Complaint claims Ohio National poses 'danger' due to its 'illegal' activity

Insurance agent Elisia Lattimer lodged complaint with the Ohio insurance department, alleging the company engaged in an illegal practice of 'rebating' and executives tried to cover it up

Nov 18, 2019 @ 4:42 pm

By Greg Iacurci

An insurance agent filed a complaint Friday with the Ohio Department of Insurance against Ohio National Life Insurance Co., alleging that the insurer's treatment of a customer's insurance premiums broke the law and that three senior executives tried to "cover up" the activity after it was reported internally.

Elisia Lattimer, an insurance agent formerly employed by Ohio National, claimed her manager — Keith Carson, a general agent with Ohio National based in Michigan — offered to pay half of a customer's roughly $2,000 monthly life insurance premium if the client reinstated the life insurance policy, which had temporarily lapsed.

Offering to pay a portion of a customer's premium is a practice known as "rebating," which is illegal under Ohio law, according to Ms. Lattimer, who won a $213,000 award from Ohio National in state court last month in a breach-of-contract dispute.

Ms. Lattimer claims three senior vice presidents — Kevin Korenoski, Rob McPheters and Christopher Calabro, who has since become the company's chief marketing officer — subsequently ignored her internal complaints and ultimately fired her and some of the insurance agents working for her as punishment.

Ms. Lattimer decided to report the issue to the state insurance department to notify it of the company's actions and "the danger they pose for the public" and to licensed insurance agents. She requested that Ohio National be punished for its "total disregard for the public safety and the law" and that the three executives be punished for "their part in the cover up of the activity."

"They absolutely violated the law. There's no doubt about it," Ms. Lattimer told InvestmentNews. "It's very blatant they turned their eyes to something being done illegally."

Lisa Doxsee, a spokeswoman for Ohio National, said the Ohio Department of Insurance will "investigate or take action as they deem appropriate."

"We hold ourselves, the relationships we build, and the products we deliver to the highest standards of quality," Ms. Doxsee said.

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Michelle Rafeld, the assistant director of fraud and enforcement for the Ohio Department of Insurance, who is responsible for overseeing the investigation of agent misconduct and insurance fraud, referred questions to the press office, which didn't return a request for comment.

Ohio National is currently in the midst of several lawsuits filed by brokers and broker-dealers regarding a new annuity compensation policy. Last December, the insurer eliminated the trail commission payments it had been paying to brokers who sold certain Ohio National variable annuity polices.

Along with her complaint, Ms. Lattimer submitted documents as supporting evidence, including depositions by Mr. Korenoski, Mr. Calabro and Mr. McPheters, who were interviewed during the course of the litigation related to Ohio National's breach of contract with Ms. Lattimer.

In their depositions, the three executives said their conduct was within the scope of the law, as was the conduct of Ohio National. Ms. Lattimer claims they were lying.

Ms. Lattimer also submitted a copy of a text message she claims was sent by Mr. Carson directly to the client soliciting a rebate offer.

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