The first shoe has dropped in the legal assault on the NRA. The New York State Department of Financial Services has formally filed a Statement of Charges against the NRA for violating a variety of New York insurance laws, including producing and selling insurance without a license, selling unlawful insurance products, and “unfair and deceptive marketing materials” regarding their endorsed insurance products.
This is not just about NRA’s much-maligned Carry Guard program, which the Statement of Charges labels as an “unlawful insurance” product, but covers all of NRA’s insurance offerings. According to the Statement of Charges, NRA’s endorsement of, advertising for, and receipt of “royalties” for their various endorsed insurance products, constitutes “operating as an insurance producer without a license.”
In other words, they’re saying that the NRA was “engaging in the business” of producing and selling insurance without acquiring the necessary licenses.
The legal action is seeking monetary penalties against the NRA and the repercussions could go well beyond fines and future restrictions on their activities in New York. Insurance carriers that were working with the NRA have already reached settlements with New York enforcers, agreeing to pay over $13 million. Fines and penalties against the NRA could easily approach the $50 million mark.
The Statement of Charges (read below) also includes a Notice of Hearing, scheduled for April 6, 2020, just 10 days prior to the kickoff of the 2020 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Nashville, TN. Expect the NRA to try and delay that hearing until after the Meeting of Members, so they can tell the members who gather in Nashville that it’s all just political smoke and mirrors.
I have been predicting that the AG’s of New York and DC would hold off on filing charges until those filings would do the most possible damage to the Association’s efforts in the 2020 election. I’m sticking by that prediction, as I expect that this insurance matter will prove to be just the first of several actions brought by regulators in various jurisdictions.
Investigations into the NRA’s insurance programs are just the tip of the iceberg. Regulators are known to be looking into revocation of the NRA’s tax-exempt status, and the New York AG has threatened to revoke the Association’s charter and lock-up NRA’s finances – to protect the members. Those watching the case closely will recall that current and former members of the NRA Board of Directors, along with current and former NRA employees, have been deposed by investigators from New York – where the NRA is chartered – and legal experts have suggested that the lines of questioning suggest the AG’s office could be preparing to file criminal charges against some NRA employees and Directors for fraud, misappropriation of funds, self-dealing, and dereliction of fiduciary responsibility.
For their part, it appears that the NRA strategy is going to continue to revolve around a claim that NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, is the victim of a conspiracy, led by his long-time friends and allies at the PR firm Ackerman McQueen (AcMc). The claim is that LaPierre discovered some questionable billing and payment issues a few years ago and when he tried to right the ship with a “good governance” campaign, his friends at AcMc, along with their operatives on the Board and elsewhere in the Association, turned on him and launched a concerted campaign to smear him, trying to stage a coup against him.
Recent events, including the suspension and eventual termination of LaPierre’s Chief of Staff, Josh Powell, suggest that Powell, who LaPierre installed as Executive Director of General Operations and lead executive in charge of the Carry Guard program, will be painted as the primary culprit in the insurance matter. LaPierre will again claim that he discovered the problems and took “decisive action” to rectify them by suspending, investigating, and terminating Powell.
Of course, the major flaw in official NRA’s strategy, is that LaPierre has been the CEO of the NRA for nearly 30 years, with authority and responsibility for the oversight and operation of all facets of NRA operations.
Every person who has been in any way implicated in any of the scandals at the NRA has been closely associated with LaPierre, and in most cases they owed their positions and influence within the Association directly to LaPierre. So either Wayne LaPierre was aware of, and complicit in the various schemes and scandals, or he is the worst judge of character, and the most inept manager to ever run an organization. In either case, the responsibility lies with LaPierre and so should the consequences.
It is impossible to separate LaPierre from the actions of his subordinates, especially when those actions span decades under his watch, and especially when he has seen substantial personal and familial benefits from these actions.
There’s no question that the legal attacks on the NRA, from the expose’s from the Trace and the New Yorker, to the investigations by the New York and DC AG’s offices and the inquiries from various members of Congress, are all politically motivated. That’s been clear from the outset. But just because the impetus for the investigations was political, that doesn’t nullify the findings. The Trace reporter set out looking for dirt and he found it – lots of it – and he found documentation to back up the dirt he’d found. Similarly, the dirt that’s come out of the lawsuits involving Ackerman McQueen is tainted with various personal motives and has been couched in the most inflammatory terms imaginable, but the core issues revealed are serious and NRA members deserve serious answers, not just childish finger-pointing and name-calling.
As I said at the outset, these charges from the New York State Department of Financial Services, are just the tip of the iceberg, and more charges from other agencies will undoubtedly be forthcoming. Meanwhile, NRA members have been paying something in the neighborhood of $2 million per month for the past 2 years, for an attorney whose primary focus appears to be the protection of Wayne LaPierre, with little or no apparent concern for the NRA itself or its members.
NRA’s legal and financial troubles are just beginning. More will most assuredly be on the way. There’s a slight chance that the members might be able to affect some positive change at the NRA Members’ Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on April 18 2020, so every NRA member who can make that meeting should try to be there. Attending the meeting is going to cost me something in the neighborhood of $1000.00 out of my pocket, but even a slight chance of saving our organization makes that expense worth it to me. I hope you’ll join me there and let your voice be heard.
You can read the Statement of Charges here.
New State’s Statement of Charges Against NRA February 2020