A few years ago, a past president of the NFDA wrote in The Director that funeral directors should begin blowing the whistle on industry cheaters. This blog raised a concern over whether funeral directors understood applicable preneed laws well enough to become whistleblowers. A recent news article in the Morris Daily Herald contains facts to suggest an industry member decided to become a whistleblower. The results may have gone further than what the whistleblower expected.
The story comes out of Wilmington, Illinois, where preneed regulation is in a period of transition. At the center of the Illinois storm is the IFDA, Merrill Lynch and the Illinois Comptroller’s Office. From statements provided by a Comptroller spokesman, readers can connect the dots to conclude the funeral home under investigation had participated in the IFDA, and may have failed to deposit to trust the funds received on 8 preneed contracts. With the turmoil surrounding the IFDA, many funeral homes were reluctant to continue making trust deposits.
The Comptroller statements also reference a Freedom of Information request and a complaint. The chances are that someone with connections to a funeral home competitor made the FOI request, and filed a complaint. The Comptroller’s office responded with an examination, but then quickly referred the matter to the State Attorney’s office.
With SB1682 being less than a year old, many Illinois funeral directors remain confused about the law’s requirements. If the Wilmington situation proves to involve a funeral home that erroneously made deposits to a custodial arrangement, the new Comptroller may be sending a stern warning to Illinois funeral directors: get right with the law or face the prospect of criminal proceedings. It seems drastic, but it is also consistent with a trend where regulators are turning to local prosecutors. This is also the response of a newly elected Comptroller who may like nothing better than to have preneed oversight transferred to someone else, even if its piecemeal to a State Attorney’s office.