“Heads Should Roll At Highest Levels” At UnumProvident
November 21, 2002, P.M.
Ray Bourhis the San Francisco attorney who won a major judgment and injunction against UnumProvident, said the Chattanooga-based firm “should stop blaming lawyers” and that some of its top executives need to be fired.
The attorneys said they were responding to what they characterized as the company’s “head in the sand public relations response.”
The attorneys said, “UnumProvident was chastised in a strongly worded, 62-page order by Federal Judge James Larson. Judge Larson ordered the company to ‘obey the law’ and enjoined it from ‘future bad faith violations’ including but not limited to targeting for termination categories of claims or claimants, employing biased medical examiners, destroying medical reports, and withholding from claimants information about their benefits.
“In addition to the injunction, investigative reports about UnumProvident have recently been aired by Ed Bradley of CBS’s 60 Minutes and John Larson of NBC’s Dateline. The reports highlighted numerous company insiders and whistleblowers that told of company pressure to profile, target and terminate high value, long-term policyholder benefits.
“In response to all of this, UnumProvident and their three recently hired public relations firms issued a press release yesterday denying any wrongdoing. In interviews, UnumProvident executives referred to 60 Minutes and other media coverage as ‘tabloid journalism.’
“The company criticized its former employees, ‘certain’ lawyers, California Insurance Commissioner-elect John Garamendi and Judge Larson’s opinion.”
Attorney Bourhis referred to UnumProvident’s release as “complete nonsense.”
He said, “We are talking about a situation in which this company has terminated benefits to people who are obviously disabled, including people with heart disease, cancer, spinal injuries, repetitive stress injuries, even AIDS.
“Judge Larson detailed ‘overwhelming evidence’ supporting his injunction. This opinion speaks volumes about what is going on here.”
Attorney Bourhis said, “UnumProvident should have responded by cleaning house, reopening files, and by solving these problems. Instead, they are attempting to spin all of this, to ignore the facts and to continue doing business as usual. We are not going to let them get away with this.
“I am now convinced that the only way we will see any improvement is for heads to roll at the highest levels of the company.
“Part of the problem at UnumProvident is that the senior executives are insulated from personal accountability. They don’t have to pay judgments out of their own pockets. That money comes directly and indirectly from the shareholders’ coffers. If somebody walks into UnumProvident headquarters
in Chattanooga and steals a computer, that person will be taken off to jail. At the same time, company officials who wrongfully force claimants into bankruptcy, destitution and the brink of suicide, get off scott free.”
“Insurance companies must be held to an even higher standard than other corporate wrongdoers.
“What they are selling is peace of mind. When the product is defective, they should pay.”