The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services this week ordered a life insurance company to change the way it sells annuities after finding that the company sold policies to seniors who couldn't afford them.
At the department's direction, Bankers Life and Casualty Company has already given refunds to about 20 seniors who were sold annuities that took most or all their money, leaving them unable to pay other expenses.
The department's order requires Bankers to review additional annuity sales, offer refunds to those for whom the sales were unsuitable, take steps to protect future clients, and pay a $150,000 fine.
"Oregon has strong standards that protect seniors against unsuitable sales of financial products," DCBS Director Cory Streisinger said.
The department adopted rules protecting seniors against unsuitable sales of annuities in January 2005, and the order requires a review of certain annuities sold since that date. Bankers will be required to contract with an independent firm to conduct the review. Annuities found to be unsuitable, based on criteria established by the department, may be canceled without surrender charges.
The department's order will also require more scrutiny of annuity applications by Bankers in the future. The company will need to document that it has researched a client's age, financial situation, and insurance objectives well enough to know whether the client can afford the annuity and whether it is appropriate for the client's needs.
Consumer advocates in the department's Insurance Division are also available to provide free help.
They can be reached at (888) 877-4894.