Rather than defend the legality of its master trust, the IFDA sought to enforce the gentlemen’s agreement that the association perceived it had with the Comptroller. The 2006 exchange of correspondence reported by the State Journal-Register underscores the risks that death care operators take when they structure arrangements that exceed the parameters of applicable law.

When the applicable law is ambiguous, operators may be forced to go outside the four corners of the law. In those situations, the operator should do exactly as the IFDA did: personally work with the regulator. But it becomes incumbent upon the operator to ‘work with’ the regulator when circumstances force changes to the arrangement.

Reading between the lines, the SJR article suggests that as more IFDA funds were put into insurance, the more the IFDA relied upon its ‘declared’ 2% increase as justification for the fees charged the trust. As that domino fell, next went the IFDA’s authority to act as the trust’s fiduciary.

Rather than continue to ‘work with’ the Comptroller’s office, the IFDA sought to enforce their gentlemen’s agreement. Unfortunately for consumers and funeral directors, that agreement was flawed from the start.