When annuity marketing material needs a little embellishment, that can be a big problem in court.
Charging Violations Of Civil Rights, Lawsuit Alleges Dateline’s Reporters Obtained False State Insurance Licenses, Used False Pretenses, Trespassed On Private Property and Used Hidden Camera Video To Defame Company And Its Owner Tyrone Clark
DENVER—April 2, 2009--Brokers’ Choice of America, Inc. (BCA) and Tyrone M. Clark filed a lawsuit on March 31, 2009 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against NBC Universal, Inc. (NBC), producer of Dateline, and NBC's owner, General Electric Co. (GE). The complaint concerns an April 13, 2008 program Dateline produced and aired titled “Tricks of the Trade,” during which Dateline used snippets of wrongfully obtained hidden camera video of Mr. Clark in a context that defamed him and his company, BCA.
Also named as Defendants in the lawsuit are three NBC/GE employees, Chris Hansen, an on-screen reporter, and producers, Steven Fox Eckert and Marie Theresa Amorebieta. BCA and Clark are suing NBC, GE and the three Dateline employees for defamation, fraud, trespassing, intrusion on privacy, and violation of their civil rights. John J. Walsh of the law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP in New York City, and Thomas E. Downey, Jr. of the law firm Downey & Murray LLC of Denver, Colo., filed the complaint, seeking damages on behalf of BCA and Clark.
The lawsuit alleges that the Dateline producers obtained false insurance agent licenses from the state of Alabama in exchange for sharing information with them for their own state investigation into sales practices of insurance agents. Using these false credentials, the Dateline producers, acting in the dual role of investigators for NBC and Alabama, registered and attended a private educational seminar limited to licensed insurance agents taught by Clark at BCA's headquarters in Centennial, Colo. In attending under false credentials, the Dateline producers trespassed on BCA's private property to gain access and deploy their hidden camera. They ignored signs prominently posted in the training area stating that recording any portion of the seminar by attendees was strictly prohibited. They secretly taped all or portions of the private two-day seminar while keeping up their pretense as insurance agents from Alabama. Then, they extracted from Clark's two days of lectures a few snippets to support false and defamatory statements about the plaintiffs made in the broadcast by reporter Hansen. Dateline used a mere 112 words spoken by Clark taken out of context and placed them in its own false and defamatory context that has been very damaging to Plaintiffs' reputations.
“It has been very disturbing to me that Dateline could so easily obtain fraudulent insurance licenses from a state government agency, use them to violate my civil rights by trespassing on my private property, intruding into my private seminar, tape my statements with hidden cameras, and then distort the comments I made by taking them completely out of context to misrepresent what I teach,” said Clark. “They distorted the information they obtained to persuade the viewer that my training was unethical and predatory, when in fact they mislead the viewer and defamed me and my company in the process, and I believe what they did was outrageous and beyond all bounds of ethical broadcast journalism.”
Walsh added, "The complaint filed by Tyrone Clark and BCA, the company he founded and built, says to the producers of Dateline and the program's owners, NBC and GE: 'Once again you have gone too far in your quest for sensationalistic TV entertainment and the ratings that go with it.’ This time, as the complaint alleges, Dateline aligned itself with a state investigation to obtain phony insurance agent credentials, invade my client's private property in a distant state and position their favored secret weapon, the hidden camera. Then, they creatively used a few bits of the hidden camera footage, pulled out of Mr. Clark's two days of training, to completely distort and misrepresent to the public what he teaches. This is a classic case of defamation, compounded by the fact that in order to get the hidden camera video, defendants violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights. We look forward to our day in Court and shedding light on the dark side of this TV magazine."
Clark added, “What Dateline did not only damaged my company and my personal reputation, but their irresponsible and illegal behavior has hurt the entire annuities industry and independent licensed broker agents who make a living by selling these products. My goal with this lawsuit is to set the record straight and have the truth be told. I’ve been teaching insurance agents about fixed asset annuities for nearly 20 years and I’m very proud of and passionate about what I do. I don’t sell annuity products myself, nor can I control what some independent agents say or do in selling these products. However, I do believe strongly in ethics, and thus, it’s incredibly disheartening to see the way Dateline personally attacked me and suggested my training was unethical and predatory, when I know and anyone who has ever attended one of my seminars knows that ethics is what I teach. The misleading falsehoods contained in their story are simply not accurate; and their decision to focus on the annuities industry is certainly ironic given the current favorable views of annuities in these uncertain economic times.”
Brokers’ Choice of America, Inc. (BCA) is a national independent marketing organization for insurance companies. BCA is licensed to transact business in all 50 states and has been in operation since December of 1990. BCA works with multiple insurance carriers providing training and support services for annuities, life insurance and health insurance products to an independent agent sales force. For more information, contact BCA at www.brokerschoice.com or 1-800-344-4105.
Christin Crampton Day