Thursday, December 19, 2019

I Hartford through the Gripevine. (Grifter, award thyself)


“There are approximately 1,010,300 words in the English Language, but one could never string enough words together to properly express how much I want to hit you with a chair.”

- Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson [Allegedly]

Hello Blogiteers!

Man oh man, how time flies when you’re having fun- between writing, sending out magazine pitches and the follow-up meetings, enjoying the occasional green-chile bacon-cheeseburger, prepping for my workman’s comp AZIC teleconference in January, and hand-crafting Voodoo dolls resembling my enemies, the days are just zipping by. Certain aspects of my life however, are still maintaining their glacial pace, but that’s really more of a pathetically transparent attempt by unethical parties to stave off the inevitable of being held accountable for their past actions, more than everything else, hence the quote above.

Although to be fair, it seems like a waste of a good chair, even if its sacrifice across the smug face of some well-deserving corporate slime-slug could be considered an act of nobility. I’ve already referenced one of those entities in my last blogvella and gotten it off my plate, so the end result is that the blade of my lexicon guillotine has not only been successfully tested, it’s also undergone a rigorous steam-cleaning and blade sharpening, just in the nick of time to accept it’s next unwilling dinner guest. But before I start honing my claws on this soon to be scratching post, let’s touch upon something happy, forward-thinking, and super tech sexy- my brand-new insulin pump, made by the fine folks over at a company known as Tandem. I’ve only been wearing this thing less than three weeks, and already have seen several noticeable changes for the better, from a consistently lower blood glucose range to less neuropathic pain, plus some possible weight gain to boot- great upticks, all.

Factor in that within the next month or so, this system will be coordinating in real time with a *BGM, and this tech will truly be kicking ass, taking names, and promptly forgetting them.
*[Blood Glucose Monitor]  

While it’s been somewhat of a personal comfort adjustment to be physically attached to this gear 24/7, it hasn’t been that much of a challenge, past the minor technical issues intrinsic with dialing the system in to fit my specific needs. Lightweight, intuitive, and state of the art, this gizmo has made the most alteration in my health as of late, far beyond the reach of past endocrinologists, diabetic support groups, or the routine cabana-boy sacrifices I’ve been offering up for nearly two decades to the all-powerful Greek blood god, Lamia.

She by the way, was yet another notch on the heavily whittled bedposts of wanton philanderer and perpetual man-boy God Zeus, she suffered the most severe of reprisals from the Goddess Hera, when their affair came to light during a mixer on Mount Olympus. This revelation led to her children being slaughtered, (because the Greek Gods were petty little bitches) either at the hand of Hera, or according to alternate versions of the myth, Lamia herself. To add further overkill to an already salted wound, the spurned Hera then spitefully malformed Lamia into an immortal hybrid of half-snake, half-woman, as seen below. 

Feted to be irresistible, she victimizes the demographic of young men, by seducing them carnally, and when done, feasting on their blood, which seems like a fair trade for the unique experience beforehand that one will have. I’m no risk taker by nature, but in order to settle both my curiosity and the feeling of being *terroused, I would totally accept the random whims of a coin toss if she actually looks like this. Cursed with eternal anguish and the inability to sleep due to the loss of her children, she removed her own eyes in desperation to achieve some form of rest. This was “allowed” and noted by Zeus as an act of pity, because apparently as King of the Gods, he had no idea how to not only reverse the non-deserved punishment, but also how to keep his lightning bolt safely tucked inside his toga.
*[Terroused: An amalgamation of sensible fear and arousal, that in general, could almost pass for being a rewarding experience, like say… having mad-dog sex with an immortal snake-succubus.]

Dick move, Zeus. Literally.

1n 1999, the year I was unfortunately diagnosed with this voraciously unkind disease, insulin pump technology was not too surprisingly, some miles away from where it currently is now. At that time, the “hot” model was the newly introduced MiniMed 508 insulin pump, which offered a revolutionary design complete with remote programming, an ability to administer or suspend insulin delivery, the option to set patient specific delivery patterns, a low volume alert, an optional vibrate mode, and most important of all, a child-block feature, which most likely, was designed to thwart adults, because as anyone who’s ever spent any amount of time around children knows, they can get into anything. That’s why I leave all my truly dangerous toys out in the open, and lock up my vegetables. The little bastards fall for it every time.

