Conventions and seminars provide trade associations and trade journals important sources of revenue. Accordingly, the death care industry has plenty of ‘retreat opportunities’ to choose from. However, there will be a death care convention held in Montgomery Alabama this weekend that will be off limits to funeral directors, cemeterians and their legions of industry vendors.
Death care regulators have their own association, and its convention agenda includes several roundtable discussions. These roundtables provide a forum for administrators, agency directors, investigators, examiners, auditors, attorneys, compliance officers, and staff personnel. Regulators won’t freely admit it, but many do not understand the business practices of this industry and the convention may be one of the few opportunities they have to share information and ideas. But, ID will be required for admission because industry representatives are not allowed. (A sad reflection on the fact that regulators don’t feel they can quite trust some industry operators.)
The exclusion of the industry from regulatory meetings should be a cause for anxiety to operators. With the preneed scandals that have occurred during the past few years, these same regulators are being forced to assume a greater role in preneed oversight. In the next year or so, our Midwestern regulators will actually be reviewing those annual reports and then visiting to ask questions. If the regulator has some misconceptions about business practices, that tends to influence their interpretation of applicable law, which affects the direction of their inquiries. If misconceptions must be addressed operator by operator, the correction process will be slow and painful.
Keeping the regulator ‘in the dark’ has been the historic strategy. Preneed oversight is on the rise, and it’s time to begin engaging your regulators and earning their trust.