One television show that I have watched for many years is "Law and Order." For those few that have never seen an episode, the plots are usually taken from the news headlines and just changed slightly. I believe these changes are made for better television by adding some unexpected twists, and to present the show as close as possible to the true reported crime that it mimics and without the production company getting sued. In the first half-hour of "Law and Order," the police conduct a criminal investigation culminating in an arrest and the second half is the trial. I have an idea for the next show. There was a news item about a company that operates some 120 restaurants in and around Ohio. It reported for its third quarter an additional $4 million gain coming from life insurance policies that the company had taken out on its late chairman. So here's my proposed storyline for "Law & Order." Let's make the company the owner of 100 coffee shops that receives $10 million dollars as a result of the death of its chairman, who it was thought had a heart attack while drinking the newest coffee drink developed by the company--"Double Chocolata Jalapeno Decaf." In fact, a criminal investigation finds out he was poisoned. And who is arrested? It is the president of the company. It turns out that the president's bonus was based on the revenue gain reported by the company to the SEC, which, of course, included the $10 million payout. The trial could show that because of Sarbanes-Oxley, the president couldn't cook the books, so he decided that poison was the only route to go. I expect that life insurance purchases on the lives of executives and employees by the companies for whom they work for will continue getting much closer scrutiny from regulatory and legislative bodies. Last year, one of my columns was on whether some states would prohibit such purchases unless the insured was informed. It seems a bit macabre that the fiscal well being of a company could be improved so much because of the physical demise of an individual, rather than improved revenue performance of the company's core competencies. The above show illustrates how such a purchase, with only a sleight stretch of the imagination, can turn sinister. Of course, if we really want to make the trial interesting, a co-defendant of the president could be his accountant/business advisor who, in a memo, pointed out that the basis of the bonus wasn't limited to revenue from the coffee shops. Oh by the way, only the president is found guilty. However, the accountant's malpractice insurance policy rates went way up.
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