Viewed in retrospect, it looks like it was originally designed by Fisher-Price, but back then? This was the tech that all the hip Diabetics wore to the coolest parties. As I noted earlier, the one I’m currently sporting however, is the Tandem t:slim X2,  and this doodad is awesome. How does it work, exactly? The pump works by using CGM data regarding my blood glucose levels and automatically adjusts my needs by either introducing or withholding if necessary, the insulin I require. It displays not only my glucose readings, but also the low/high glucose trend rates, as well as the infusion pump data. Every 5 minutes, the tech in this miracle box evaluates my blood glucose statistics provided by the CGM, and forecasts what my future levels will be. If they’re predicted to be too low for comfort, the pump will self-suspend the delivery of insulin; otherwise, the pre-programmed feed rate continues, and I get to go on living, which I’ve always liked.

Granted, while I have had two very worrying low blood sugar episodes in relation to this tech’s dosing output, one of those requiring the intervention of my local paramedics, I’m not holding said tech responsible, since dialing in the baseline for what’s essentially my new external pancreas was never promised to be a stumble-free learning curve, far from it. It’s just going to take time to integrate this into what will eventually be my everyday normal. On the upside, I’m sleeping better, I feel better, and my skin resembling a draping of liquid wax over an underfed skeleton is slowly fading as time goes on, so knock on wood, this might just work out for me.

And if not, I’ll fall back upon my master strategy of harvesting a brand-new pancreas and nervous system from a gullible barista who trusts me when I tell them to take a good whiff of my special soy latte that’s been spiked with chloroform. Always have a Plan “B”, I say. Just make sure you haven’t told anybody where your secret lair is. I made that mistake once regarding my crawlspace and its stockpile of dead clowns, and I’m still hearing about it.

Speaking of disagreeable things that certain people would like to keep secret, it’s been blatantly obvious that of all the cherished institutions within this hallowed and storied country, the modern insurance industry is one of the vilest. Corporations as a rule, share a lot in common with your worst exes- they’ll stretch the envelope until you push back with a consistency of action, and even with that Sword of Damocles hanging over their metaphorical heads, they’ll still be looking for alternate ways to push their endgame past you. Profits over people is the new credo of today’s conglomerate robber barons, and one of the more prominent torch-bearers of this perversion of ethical business practices are the companies who are tasked to protect you and your interests.

Many could debatably argue that these flaws of character should be singularly bestowed upon the bile pond that is our two-party political system, but I would respectfully disagree, if just for the sake of how each presents itself to the public. One of these organizations is unabashedly content with the displaying of it’s complete and total lack of ethics, empathy, compassion, or sense of personal integrity for all the world to see, the other likes to pay millions for advertising trying to sway you into believing they’ve got your back, no matter what awful situation you may find yourself in.

 After all, if you can’t trust vintage advertising from an era where married women who wanted to think for themselves needed permission from their husbands first, and American minority citizens weren’t allowed to co-mingle with Whites, then who can you have faith in? Only Walter Cronkite, and that dude’s been dust for quite some time now. As the well-known meme states: “The USA is the only country in the world with “pre-existing conditions… everywhere else it’s called your “Medical History.” Pre-existing conditions is a term created by insurance companies as a means to defraud their customers.” 

In my experience, the insurance industry is the only one in the world that forces you to pay for an overpriced product that you will never receive true ownership of, unless your Chakras are aligned, Planet Mercury is in retrograde, a swan cooks a four-course Italian meal, and a Michael Bay movie is nominated for, and subsequently wins, an Oscar for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress. In other words, just this side of “never going to f**king happen”.
 
