Part of the bad rap against preneed stems from the salesman who is prepared to say anything to close the sale. While, reputable companies build safeguards into their programs to check this behavior, there will be individuals who are prepared to bend the rules. Who should be held accountable when the agent intentionally violates the company’s safeguards? That question was raised, but not answered, during Missouri’s Chapter 436 Review Committee hearings. For some Missouri funeral directors, the issue is being presented in a context that they do not yet appreciate.
NPS’ sudden demise left an aggressive sales force scrambling to find new jobs. Some of the NPS salesmen joined established insurance companies, and others established their own insurance agencies. While some of the former NPS employees were also victims of the company’s misrepresentations, funeral directors need to appreciate that NPS did not think enough of compliance to teach it to its employees. Consequently, funeral directors should be asking whether these salesmen are receiving proper oversight from their new insurance companies.
Some of the former NPS salesmen signed on with a national insurance company that offers a ‘funeral expense trust’. That trust represents a product the insurance company can offer to consumers who cannot purchase the company’s insurance product directly through a licensed agent.
Some preneed sales entities have taken the concept a step further, and are marketing the trust in states where the insurance can be purchased as a preneed product that is independent of the funeral home. Innovative NPS salesmen now seem to have taken the concept even further, marketing the concept as a vehicle available to funeral directors who are not licensed insurance agents. It is not clear whether the sponsoring insurance company has approved of either of these modifications to the funeral expense trust.
One of the persistent rumors regarding NPS’ business practices in 100% trust states, was that the company circumvented insurance licensing requirements by effecting insurance purchases through a trust. The rumors also suggested that NPS found ways to split commissions with the funeral directors even though they are not licensed insurance agents. Funeral directors are beginning to relay similar stories, but with new insurance company names.
So, if these salesmen have formed preneed marketing programs that violate applicable preneed laws, is the insurance company responsible to the funeral director if disciplinary actions are brought against the funeral establishment license? Most state regulators will likely find the funeral director has a duty to understand the licensing requirements and commission restrictions imposed by applicable state insurance laws. Funeral directors are putting their livelihood at stake when they do not question a salesman’s explanation about how ‘we have a way around that problem’.