I just listened to the TAL episode about Mr. Caramadre's scheme, and it does not strike me as being unethical or exploitative of dying people at all. It's certainly possible that some of the people who were signed up as the "measuring life" didn't fully understand that their families would not get the profits from the insurance policy, but as they didn't pay anything into the scheme in the first place and in fact made money from it themselves, they were not being exploited, in my opinion. If what Mr. Caramadre says in the American Life episode is true, that he submitted his first claim for multiple, unrelated people having taken out a policy on the same terminally ill person without the insurance company even questioning it, then to me that seems like tacit acceptance of the scheme. Insurance companies are the masters of finding loopholes and reasons not to pay, so I am dubious of any claim that they didn't notice it.
I don't see how giving money to dying people is profiting off of THEM. Caramadre took nothing at all from them. It is profiting off of the insurance companies. It is the insurance companies who have built a huge, legal, market for profiting off people's deaths. Why is that not equally in question here? Because they have to pay out when someone dies? The insurance companies are not going out of business. They are certainly taking money out of dying people's pockets (yes, we are all dying) and putting it into their own.
Also, interesting perspective, Moe. Thanks!
Death is a strange idea in itself. An idea that so many can't even accept without a certain encompassing moral standard, which when applied, serves as a coping mechanism for what seems to be an already undignified truth.
Profiting from death? The question doesn't seem to be whether or not it would serve the dead better, it seems to be whether or not it offends the people associated with the deceased individual, or really anyone who has lost or is losing someone close to them. That being said, you have to wonder what makes someone even care.
Someone is going to profit with any death, be it the funeral homes, the crime-scene clean-up crew, the cemetery keepers, the coroner, you name it and there is a business willing to take care of it, for a price. Mr. Caramadre took that business model and decided to profit from the dying, much like a Retirement Home, he sets up a system where he gives to the dying and makes a larger profit in return.
Is this ideal? If you question the validity of his business, your scrutiny shouldn't stop there, you would have to criticize the entire empire of businesses that have profited from the inevitable since man first found out you can build a tomb and gain something in return.
Do I think this is moral? That is debatable, but living in a society where death is a lurking truth, I can accept that someone would like to make money off of it. In other words, what really is sacred today anyway?
It was obvious to me and other astute agents that the loophole existed in Variable Annuities. One way I explain the excesses of the financial bubble and successive meltdown to my own clients is that officers and employees of Banks,
Insurance Companies, and most Wall Street firms don`t see a distinction between
what they can do and what they should do.
Did Caramadre act ethically all the time? Probably not. Should he go to jail?
Mr. Caramadre is not profiting off of death, he is profiting off of a poorly planned contract. When he got all the free office furniture no one thought he was profiting because of calendars, but rather because "legal doesn't know what the hell they are doing". If I want to borrow money to be paid back with intrest at a time in the future, we don't think that banks are profiteering off of time. Contracts are payable when the people signing them agree they are payable. For example, if I have a contract payable when The Mets win the super bowl (I know) than it is payable at that time, even if that time is nothing but a way to pick a more or less unknown date in the future. If someone wanted to see where I made my profit, I would suggest looking into the contract instead of at the time it is payable. This is just another example of open markets auto-correcting, check out This American Life ep. 405 Inside Job.