Crooks operate in secret and often use code language to avoid prosecution. Most of what they do is never written down in order to avoid detection. Even when speaking among themselves, they will use code words so the police cannot easily follow the plan of criminal conduct. Maybe these mobsters should sign up for the class being offered by the Medical Technology Learning Institute which is entitled, Dangerous Documents: Avoiding Land Mines in Your FDA Documents and Emails.

I came across this seminar in an insurance industry publication, the Insurance Journal, where the headline explained the course to be: Course Outlines What Companies Should NOT Put in Emails. It reminded me of the bad faith litigation we had against State Farm a decade ago where a videotape regarding State Farm’s “Document Retention” policy was found. It was simply a scare tactic to State Farm employees about policyholder attorneys finding information which could show State Farm acting wrongfully and how State Farm could legally destroy such evidence through a “document retention” policy. In fact, it was a means of evidence destruction to hide the truth of wrongful conduct.

It is not fair to portray State Farm as the only insurance company doing this. Most corporations have “document retention” policies. But if the purpose of the destruction is to hide wrongful behavior or suggest to employees that the truth cannot be written to avoid accountability, something is very wrong at the management level of the insurance company.

A good example was an email document entitled “Outrageous Purpose.”  The email was written by a regional claims manager that contained a management claims goal regarding loss ratios. He explained the goal and that attempting to reach it was important, but difficult to achieve. Most claims adjusters know their behavior should not be subject to loss ratio goals because any individual claim should be paid on its own merits not influenced by how that may impact the company’s financial goals. Yet, this is exactly what the memo discussed. It was the “dirty” truth underlying the problem of that claims department because the culture was changed to take a hard-line on claims adjustment. Imagine if the truth had been prevented from seeing the light of day because of a seemingly legal document retention policy.

Groups of people can often engage in unethical behavior that many individuals would never think of doing by themselves. Many question how entire countries can become so callous to obvious wrongful conduct and just allow it to repeat.

I raise these points because I happened to read the above article on Martin Luther King Day. He is one of my heroes. Dr. King had the courage to stand up to injustice and question the accepted ethical behavior of the day. While originally applying to discrimination, the following quote by King should be considered by otherwise ethical people in groups confronting wrongful behavior:

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words of violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and actions of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.”

When wrongful or unethical claims policies are adopted and found in our cases, I usually ask if anybody ever voiced any objection to the policy and ask for the emails that are shared between claims management. Good claims management should always encourage these discussions to prevent wrongful behavior. When such questioning of ethical behavior is prevented out of fear of reprisal or otherwise, the “bad guys” win. The claims culture then becomes corrupted. Evidence destruction seminars, like the one mentioned above, do nothing other than help corrupt management cultures and encourage unethical practices.