Ex-UBA Manager: Felons Worked At Company - WSMV News 4

Ex-UBA Manager: Felons Worked At Company

Updated: May 18, 2009

One of the men who ran United Benefits of America said he quit because of what the Channel 4 I-Team exposed.



Throughout the I-Team's entire investigation, managers, the company spokesman and the CEO didn't talk. But the CEO's go-to man has decided to leave the company and talk to the I-Team.


When fighting a serious illness and trying to get health insurance, the last thing needed is a benefits salesman on the line who has been taught to mislead you.


"They buy now or pretty much come down with cancer by tomorrow," said one employee on the I-Team's hidden camera. "This is a do-or-die type thing."


"We've done customers wrong from time to time," said a manager. "It happens."


Former UBA manager Jon Browning knew about all of it. He was a top manager, the director of benefits for a benefits company -- that is, until he quit two weeks ago when furious customers showed up on Channel 4.


"There's responsibility that falls on my shoulders," said Browning. "I've got broad shoulders, and I can carry that responsibility."


The company is accused of selling simple discount cards to customers who thought they were getting health insurance. UBA is under investigation by state insurance regulators and was rated F by the Better Business Bureau.


Browning said he was doing the interview with Channel 4 "because everybody needs to know -- not just from disgruntled employees but from somebody that's left there and knows how everything operates."


Browning described himself as a liaison between the staff and CEO Tim Thomas and said there was a culture of deception in the company.


One manager was seen on hidden camera teaching salespeople how to snare uninsured customers by using the TAFT tactic, which stands for Tell them Any F***ing Thing.


"There was other managers that used that tactic," said Browning. "I would say less than 2 percent, but 2 percent that use the TAFT tactic, that if they did use that, they could rack up a lot of customers pretty quick."


Another manager encouraged employees not to use the company's full name to make it harder to find complaints about the company online.


"That's correct. That was ... conducted in training as well," Browning said. "It slows down and keeps these people from being able to do research online."


Referencing an employee who bragged about how he plays on customers fears, Browning said, "Yeah, that's unethical. People like that, the only way they'll ever make in the sales industry is being unethical."


"But this is one of your employees," said Channel 4 reporter Jeremy Finley.


"They don't need to be an employee," Browning said.


In fact, Browning said he brought all his concerns about employees misleading customers to other top management, including the CEO, but rarely were employees fired, mostly because they were top producers and made the company a lot of money.


Browning said there's nothing wrong with the actual product that UBA sells -- the packaged benefits, like the discount cards. The problem, he said, is when salespeople leave out specifics, leading customers to believe they are buying traditional insurance with well-known companies.


"I just think that there was omission being done, which is, more than anything else, in itself is a lie," he said.


Some of the people taking customers' personal information were felons, Browning said.


A letter, signed by Thomas, asked a judge to help a man with a felony get his insurance license so he could move up among the UBA ranks.


"It's still uneasy knowing there was no background checks being done, and there's been a couple situations that we've brought people in and not done a background check and it caused us some problems," Browning said.


He couldn't elaborate what those problems are but did talk about UBA's problems with the state.


One day earlier this year, investigators with the Department of Commerce and Insurance, accompanied by Metro police, raided the company and took files.


"At that point in time, I wanted to leave," Browning said.


Browning has since been subpoenaed by the state but was ordered, along with all members of management in an e-mail from Thomas, not to talk to state investigators.


"Are you worried that you could get wrapped up in all this?" asked Finley.


"Yeah, I am," Browning said. "It's something that possibly could happen. But it's a risk I ran. It's something that I'll have to deal with."


Neither UBA's CEO nor the company attorney has responded to requests for comment, and state investigators have not yet said why they raided the company.

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