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Tony Ondrusek is founder and publisher of Insurance & Financial Advisor and IFAwebnews.com.

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Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC loudmouth whose ratings  are tanking faster than a bowling ball in a barrel of shaving cream, is lying to his dwindling number of viewers about corporate owned life insurance (COLI) to bolster ratings and piggyback on the hype of health care reform. Either that, or he is an idiot.

In a particularly distasteful diatribe dealing with health care reform on his show this week (see the video below), Olbermann warns viewers that employers are “secretly” taking out life insurance policies on their employees. He seems to infer that employers are taking it COLI policies on all employees without their consent, from the receptionist to the janitor — and waiting until the employee dies to collect death benefits and reap big tax advantages.

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Surely, someone at NBC could have told Olbermann that COLI is used by corporations for key executive personnel, whose untimely death could create financial upheaval for an organization. It pays for recruiting a new individual, maintaining the work flow that the deceased was involved with, and ensures that those who worked under the deceased don’t face work-related or financial hardships based on the loss of their supervisor or employer.

And if he would have only asked his own insurance agent before spouting such mistatements of fact, he would have found that a person cannot insure another’s life without the insured’s consent. At that point, he could have avoided the embarrassment of his on-the-air rant.

It is highly likely that NBC has a COLI policy on Olbermann. However, it is doubtful that Olbermann, as an employer, has any COLI policies on his gardeners — or even the young staff writers who work for his show, for that matter.

Olbermann went on to explain how NAIFA (National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors) is made up of bad people who create and set policies for COLI and other products, and somehow connects life insurance agents to the current controversy over health insurance. Its sort of like blaming Dr. J (basketball star Julius Erving) for the problems with Medicare; it just doesn’t add up.

Tom Currey, president of NAIFA, drafted an open letter  to the producers of the Countdown with Keith Olbermann show, explaining first, that NAIFA is made up of agents and not companies; second, that agents can’t set policy; third, tries to explain in elementary language that Olbermann can understand what COLI is; and fourth, tries to figure out how Olbermann connected a life insurance agent association to health insurance.

Doubtful that Olbermann or his producers will read the letter. Less likely that they will address it. They are probably more concerned with finding new t0pics that Olbermann can screech about in an attempt to stem the nose-dive in his ratings.

24 Responses

  1. Leon Hall Says:

    No sir you are a liar….and you do so with good confidence….Gregory F. Jenner Deputy Assistant Secretary (Tax Policy) testified before congress explaining how COLI differs from state to state….the supreme court is kind of ambiguous on this topic but what they have uniformally agreed is that the amount of death benefits purchased must have reasonable relationship to the prospective pecuniary expense of the employer…Thus in the case of “BROAD-BASED” employee coverage the anticipated death benefit proceeds cannot be grossly disproportianate to the expected benefit obligations of the employer..A number of states have limited the amount of insurance on non key employees to amounts equal,in the aggregate, to the present value cost of the employer’s ERISA benefit plan.Do you understand this Mr. It’s not just secluded to key employees.I have a feeling you already knew this though…How do you sleep at night calling another person a liar when you are fully aware that they are telling the truth…It works on faux news…but not everywhere else.You cannot count on everyone not reading and checking up on facts ..that is terrible of you..

  2. Chris Says:

    He’s both an idiot and a liar. He obviously did zero research for this piece. First of all Keith, it’s pronounced ‘Koh Lee’ not ‘Koh Lie.’ His spin was horribly distorted and inaccurate. The article and the NAIFA letter say it all. Let’s hope he doesn’t learn about the billions in BOLI (Bank Owned Life Insurance). I’m sure he would try to spin the product as an evil way to benefit from employee deaths rather than a tool to reduce risk and retain employees by using life insurance to fund employee benefit programs.

  3. Enrique Stanley Says:

    I suppose that Sean Hannity saying, on his daily lies hour, that the Obama plan is to put the United States under a “soviet style health care”, does not bother you as much as Olbermann’s comments. Or maybe I didn’t read your furious critic of THAT COMMENT.

  4. Tracie Says:

    Mr. Ondrusek: I’ve been watching this show for 5 years. I’ve never known Olbermann to lie but like everybody he is occasionally mistaken. I’m sure he’ll not only read the letter but if he was wrong on any point, he’ll address it on the show as he has other errors he has made from time to time. And by the way, if you watched the hour-long special comment on health care, you certainly know that no one had to “find” this topic for him.

  5. Joe Says:

    Something that Olbermann also fails to mention – key-employee policies like this are VERY difficult to get. The standards for proving insurable interest are very high. Typical ridiculous tirade of the under-informed.

