It was hard to read reporter David Wren’s article this past Sunday, detailing the financial ruin of dozens of local seniors in a complex insurance and mortgage plan, without becoming outraged and angry. Where was the state? Aren’t those selling insurance supposed to be regulated? Why was this allowed to continue for so long?
The state Department of Insurance, in fact, opened two investigations into the actions of salesman Rick McDavid, who it must be said has not been convicted of any wrongdoing and maintains he did nothing illegal. Both of those investigations – one in 2011 and one in 2012 – were dismissed quickly after McDavid said he didn’t do anything wrong.
In closing the second case, the investigator said that the matter was ended at least in part because of a lack of supporting documentation. That’s perhaps understandable, if frustrating. It’s hard to prosecute or investigate wrongdoing if you’re not sure what exactly is being alleged. But some of that blame may lie with the Insurance Department, which it appears never asked for more information beyond the standard complaint form before dismissing the cases. Now that reporter David Wren and attorney Sid Connor have done the hard work of pulling these stories together and illustrating their common threads, we hope the Insurance Department will rethink its former summary dismissals.
Clearly, something went very wrong for the many victims involved in this saga. McDavid’s purported actions were at the very least immoral, financing a lavish lifestyle by taking advantage in many cases of vulnerable seniors willing to trust a person referred to them by a fellow church member or relative. Nevertheless, it may yet turn out that he actually did nothing illegal. If that’s the case, the legislature should get work on laws that would prevent future unscrupulous copycats. The first step, however, should be another probe by the Insurance Department, and soon, this time giving McDavid’s activities more than a cursory glance.
Meanwhile, if nothing else, the story reminds us once more of lessons that are never too old to be learned again: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Read it before you sign it. Don’t let yourself be bullied into signing anything you don’t understand, especially when it affects your personal finances. And don’t put all your faith in a handshake and a smile.