In contrast to how the IFDA situation was handled, the California Department of Consumer Affairs has taken a public approach to disclosing its issues with the CFDA’s master trust by posting its website an audit report and the Association’s reply.

The DCA is unhappy with the Association, and the master trust fiduciary, with regard to (among other things) the fees that have been charged to the trust, the authorities that have been delegated by the fiduciary, and their refusals to respond to certain audit inquiries and document requests.

The audit report reflects a very literal interpretation of the applicable California laws. A close reading of the report should leave one scratching his/her head on a few of the issues (hint: corpus issues). But, auditors have no choice but to apply the laws that are applicable to the entity under examination, and unfortunately, the California preneed law and rules are dated and disjunctive.

For those who summarily advise that the audit report and the DCA actions reflect yet another example of a preneed program gone bad, that is not the case.

The DCA website includes the April 29th response from the law firm representing the Association. I doubt the attorneys knew that the letter would end up on the DCA website, but the reply is very illustrative of the issues that exist with a dated, and ambiguous, law. While the Association has made some serious missteps with regard to some of the law’s ambiguities, the auditor’s interpretations of the law and its requirements are inconsistent or unreasonable in some respects. Accordingly, the DCA would be well advised to accept the offer extended in the “Conclusions” on page 46 of the reply.

The crucial issues raised by this dispute are relevant to all master trusts, and will be addressed in future posts. Hopefully, the DCA will continue to make the discussions and eventual resolutions public so that death care regulators and preneed program administrators can take note.