Professionals must choose integrity, no matter what the circumstances are
Unfortunately, the Office of the Syndic at the ChAD must occasionally deal with complaints against members whose integrity or honesty has been called into question. Breaches may take many forms: appropriating funds entrusted to them, disparaging an employer on social media, misrepresentation, forging documents, etc. A non-exhaustive list of such breaches may be found under section 37 of the Code of ethics of damage insurance representatives and under section 58 of the Code of ethics of claims adjusters.
Surprisingly, investigations often reveal something very odd: the representative feels he has not adversely affected the honour and the dignity of his profession if neither the client nor the insured has been harmed by his actions.
It is therefore worth repeating that a certified representative must act with integrity at all times. The following three examples are of cases where the ChAD’s Discipline Committee was tasked with looking into offences related to both the personal and professional dishonesty of a member.
FORGED CAR-PURCHASE AGREEMENT1
An investigation conducted by the Syndic’s Office of the ChAD revealed that in 2006, the respondent acted dishonestly towards his clients, specifically by illegally appropriating funds and making misrepresentations.
Furthermore, the investigation discovered that the respondent had forged a car-purchase agreement, which he used to make a personal automobile insurance claim. The forgery allowed him to claim compensation under his insurance contract’s replacement insurance clause and thus pocket $5,827.61.
A formal complaint was filed against the respondent. It included several charges of breaches directly related to the performance of his professional activities, as well as one charge of having forged a car-purchase contract in his own insurance file.
On March 28, 2008, the ChAD’s Discipline Committee found the respondent guilty of the offences. When imposing sanctions, the Discipline Committee deemed that the offence the respondent had committed in his own insurance claim file constituted an aggravating factor. The respondent was suspended for six months.
FORGED EXPENSE REPORTS AND APPROPRIATION OF GIFT CARDS2
An investigation carried out by the Syndic’s Office of the ChAD showed that between 2010 and 2103, the respondent submitted 25 forged expense reports to his employer for reimbursement. The respondent thus pocketed $1, 956.99.
The investigation also revealed that at a Christmas party organized by his employer, the respondent took four gift cards worth a total of $100.
These actions prompted the Assistant Syndic of the ChAD to file a formal complaint.
On August 14, 2015, the ChAD’s Discipline Committee found the respondent guilty of having committed acts contrary to the honour and dignity of the profession.3 The respondent was found guilty of both charges and ordered to pay the minimum fine of $2,000 per charge, for a total of $4,000. It should be noted that during its deliberations on the appropriate sanctions, the Committee deemed the fact that the respondent had reimbursed his employer to be a mitigating factor.
FORGING GROUP INSURANCE CLAIMS4
An investigation conducted by the Syndic’s Office of the ChAD revealed that in 2013 and 2014, the respondent submitted 17 forged group insurance claims under the employer-provided insurance plan, and thus pocketed a total of $3,398 in compensation. In reality, the medical care for which he had claimed compensation had never been provided.
The Syndic of the ChAD filed a formal complaint against the respondent, which contained a single charge of committing acts contrary to the honour and dignity of the profession.
In its decision of February 26, 2016, the Discipline Committee found the respondent guilty of this charge.5
The following excerpts from the Committee’s decision making interesting reading:
To begin with, the Committee believes that the offence that the respondent pleaded guilty to is objectively extremely serious. The act—embezzlement—is, by definition, a serious offence. […]
Like the Committee, the parties, and in particular the respondent, by having pleaded guilty, admit that the respondent was bound by his ethical obligations at the time the offence was committed, even though the illegal acts did not take place strictly within the scope of his normal professional duties. Thus, in the opinion of the Committee, the respondent’s argument that no client was affected by the fact that he had knowingly committed embezzlement cannot constitute a mitigating factor.
[…] [unofficial translation]
The respondent was fined $4,000 and suspended for two years.
Certified representatives must show integrity at all times, even when there is no risk of their actions causing any harm to the client or the insured. It should also be noted that the amount illegally obtained has no bearing on the how the Syndic’s Office deals with the case.
By Me Marie-Josée Belhumeur, LL.B., Syndic
1. Chambre de l’assurance de dommages v. Desrochers, 2008 CanLII 15293 (QC CDCHAD).
2. Chambre de l’assurance de dommages v. Vadnais, 2015 CanLII 52707 (QC CDCHAD).
3. Under section 37(1), Code of ethics of damage insurance representatives..
4. Chambre de l’assurance de dommages v. Janvier, 2016 CanLII 19676 (QC CDCHAD).
5. Under section 37 (7) of the Code of ethics of damage insurance representatives..