We tipped you off earlier about a fundraiser in Charlotte tonight for incumbent Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin (D). As time passes, we’re learning more and more about this out-of-state, bipartisan bunch seeking to fill Goodwin’s campaign coffers.
For the longest time, I wondered why Barry Goldwater, Jr. would be so interested in the political fortunes of Wayne Goodwin. Goldwater, a former Republican congressman and the son of the conservative icon, has endorsed Goodwin in the past, and is co-hosting tonight’s fundraiser.
The Goldwater Taplin Group provides unrivaled representation for the insurance industry. Our contacts and our trusted relationships make GTG the nation’s premier choice for insurance industry representation and consultation.
On the state level, GTG members have decades of experience working with state insurance regulators, state legislatures and Governors. We can help you with licensing matters, products approvals and other regulatory matters.[…]
Ahem – *cough, cough* – Influence Peddling. *Cough, cough.*
According to GTG’s website, they have NO OFFICES in North Carolina.
If you refer back to the invitation on the linked article, you will also see that Eric Serna, the controversial former insurance commissioner for New Mexico, is also a co-host. Serna is identified on the Goldwater Taplin website as the firm’s general counsel.
Did U.S. Senator William Nelson (D-Fla.) allow a $130 million fraud to occur during his tenure as Florida insurance commissioner because of his ties to a corrupt insurance firm? That question is being raised in a class action filed by four Florida investors against the Florida Insurance Dept. They accuse the agency of negligence for failing in the late ’90s to shut down a controversial outfit run by campaign contributors to Nelson, the Sunshine State’s insurance commissioner at the time.
The suit alleges that the case represents “yet another chapter in today’s saddening trend of government regulators turning a blind eye to obvious corporate malfeasance.”
While Nelson isn’t identified by name as a defendant, the suit focuses on Nelson’s alleged ties to the founders and executives of the now-defunct American Benefits Services and an affiliate, Financial Federated Title & Trust. The two companies were among the many high-flying “viatical insurance” outfits that exploded on the scene in the late 1990s. Nelson was elected to the Senate in 2000, and he strongly denies all the claims against him.
Here’s how the companies were supposed to work: Financial Federated bought insurance policies from terminally ill individuals — usually AIDS patients — who, faced with mounting medical bills, would agree to sell their life insurance policies, usually for about 65% of their value. After Financial Federated cut deals with the ailing policyholders, American Benefits Services would resell the policies through a loose network of more than 600 financial planners and insurance agents. The investors would then receive the policy’s full payout when the insured died. The hook: American Benefits dangled “guaranteed returns” of 28% over two years and better than 40% over the life of the policy.
When state and federal authorities moved in on Financial Federated and American Benefits in July, 1999, however, they discovered that little of the $130 million in funds raised from more than 5,000 private investors had been used to purchase policies from the ill.
Instead, investigators charged the principals behind the two firms with operating a massive Ponzi scheme in which more than $100 million of the funds raised from private investors had actually been spent on gated mansions, exotic sports cars, and a 32-foot sailboat called “Manipulation.” The American Benefits scandal became the subject of intense media coverage, including a 1999 front-page article in The Wall Street Journal, and prompted a wave of state reforms. […]
In the latest lawsuit filed by Seattle-based attorney Benjamin A. Schwartzman, four investors allege that Nelson and his top aides failed repeatedly to move on warnings from the agency’s own staff investigators that ABS might be operating outside the law. […]
Schwartzman alleges that if Nelson was slow to shut down ABS, it may be because he had a closer relationship with the outfit than he has acknowledged. Schwarztman provided BusinessWeek Online with documents that purport to show Nelson had periodic contacts with the two masterminds behind the fraud: Financial Federated founder Frederick C. Brandau, an entrepreneur known for handing out gold coins to friends, and American Benefits Services President Ray Levy, a former New York cop. Levy, the owner of “Manipulation,” said he was drawn to sell viatical policies after his adult son died of AIDS. Both Levy and Brandau are now serving prison time on fraud convictions.
The documents came from the files of West Palm Beach (Fla.) attorney Norm Taplin, a longtime supporter of Nelson who represented ABS and Financial Federated in the late 1990s. And they show Taplin billing his two clients for numerous meetings that he arranged for them with Nelson in 1998 and 1999. One of the meetings lasted as long as five hours, and another occurred over a weekend.
According to Taplin’s files, American Benefits also arranged to fly Nelson on the company plane from Miami to Boca Raton for a private dinner on Oct. 5, 1998, with Brandau, Levy, and their attorneys. According to a receipt from Nick’s Italian Fishery & Chophouse, Brandau, Levy, Nelson, and the other 10 participants rang up a $1,917 bill that night, all paid for by American Benefits.
Also in Taplin’s files: A photo of Levy posing with Nelson, and a birthday card addressed “to Ray,” and signed “Bill Nelson.” In addition, Schwartzman says Levy told him in an interview from prison that he and Brandau had both attended an Election Night party at Nelson’s home in November, 1998. Through his attorneys, Taplin declined to comment. […]
After checking Nelson’s schedule from previous years, McLaughlin told BusinessWeek Online that, in some instances, Nelson simply wasn’t at the meetings — or even in the same city — as claimed in Taplin’s billing records. And in a few instances where Nelson’s schedule does concur that he met with Taplin, the aide says Nelson’s notes show that the meeting was actually arranged by Taplin to discuss matters involving other clients.
For instance, while McLaughlin confirmed that Nelson met with Taplin on Aug. 28, 1998, he says Nelson’s records show the purpose was for Taplin “to introduce him to clients who were employees of 3M Corp.” Says McLaughlin: “There’s no question that there are false entries in these [billing] records.”
Here’s a tidbit about Taplin and Serna (the Goodwin event co-host) hosting an event IN NEW MEXICO for a Florida congressman. Here’s Taplin’s name popping up amidst reporting on an Oklahoma state government political scandal.