donations.

The transaction is complicated: It applies only to certain life insurance policies and involves an actuary experienced at valuing them, as well as a charity willing to go through the complex process of taking over a policy. Still, it’s a viable option for policyholders paying monthly premiums for coverage they no longer want or need.

“My guess is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadians who have one or more insurance policies which they no longer need, for one reason or another. A large number of policies just lapse every year,” says John Budd, a partner and client portfolio manager with Cumberland Private Wealth Management Inc. and co-author of The Canadian Guide to Will and Estate Planning, which discusses the option in its just-released fourth edition.

In an interview, Mr. Budd uses the example of a family that has been paying a $2,000-a-month premium on a life insurance policy for about 20 years, but felt it was no longer needed. The policy had no cash surrender value and the client was prepared to cancel the monthly payments – and maybe invest that monthly sum instead going forward.

“Cancelling a life insurance policy is a serious decision which should not be made lightly, and only after discussing with family members and getting professional advice,” Mr. Budd says. “We urged him not to cancel the policy without first getting advice from an insurance expert who is familiar with life insurance for philanthropic purposes.”

If a charity agrees to take over the ownership of the policy, the donor receives a charitable donation tax receipt for the fair market value, which can be claimed for the year in which it was donated.

“By not cancelling the policy and instead donating it, the person can achieve their philanthropic goal and also benefit,” Mr. Budd says. Still, he cautions anyone considering this move to get some tax advice first, to make sure it works in their individual circumstance.

In this type of transaction, the charity becomes the legal owner of the policy and is responsible for the premiums, which it can pay for by seeking out other donations. Or, it might request the person transferring the policy make a donation, either regularly or in a lump sum, to cover future premiums. The charity may also decide to pay the premium using its donation assets. Charities are likely to prefer taking over policies when they have someone to cover the premiums.

Andrew Guilfoyle, a partner at Toronto-based wealth-management firm Guilfoyle Financial, which has helped facilitate a few of these gifts, says they’re slowly becoming more common.

“It’s a way for people to direct part of their estate to charity … in a very tax-effective way,” he says. “We say to people, ‘Before you give this up, talk to someone to see if it works.'”

Mr. Guilfoyle says the value of the policy has to be significant, usually more than about $250,000 for charities to consider it, given the complexity and various steps required to handle the transaction. He says hospitals in Toronto have been leading on these types of transactions and expects educational institutions to start looking into them, too.

“As the charities become more comfortable, the challenge becomes: How do you find these policies?” Mr. Guilfoyle says. “It’s a fairly unique set of circumstances, but that’s part of why it works. … You have to find someone with a valuable life insurance policy who has decided to give it up.”

This type of transaction isn’t suited for all charities, but many larger ones are open to accepting policies under the right circumstances, says Denise Fernandes, who handled a number of them in her previous role as director of gift and estate planning at the SickKids Foundation in Toronto.

Ms. Fernandes says charities need to consider the value of the policy, as well as the costs and administrative work required for them to take ownership of a policy.

“The process is combined with the charity, the donor and the adviser so that together they can make the decision about whether the gift will happen,” says Ms. Fernandes, who is now senior director of philanthropy, major gifts, at the St. Michael’s Foundation in Toronto.

That said, Ms. Fernandes believes this method can be a great way for policyholders to donate to charities.

“I really think it’s a great way to give,” she says. “Charities need the money now, but in order to be a successful longer term, they need to think about the future. These policies help them with future fundraising.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

TTC suing Manulife for alleged negligence related to benefits fraud scheme

The Toronto Transit Commission is suing Manulife Financial for alleged negligence in connection with a benefits fraud scheme that first came to light three years ago.

To date, 170 TTC employees have been dismissed, retired or have resigned to avoid dismissal, and 10 former employees are facing criminal charges for their part in the alleged fraud.

In a statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice the TTC alleges Manulife Financial did not have appropriate fraud management controls in place nor were there systems in place to detect and analyze unusual trends or patterns that might indicate fraud or abuse.

It maintains that Manulife breached its duties of care, which contributed to losses suffered by the TTC.

The TTC says it is seeking up to $5 million in reimbursement and damages.

The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

Manulife spokesman Sean Pasternak said Thursday that the company does not comment on active litigation, but added it  “takes fraudulent insurance claims seriously.”