Long before I was forced into having to deal on a semi-regular basis with the purposefully maddening intricacies that embody the American insurance industry, I always opined that the corporate and salacious interests involved were nothing more than legalized Ponzi-schemes at best, and generally representative of what true unconstrained greed can achieve at its worst.

For those of you not familiar with this descriptive term, it is named after 1920’s businessman Charles Ponzi, who became infamous for his perpetration of it. A type of scam known as a pyramid-scheme, it lures in gullible investors and pays them supposed dividends using assets swindled from earlier victims. The continued success of the fraud depends on its victims believing that their profits come from imaginary product sales or investments, and that they remain oblivious to the fact that their payoffs are the end-result of the fleecing of others. This fragile deception can only be sustained for as long as new victims continue to naively underwrite the fraud, and do not expect any form of quick compensation for their initial investment.

A quick show of hands- does the underpinning of this fraudulence sound strangely familiar to a certain industry’s business model? Money exchanges hands for a promised service, guarantees are made and assurances given, and when the time for reimbursement strikes nigh, you find that the persons in charge of said recompense left town two weeks earlier, leaving no forwarding address, and their remaining cohorts claim they never met you in the first place, This is pretty much the SOP for most insurance companies, except that they’ll also generally leave you with a low-quality calendar as a reminder as to who it was that screwed you over in the first place, as they shirk the responsibility they claim to have sworn an ethical oath to.

And in my opinion, when it comes to passing the proverbial buck as if it were covered in fire and girl cooties, nobody does a better imitation of a drunken Vishnu juggling lava than my most recent archnemesis, that being the purported insurance provider known as The Hartford. A company whose total profits last year topped over 1.5 Billion, it promotes its public identity via the figurehead of a strong and noble stag, versus the bean-counting shiver of ruthless corporate sharks that it really is, if I were to offer up my opinion. With a sense of retrospection, I’m afraid I must apologize for that overly caustic comparison. My sincerest apologies to the sharks I may have offended, as actual sharks actually serve a purpose on this planet, and the only point an insurance company seemingly has as far as I’ve observed, is to stand between your doctor and you, as they rifle through your pockets, looking for loose valuables.

On the upside, it must present as a nice change of pace for a used car salesman or even Lucifer himself, to stand next to a person who peddles insurance, and think to themselves: “At least I ‘m not that.” Sure, he may be the epitome of all that is unholy, evil, and selfish, but even the Highest of the Fallen doesn’t deserve to be compared to people who aren’t ethical enough to work as middle management in Hell. I’m kidding of course, because I’m fairly certain that while Satan’s personally questionable morals might not carry over into his HR department, he’s cognizant of the fact that his public reputation is already bad enough that he doesn’t need to be caught hanging out with individuals such as those. But then again, if I have to be truly honest, I’ve always had a particular affinity for persons I find to be shady who pretend wholeheartedly that they’re legit.

It’s that whole Heart of Mold thing I’ve always had going for me. It just tries so hard to see the greed in… oops, I meant “the good” in everybody, no matter who they are. Fortunately for the sake of this screed, that POV is currently undergoing some long overdue renovation, and is at the moment, currently offline. But what isn’t, is my stereotypical approach to how I write- no matter what the topic is, be it the intimacies of my life or a magazine assignment, it all starts with the nucleus of an idea, and a foundational framework bolstered by research to give it the validity it requires. Author Mark Twain once observed: “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” Wise words indeed. And despite my penchant for the aspect of creative writing, there’s no need to fabricate from sackcloth when reality is far more compelling to begin with.

Think how much more interesting Titanic as a movie would have been if it had bothered to center on any other person on board save for Rose and Jack, its wholly fictional star-crossed lovers. I’d pay top dollar to see a movie about the ship’s band that played until the waters claimed them, or one which profiled millionaire playboy Ben Guggenheim, who’s mythic last words were recorded in history as: "We've dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” That boys and girls, is what the Russians cite as “личная неприкосновенность” [personal integrity] and is far more worth exploring artistically than the treacle-laden story of a rich brat who won’t share a floating door, which in turn, causes her newest boyfriend gladly choosing to drown rather than commit to a dedicated relationship with someone so cluelessly selfish. Referencing incognizance and rampant self-interest, I harken back to the subject at hand, that being my assessment of insurance entity The Hartford.

