Letters

Absence of malice
Hooray for Ann Zimmerman for her fantastic story about John McLemore ["Caught in the crossfire," October 22] and the dark cloud of lies and amateur journalism that destroyed his career. I was a colleague of John's at KWTX-TV during this debacle, and let me go on the record as saying that you would be hard-pressed to find a more reputable, honest, hard-working, sincere, genuine person than John McLemore. He did his job better than anyone at that station, and everyone associated with him knows that.

Needless to say, I was shocked and appalled by the state Supreme Court's ruling. I feel that its decision was a slap in the face to everyone who worked so hard to bring the events unfolding in Waco to the world, namely John McLemore. I suppose some battles can't be won despite having the truth and integrity on your side. However, John McLemore can still hold his head high. He continues to this day to look through the smoke and mirrors and find truth on a consistent basis. I feel better knowing that there are people like him and Brian Pardo working tirelessly to right certain wrongs in our society, and someday they will be heard.

Dennis A. Lokey
Via e-mail

Making a killing
The Texas Department of Insurance staff read with great interest the article "Death merchant" in the October 22 issue of the Dallas Observer. We would like to offer clarifications on two points.

1. The article said there is no evidence that Southwest Viatical registered with the state in either 1997 or 1998. The fact is, Southwest registered in 1996, renewed in 1997, but failed to renew in 1998.

2. The article states that the Legislature placed viatical settlement companies under TDI regulation in 1995, "but rather than regulate, what the department actually does is register viaticals." This inference that TDI does not regulate the viatical settlement industry is unwarranted by the facts. The 1995 law requires registration, but registration does not mean an absence of regulation. As required by the statute, TDI adopted rules, effective February 26, 1996, under which we regulate the viatical settlement industry in numerous ways for the protection of viators.

3. We mandate contract provisions that protect viators' interests: approve or reject all viatical settlement forms; require confidentiality for viators; review advertisements and marketing materials for truthfulness and fairness; prescribe certain information that viators must receive; assure that viators can cancel unsatisfactory contracts within 15 days after getting their money; prohibit viatical companies from inquiring too often about a viator's health; and, when necessary, take enforcement action against companies and brokers that violate our rules and Texas statues.

Lee Jones
Assistant Director
Public Information Office, TDI
Austin

Writer Steve McVicker responds: Southwest Viatical's registration status was based on information provided by the State Department of Insurance. If it is in error, that is because the Department of Insurance did not fully comply with my request for information filed under the Texas Open Records Act.

As for the state's role in regulating viaticals: Registration is still the only regulatory function actually performed by the Texas Department of Insurance. Most of what Lee Jones lists as his department's responsibilities are things that viaticals are required to do by state law.

On behalf of the National Viatical Association (NVA), I would like to commend the Observer for its front-page article titled "Death merchant." The article provided a public service by exposing the past actions of Mike Davis, a.k.a. Walter Waldhauser Jr. Dallas consumers should know that Southwest Viaticals is not an NVA member, and has been repeatedly asked to cease and desist these false claims.

The NVA is a national trade association dedicated to financially assisting and effectively promoting the needs of people coping with life-threatening illnesses in a compassionate, professional, and ethical manner. All of its member companies undergo both a civil and criminal background check before admittance into the association.

Recently, the NVA has begun to work with individual state departments of insurance to educate them about senior settlements and to increase awareness for consumer protection. In addition, the NVA has been working closely with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to create model legislation that will increase consumer safeguards. The model legislation can be adopted by state legislatures who are creating a law or updating current legislation.

Although viatical settlements may not be for everyone, they are a viable option for those who are living with illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, or heart disease, and for investors.

For those considering either a viatical or senior settlement, I encourage them to contact the National Viatical Association. The member companies are leaders in the industry, committed to ensuring that those faced with life-threatening illnesses are treated with compassion and dignity, not taken advantage of when they are most vulnerable. The NVA can be reached at (800) 741-9465 or at www.nationalviatical.org.

Valerie Bergman Cooper
Executive Director
National Viatical Association
New York

Cheesy lawsuits dept.
Dear Mr. [Fred] Washington: I spent more than two years trying to settle a lawsuit when an 86-year-old lady totaled my car and put me in the hospital. The ordeal was devastating, primarily because of the court system's being choked up with bullshit lawsuits ["De-fense! De-fense!" October 29] by money-grubbing freeloaders such as yourself and your hack lawyer.

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