“Manulife works with policyholders, law enforcement and others in order to detect and prevent fraudulent activity for the benefit of our customers,” Pasternak said in an email.

The TTC began an investigation in 2014 following a tip to its  “integrity line.”

The tip alleged receipts were being provided to employees by Healthy Fit, a health care products and service provider, where claim reimbursements were being made, but where no product or service (such as orthotics, compression stockings and sleeves) was obtained or where receipt amounts were inflated.

It was also alleged that Healthy Fit and the employee making improper claims would then share the money paid out by Manulife Financial.

Adam Smith, the proprietor of Healthy Fit, pleaded guilty this week to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and was sentenced to two years in prison.

The TTC said Thursday that investigators continue to interview employees as part of its own internal investigation.

In 2016, the TTC saw a reduction in benefit claim costs of almost $5 million over 2015, which the transit agency says reflects its continued success in bringing an end to improper benefits claims.

The statement of claim alleges the TTC has suffered losses due to “negligence and breach of contract” by Manulife.

The TTC alleges Manulife stated it had comprehensive systems and procedures in place to detect and prevent fraudulent benefits claims.

“Manulife employed incompetent managers, employees and contractors in connection with administration and operation of the systems and procedures so that such systems and procedures were inadequate in all of the circumstances for the purpose of preventing and detecting fraud,” the claim alleges.


What to do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans

By Beth J. Harpaz


What do you do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans? The Associated Press asked Pauline Frommer of Frommers.com and the Frommer travel guidebook series for advice.


Frommer says it all depends on “how you booked that vacation.” If you booked an air-hotel package through Expedia, contact Expedia. If you booked it “a la carte” booking hotel, cruise and airfare separately on your own contact each vendor or company separately.


If you’re going to a Caribbean island that suffered some damage but the hotel reopens, Frommer says you’re likely not going to catch a break.

On the other hand,  “If you’re going to a place that seems like it’s been blown off the map, like sadly St. Martin, you may have a better chance of getting a refund,” she said.

Often travel providers try to “get you to shift your plans.” Many of the cruise lines are announcing they’ll still go to the Caribbean but just to a different island than originally planned.

“If you’ve already been to those Caribbean islands and you were hoping to see ones that are not currently accepting visitors, you may be out of luck,” she said. There are also cases where seven-night cruises are reduced to four-night cruises and cruise lines seem to be giving money back in those cases.

For cancelled cruises,  “they’re giving not only full refunds but depending on the cruise lines, they’re giving a little extra: 25 per cent off another cruise or 50 per cent.”

Airline policy is. “fluid,” Frommer said, with some waiving change fees for future travel if you rebook before a certain deadline, allowing you to apply the cost of the flight you no longer want to a new destination. But details vary, so contact the airline.

Be prepared to spend time online or on the phone. “Patience will be a real virtue right now,” Frommer said. If you booked through a travel agency, they may be able to make those changes for you. As a last resort, “contact your credit card company. They may be able to duke it out for you.”


If you booked a home rental and made a deposit through a site like Homeaway.com or VRBO.com, they “act as the middleman” and “set up lines to help you get through to the individual owners,” Frommer said. “They’re not going to get you your money back but they are trying to facilitate communications. … However they will not step in if you can’t get your security deposit back.”


“That’s a lesson we’re all learning,” Frommer said. “It’s in their contracts that usually they’re off the hook for all but the most egregious of circumstances, for example, if it’s a scam and there’s no home there. But with natural disasters, there’s often an act of God clause that means they do not owe you anything when things go horrifically wrong on a huge scale.”

Again, Frommer said, “it all depends on how you booked.” If you made a reservation with no money down, “you should be able to cancel without penalty.” But if you paid in advance for a discount on a hotel booking website,  “you could be on the hook.”


“The majority of travel insurance policies will cover you in those cases if you’re travelling and the place is unsafe,” Frommer said. But “you cannot buy the insurance after the storm has been announced. Once it’s on the radar, you’re out of luck.”

Insurance may also fail to kick in if the hotel reopens even if the “beach is gone and the trees are down and all of its neighbours are in rubble. … If you can get there and stay there safely, it’s considered your vacation, even if it’s not the vacation of your dreams.”

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