Waivers Allow Felons to Become Insurance Agents in Pennsylvania

April 18, 2017

Waivers granted in Pennsylvania and many other states to allow convicted felons to become insurance agents have sometimes missed ongoing violations, a newspaper reported.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that since 2004 the state Insurance Department has issued 111 waivers to people convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery, drug dealing, burglary, fraud, money laundering and other crimes. Most, the paper said following its review, appeared to have straightened out their lives.

But the paper cited the case of a woman convicted of credit card theft who was granted a waiver in January to sell insurance despite charges filed four weeks earlier accusing her of felony identity theft. The Inquirer said the license was suspended Friday after the paper raised the issue.

Insurance Department spokesman Ronald Ruman said the agency carefully screens people with felony conviction before deciding whether they should get waivers. He said the arrest cited above fell through the cracks because of a glitch in the state crime reporting system that officials would try to address.

The paper also cited the case of a woman with several forgery convictions who was granted a waiver in 2008 but within five years was accused of stealing funds from five clients. She later pleaded guilty to felony theft and illegal drug sales.

The department said in a statement that the information it reviews is “voluminous and provides the department with deep insight into an applicant’s personal and professional life.” Regulators declined to say what crimes would be considered disqualifying or whether interviews with crime victims were typically part of waiver reviews, the paper said.

The Inquirer said the department oversees 230,000 licensed agents and helps regulate the commonwealth’s $99 billion in annual insurance premiums and deposits, despite a staff slashed nearly in half since 2006. As a result, those investigating consumer complaints have the highest annual caseloads in the nation, more than three times the national average, the paper said.

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