Berkshire, like Symetra and Allstate before it, has entered the factoring game. Unlike Symetra and Allstate, though, who jumped in all at once, Berkshire has opted for the slow creep. There is no difference between these players other than the way they’ve entered. The end game is the same. So why does Berkshire get a pass?

For the past couple of years Berkshire has acted primarily as a gatekeeper for annuitants seeking cash now providers. There’s no problem with that, and it’s certainly their prerogative, but last year they dipped their toe into the factoring waters of Texas as a special test market. Fast forward and they’re doing the same in a few other states. Really, it’s merely a matter of time until Berkshire is nationwide like the other insurance companies before them. I firmly believe this is a problem for one crucial reason: it’s a strong conflict of interest.

This conflict of interest centers around the fact that as the historical gatekeeper, it has a list of annuitants (read: customers), ready to go. This is the holy grail of any would-be player in the industry. Who doesn’t want a free list of people ready to go? Moreover, they’re not just prospective customers in some potential, hypothetical sales district, they’re existing customers, who aren’t protected by traditional consumer protections such as the TCPA because of their ‘existing customer’ status. In other words: they can, and likely will be contacted for ‘additional services’ when it’s nothing more than a veiled sales pitch from someone who already has their business in the first place. It looks like Berkshire is slowly but surely having their cake and eating it too.

The structured settlement secondary market is being regulated for, let’s face it, internal industry corruption.  Greed has rendered it utterly toxic, and now Washington wants to get involved.  Can you blame them, though in this post lead paint exposé environment?  The Maryland reforms, many of which are spreading past the state, deal at length with the issue of forum shopping and factoring transparency.  What some may laud as truly tough new regulation isn’t particularly impressive, though.  The reason for this is simple: it fails to address the core problems within the industry: scraping and ruthless aggression in the generation and pursuit of sales leads.

Many were shocked and saddened by the idea that a bunch of Maryland lead paint victims could so strategically be targeted by factoring companies.  The process of going through a factoring transaction was specifically examined by regulators for reform.  That’s a fine start, as noted earlier – but why haven’t regulators bothered to ask the question how certain people are being targeted so exactly, with such efficiency.  Scraping!

We know we sound like broken records, but scraping is the heart and life blood within the dark underbelly of this issue.  How do these companies know who to target?  They get a hold of the records.  How do they get a hold of the records?  By using court scraping or court runner services.  Who provides such services?  West Law, among others.  These venerable lawyer resources are at the forefront of profit-making for the factoring industry.  Using these services for client-lead generation has become the norm, however, and are typically against service terms of use.  If not market leads being generated by court sleuthing by dedicated hires within the factoring companies, leads can instead be purchased either alone or in pre-compiled lists by court runners and other scrapers.

Legislators & Regulators: if you want to protect annuitants, you need to protect their privacy.  Simply adding a few transparency measures into existing regulations won’t cut it.  If you want predatory behavior to stop, you must remove the predators’ teeth and claws.  Strengthen consumer protections and enhance annuitant record privacy.

Brokers & Annuitants:  Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is it.  It’s far from over.  Know the ethical partners worth doing business with.  Bentzen Financial doesn’t scrape or gnash its teeth in preparation for a juicy sales kill.  We are referral based because it’s the right way to do business, and don’t buy our endorsements like some of our competitors.

If you want straight talk, you want Bentzen Financial.