One criticism of Missouri’s prior preneed law was that the Attorney General’s office was dependent upon the State Board to refer complaints for legal enforcement. If the State Board didn’t refer a Chapter 436 violation, the AG’s only enforcement alternative was to pursue an action under Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act (Chapter 407). During the 2008 hearings on Chapter 436 and National Prearranged Services, it was generally recognized that the Attorney General’s office needed independent authorities to pursue Chapter 436 violations. But, the Attorney General also expressed the desire for authority to hold fiduciaries more accountable for their funeral home client’s actions.
The AG’s fiduciary recommendations drew concerns from both funeral homes and the Missouri Division of Finance. The Division of Finance questioned whether the requested powers would make the AG a de facto bank regulator on par with the Division and the bank’s federal regulators. Consequently, the final recommendations for Chapter 436 legislation conditioned the AG’s authority to take action against a fiduciary on having received the consent of the fiduciary’s primary regulator.
However, the Chapter 436 Working Group recommendation regarding this limitation on the Missouri Attorney General did not survive the Senate Bill No. 1 revision process.
Section 436.470.12 of SB1 grants the Attorney General the authority to bring action against a preneed fiduciary whenever an “inspection, investigation, examination or audit” reveals a violation of Chapter 436. A prior subsection provides for information sharing among the relevant Missouri agencies, and arguably, the AG’s authority over preneed fiduciaries could be triggered by the AG’s own investigation or examination.
And, there seems little doubt that the AG may be inclined to apply this new authority with regard to preneed trusts that existed prior to August 28th. Accordingly, Missouri’s preneed fiduciaries should evaluate their accounts with the knowledge that Big Brother may be looking.