January 31, 2014
After allegations surfaced that intercontinental ballistic missile launch officers had shared answers to monthly proficiency tests, the United States Air Force suspended 92 officers at Malmstrom Air Force Bases. Even more troubling, the inquiry was apparently prompted by concerns of illegal drug use. I mean, geez, who the hell wants to hear the words "cheating" "intercontinental ballistic missiles" and "illegal drugs" in the same sentence? In contrast, today's BrokeAndBroker Blog offers a somewhat tame and mundane cheating scandal involving a life insurance test. Not exactly the stuff of stoners pushing a red launch button and starting a nuclear winter.
For the purpose of proposing a settlement of rule violations alleged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"), without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Brian James Eslinger submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of Brian James Eslinger, Respondent (AWC 2013035893601, January 15, 2014).
After a prior stint starting in 2009 as an insurance agent, Eslinger first became registered in 2011 with Farmers Financial Solutions, LLC, ("FFS") where he remained until his February 2013 resignation. The AWC asserts that Eslinger had no prior relevant disciplinary history.
The Meaning of Life
The AWC asserts that a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellowship (''LUTCF") is a designation for insurance professionals obtained after completing six LUTC courses involving product knowledge, marketing and sales, customer service and ethics. The LUTCF is conferred jointly by The American College and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors ("NAIFA"). Those seeking the LUTCF designation must pass a final examination with at least a 70% score. State insurance agents in Wisconsin (where Eslinger was registered) were also eligible to receive continuing education credit for the successfully completion of the LUTCF examination upon submission of a Proctor Affirmation.
For years, the NAIFA LUTCF program was administered on behalf of NAIFA by The American College. That partnership is ending, and NAIFA will announce new curriculum for the NAIFA LUTCF in September of 2014.
Pick A Proctor
In 2012, each online LUTC course was administered by a moderator via the Blackboard Learning System ("Blackboard"). One of the sponsors of the LUTCF required that students designate a proctor for their final examination, and this proctor was sent a user identification and a password. Thereafter, the student logged on to the Blackboard system and then separately logged into the examination -- the designated proctor would then log the student into the examination using the proctor's user identification and password. At the conclusion of the examination, a student had to complete a proctored examination affirmation ("Proctor Affirmation"), attesting that he or she completed the examination independently.
On April 2, 2012, Eslinger took and failed an examination for an LUTC course. He had selected an individual identified in the AWC as "DP" to serve as his proctor. Prior to retaking the examination, Eslinger consulted with an individual identified as "MZ" in the AWC and characterized as a Life and Financial Services Specialist in Wisconsin, who moderated the LUTCF courses offered to FFS employees and contractors in Wisconsin and scheduled the final examinations. The AWC alleges that MZ told Eslinger to reschedule the exam again using DP as his proctor but to call him on the day of the exam and prior to starting the test.
On June 14, 2012, Eslinger was scheduled to retake the examination in his office with DP acting as his proctor; however, before Eslinger logged into the examination, DP had emailed the proctor user identification and password for Eslinger's examination to MZ. Thereafter, pursuant to MZ's instructions, Eslinger logged off of Blackboard without accessing the examination and sent MZ his login information. MZ then logged into the examination as Eslinger and took the examination for him.
After completing the examination, MZ called Eslinger and told him that he had passed his examination. Eslinger then presented DP with a Proctor Affirmation, which they both signed. In addition to being wrongfully credited with passing the LUTCF course, Eslinger also received continuing education credits for Wisconsin.
In consideration of the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Eslinger a $10,000 fine and a two-month suspension from association with any FINRA member firm in all capacities.