  6. Joe Pearson Says:

    Who pay YOUR salary, you coroporate whore?

    You’re obviously a shill for the insurance vultures.


  7. Gilbert Says:

    I used to enjoy your program (Keith Olberman). You started talking so much about Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck I decided to watch them instead. Thank you for referring me to these great purveyors of fair and balanced news. P.S. I no longer watch your show. I have tried. Every time I have tried to watch your show, you are so full of sarcasm. I think you would be on top of the heap again if you were “Fair and Balanced” as Fox News. That lady that follows your program in the evening is also full of “sarcasm”. I have tried to watch her program also, but the minute the sarcasm begins I just return to Fox News.

  8. Leon Hall Says:

    And I’m glad Gilbert doesn’t watch Keith any more……More keith for the rest of the population….How can you not like a man that had his first book published at age fourteen…….went to college at age sixteen and graduated when he was twenty……..Keith is a brain child……you can have your Glenn “I don’t like school and I don’t care how to really spell words” Beck…..and I will stick with the Genius…..thank you for bringing intelligence back into the light Keith……We are rooting for you….

  9. bob brenner Says:

    Your ciriticism of Keith Olberman is flimsier and fuzzier than Rush and Beck wrapped in that ol’ proverbial-enigmatic-bamboozling-ball of disortion. You started with a shred of truth in order to lure the want-to believe-you audience, but then the bamboozling snow-ball gets bigger and bigger as it goes down hill. Knowledgeable people know where your coming from. Frankly, Olberman does a great job of revealing the lies and propaganda of people like Hannity, Beck and Rush. It’s like show and tell. If I want to be depressed I’ll tune in to a right-wing talk show. All that bombasting of gloom and doom, preaching to the same old choir, who religiously buy their books; well, it’s refreshing to know know that our country is so much betrer off with Obama, charasmtic and smart president, who is leading us to a slow but difficult recovery.

  10. Jean Anderson Says:

    Keith Olbermann is a vicious, thinks he’s funnier than he is liar. Understand his only career background was failed Sportscaster. The way he seems to chew his tongue when he gets wound up really needs to be checked by neurologist. Would hate to see him have a seizure on TV. And, his bleeding heart concern for those poor uninsured makes me gag. I’d like to see what kind of sweetheart deal he got when he signed his recent contract w/G.E. who, by the way, we bailed out with tax payer dollars. I can’t watch him for more than 5 minutes & then just to test my bullshit tolerance level that perticular day.

  11. Dave Says:

    Leon, you might want to look at actual insurance law. A person CAN NOT have insurance on their lives without signing for it. What Olbermann insinuated was that employers could just go behind the employees’ backs and put insurance on them. In some states this used to be allowable, but Wal-Mart was doing this (MANY years ago) and there was a big brouhaha. So, in those states legislation passed to where uniformly life insurance can’t be taken out on a life, without the proposed insureds consent. This is a VERY BASIC tenet in life insurance. If you don’t understand this, you are starting off with a great deal of ignorance, and there is no wonder that you believe Olbermann’s lies or irnorance. I sure as heck hope you’re not an agent, if you are, you need to go back and study the basics it took to get your license. You’re doing a lot of harm to clients by being so ignorant of basic insurance law.

  12. Mike Smith Says:

    Oberman had tons of errors in his comment, Leon. (You are encouraged to read the letter from NAIFA President Tom Currey that is linked in the original blog posting.)

  13. Howard Berger Says:

    There are many issues of which I have no contention with Mr. Olberman and admittedly he isn’t the only member of the media to go on this “hunt”. Good Morning America did the same thing with “Dead Peasants Life Insurance” which admittedly even I wasn’t familiar with that term. “GMA” stated that attorneys said the attraction was the “write-off” which at first had me puzzled. Then after I posed the question on the NAIFA discussion group on LINKEDIN, I found out it was the life insurance usually included in qualified retirement plans. This falls under “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing” and you are quite right, Mr. Olberman as well as Ms. Sawyer of ABC should have done more research. Unfortunately the media today is more interested in scaring us half to death than informing us. It is the same with healthcare reform. The media would have everyone think that it is really “health insurance reform”. If that was all that needed fixing, that would be esay. People who think that is what the issue is don’t understand the issue at all.

  14. leon is a shill Says:

    it’s obvious that leon is a shill for olberman. i say this because no one is stupid enough to think that olberman is anything more than a jackass that spouts inaccuracies with absolutely no basis. this guy is what is wrong with our country. blind to anything that anyone other than a democrat does. please open your eyes to fair and balanced reporting. turn your set from msnbc and be open to learning something new…….and accurate for a change.

