The Edmond Sun

Opinion

January 16, 2013

It’s time to show ‘Mr. Wentworth’ the door

CNHI News Service — Structured settlements exist to keep people from blowing their money.

I want money to improve injured people’s lives. That is why I loved structured settlements. When I set up one, a person had a chance at a normal life. I knew they would not run out of money.

Or so I thought.

In 1994, a guy named Mr. Wentworth showed up on television, telling people to sell him their structured settlements. If you watched daytime television, you could not miss him.

Mr. Wentworth is not Mr. Wentworth at all. He was an actor hired by a company called J.G. Wentworth.

J.G. Wentworth is a leader in what is politely called the settlement-purchaser industry. A former Kentucky lawmaker had another term: He called it a “sleazy industry.”

Settlement purchasing is a billion-dollar industry. The lawmaker called it sleazy, but he did not call it stupid. The industry knows how to make big bucks. All it takes is some slick ads and injured people.

Kentucky’s General Assembly looked to limit the practice. It eventually passed a law that  made it possible to sell a structured settlement but only with court approval. Extreme hardship had to be a consideration.

Few people sold their structured settlements after the legislation passed, and Mr. Wentworth went off the television.

But after a decade or so “Mr. Wentworth” is back, followed by a host of imitators and competitors. Somehow, some way, they have gotten around the legislation that so many fought to pass.

Several of us worked very hard to get settlement purchasers regulated around the country. When almost every state and the federal government passed legislation, I thought we had done the job.

I was wrong.

Judges were supposed to oversee the settlement purchasing process. World renowned bankruptcy judge Joseph Lee takes it seriously, but I am afraid he is a rarity. Too many judges are rubber stamping structured settlement sales. Settlement purchasers have figured out what local lawyers to hire, and few people seem to care — until the people selling structured settlements run out of money.

I would like to see a study of how people who sold their structures have done afterwards. Like the lottery winners I write about, I suspect injured people who sold their settlements have done poorly.

When the damage to society is unveiled, Mr. Wentworth won’t be welcomed back after all.

DON MCNAY is a columnist for the Richmond (Ky.) Register. Contact him at don@mcnay.com.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • RedBlueAmerica: What should the U.S. do about illegal immigrant children?

    The crisis along the southern U.S. border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.
    President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in borrowed money from taxpayers to cover the growing “care, feeding and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups” when our own veterans are not taken care of. Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

    July 17, 2014

  • VA scandal highlights the need to change Pentagon spending priorities

    The ongoing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal raises an important question: When our veterans are being denied access to basic health care, why is the Pentagon squandering billions of dollars on programs that do not benefit our military forces? Is there a link in organization attitudes?

    July 16, 2014

  • For better politics, it’s time for some raging moderates

    Like more than 20 percent of my fellow Californians, I am now classified as a no-party-preference voter, registered to vote but with no affiliation to any of the state’s political parties.
    I am for lower taxes and for marriage equality. I am tough on crime and I am anti-abortion. I believe that a pathway to citizenship is a necessary part of immigration reform and that student test scores should be a critical component of teacher evaluations.

    July 15, 2014

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results