Today, Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by consumers desperate for a good deal. Will Wal-Mart profit from his death?
Right now, your company could have a life insurance policy on you that you know nothing about. When you die — perhaps years after you leave your employer — the tax-free proceeds from this policy wouldnt go to your family. The money would go to the company.
Whats more, the company might use this policy to pay for retirement benefits and other perks not for you or your fellow workers, but for your companys top executives.
Hundreds of companies — including Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Winn-Dixie — have purchased this insurance on more than 6 million rank-and-file workers.
These policies, nicknamed dead janitors or dead peasants insurance, soared in popularity after many states cleared the way for them in the 1980s.
Jane St. John had two children and was pregnant with a third when her husband, a butcher at a Winn-Dixie store, was killed in an auto accident. When the Killeen, Texas, woman called the company to ask about insurance, she said she was told about a $17,500 policy to which she was entitled. St. John said Winn-Dixie told her nothing about the $102,000 the company collected from a corporate-owned policy on his life. She found out about it this summer, eight years after his death, from a lawyer who researched court records. The idea that the company would secretly insure lives, and then not share the benefits with the families, “is sick,” she said. “That is creepy.”
Mike Rice was a 48-year-old assistant manager when he died of a massive heart attack at the Wal-Mart store in Tilton, N.H. His widow, Vicki, became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the company after she discovered Wal-Mart collected $300,000 from a life insurance policy it owned on him. Vicki Rice believes job-related stress contributed to the heart attack and says it is totally immoral for Wal-Mart to profit from his death.
Anger about these practices likely will keep the heat on Congress to make some reforms. Its possible that lawmakers will restrict severely companies ability to write the policies on rank-and-file workers. At the very least, companies probably will have to get workers consent before buying any new policies and clearly disclose that the coverage may extend past the time they leave the company, the ACLIs Dolan said.
But he rejected the idea that corporate-owned life insurance was immoral or a company bet against its workers.
Its an important business planning tool, Dolan said. Companies are using it for extremely valid reasons.
I would like to see just what these valid reasons are. Can anyone enlighten me?
Sounds like calls to Congress are in order. Find your Congress Critter here. Just click on your state.