  15. John Darlington Says:

    Boy Tony! You have a lot of radical readers. Anyone who pays attention to what Olberman says is also an idiot!

  16. Phillip Tieman Says:

    Olberman has proved himself to be a snide, misogynistic, bitter and boring “hit man” and shill for the liberal left. He is best left to his own failings while the rest of life moves on.

  17. Goebbels Olberman Says:

    Olberman is jockeying for the positing of Chief of Propaganda for the Destroy America Democrats. I would be an angry idiot too if Fox had more viewers than MSLSD and CNN combined! Fox news hs replaced CBS as the news standard in television news. Fred Friendly and Ed Murrow are twirling in their graves.As for Leon, he is obvioulst not a life agent but just a kool aid drinker. The least experienced agent knows that one can not purchase life insurance on ANYONE without thier consent and approval.How did Olberman explain how required health exams were being done? Did the companies sneak in the employees home at night to steal blood samples?

  18. Dave Says:

    Howard, that was well stated. Unfortunately, the goal of the media is no longer objectivity, it’s purely ratings. We live in a society where sensationalism sells, so unless an entertainer (note I didn’t say journalist, very few journalists on tv anymore) can get people all riled up, he can’t get ratings. So there are way too many false controversies created by a complete disregard for facts. Olberman is one of the worst, but unfortunately, there are many others. Also unfortunately, this was sooo far beyond poor facting checking and lack of objectivity, right in to making up stuff.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that you stated that well… without the inflammatory rhetoric of some odd people on here.

  19. Jeff DeMatteo Says:

    I’d just like to say to anyone who gets a paycheck either directly or indirectly from a Private Insurance company that if you are an Olberman or an Obama supporter, you will deserve it when you lose your job. Obviously you can’t make it on your own and you need someone to take care of you. The Governments role in Health Care reform is to force the Insurance companies to do the right thing through effective regulation and to provide people assistance who need it to help pay premiums, not give them free insurance and destroy the whole system.

  20. Dr. Bash Says:

    How can anyone NOT adore the man who went to an Ivy-league college? Oh wait…that was an affiliated state college…NOT Cornell, as Olbermann claims. And he has a degree in Communications. That’s right…Communications. NO Ivy league college in the world offers such a degree, which makes Olbermann a bigger liar than we first thought. Keith works so hard at convincing people he went to a good school (which he did not) and earning a degree of any worth (which he did not), that he forgets that his dwindling viewer base even cares in the first place. The guy is a first class moron.

  21. Donald Says:

    All of what these shows are about is ratings for advertisement. Mr. Olberman is like anyone else trying to perform for his job,with all sides having just a modicum of truth that is open too be scrutinized, Mr. Hall seems to be huge fan or is Mr. Olberman himself as a ghost poster? for this forum , maybe? seems so. Mr Olbermans credentials have been discredited before. College graduate at 20 yes at the agriculture campus not the ivy league campus he claims, what is anyone to believe? and second who cares ? he’s entertainment with no real substance to offer society no matter how preposessing and polished the act. ps they ran this guy off espn not really cerebral reporting sports is it?

  22. Bill Says:

    Clearly Idiot.

  23. Eric Says:

    Actually, Tony is the misinformed. Fortune 500 companies have been taking out COLI policies on their employees, in secret, since the 1980’s. It has only recently (approximately 2002) came to light what these corporations were doing. For more information, look up Sixel at the Houston Chronicle; Ellen Schultz of The Wall Street Journal; House Bills H.R. 251, H.R. 150, H.R. 107, H.R. 414, H.R. 4551 (cosponsored by Nancy Pelosi), H.R. 3669, H.R. 152, Senate Bill 137. Also check out United States Court Eleventh Circuit #00-11828 Winn-Dixie Stores v. Commissioner of IRS. There are plenty of other sources proving that Olberman is not making this story up. Key Insurance was how COLI started – covering top management/executives. However, corporations began using COLI as a tax loophole on their rank-and-file employees – without consent from that employee. Anyway, for what it’s worth….

  24. Tony Ondrusek Says:

    Key in your response, Eric, is in the third sentence: the word “were.” as in past tense.

    Yes, in the past, corporations were able to take out what was referred to as “peasants insurance,” which did not require notification of the person whose life was being insured.

    Now, even when there is an insurable interest, the person whose life is covered must provide consent. So unless a corporation — or any individual — is forging someone’s signature or identity, coverage on an individual’s life without their consent is illegal.

    Yet Mr. Olbermann finds it appropriate to go on the air and make it appear that corporations are lawfully taking out COLI on their employees without their consent…which he knows is a lie.

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