As you may have guessed by now, I’m not a fan of insurance companies in general, but I have a very particular disdain for this company specifically, due to my ongoing personal experiences interacting with them and their legal proxy. I’ve previously written about them in aggregation with my former employer, but this time around, my attention is focused solely on them alone. This, depending on what perspective of my claws you’re seeing, can be construed either as a singular privilege, or as a profane curse. But as noted above, research is what gives a story its internal structure, so let me share some concerning their origins. You know- the where, the who, and the want that gives both depth to the topic and an understanding of as to why I currently decry them as the lowest of carrion-feeders.

As noted, all stories start with an idea and it’s corroborating research, so let’s see what exists to back up both sides of this literary coin. Naturally, the best place to find the path to an eventual conclusion is to start with the established history that the Hartford likes to wax rhapsodic about on it’s official website. However, before i do that, I’d like to offer a a gracious freebie of sorts for my newest friend, that being a critique of their online presence in regards to web design. For the sake of trustworthiness, I admit that I have no practical experience in designing websites, nor do I possess any form of mad-dog coding skills. But I do know effective marketing, and my eyes still work well enough to spot a “built-from-a-box” website when I see it.

Seriously. Take a look at this online equivalent of a glass of bargain-basement Ovaltine, and tell me I’m wrong: https://www.thehartford.com/

Photos that despite possibly being custom-shot, still present as if they were leased from a stock photo website or screenshot off of Sprint’s website, is never a good take on a company’s professional look, as it’s the Internet’s version of inadvertently using Comic-Sans to pen what is supposed to present as a professional E-mail. But that’s not even the worst aspect, when one observes their amateurish attempt at creating a viable marketing identity. Once again, I have no actual practice in designing websites- hell, even mine is based off of a generic template, but at least I tried to make it unique enough to distinguish it from my real and imagined competition.

Key to that so far successful concept, was a concerted effort not to make it look cheap, or worse, bog it down with one too many narcissistic bells and whistles, a deliberate act of self-effacement that the Hartford not only ignored, but deemed way too humble to even contemplate in the first place. For proof, just go read the following *section on their seemingly designed by a Korean slave-laborer IT guy.  
*[https://www.thehartford.com/about-us/insurance-history].

Once again, this is an obvious joke, but you would think that a multibillion-dollar company could afford the investment required to back up the image they so tirelessly endorse in their onslaught of print and television marketing. For those of you who’d rather watch paint dry than plow through a version of truth that’s been over-sanitized into easily digested corporate pablum, I’ll condense it down for you as best as I can. Let me just say that I’ve seen less creative omission while scanning random Tinder profiles, and those hail mostly from truly desperate people trying to get laid on a Thursday in Minnesota. But as should be done with all things, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The origins of the Hartford date back to 1810, a year that had more than its fair share of notable historical events.

For instance, it witnessed the annulment of of Napoleon and Josephine’s marriage, which allowed the dictator to then marry the Duchess of Parma, Maria Ludovica Leopoldina Franziska Therese Josepha Lucia, less than two months later. I can only imagine what a complete bitch it was type-setting  those wedding announcements with a moniker like that. Moving forward, it was also the time frame in which Beethoven composed Für Elise, when the Rev. Henry Duncan opened the world's first commercial savings bank in Scotland, which presented pens with a life of chained bondage, and in a moment still celebrated in song, puppetry, and interpretative dance, The Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves was founded in Dedham, Massachusetts…

As if we could ever forget.

The year started closing itself out with the publication of [take a deep breath] “L'art de conserver pendant plusieurs années toutes les substances animales ou végétales” by Nicolas Appert which was the first literary-based account of food preservation using airtight containers. This of course led to the vanilla-extract soaked Tupperware wars, in which many fruit cakes were unfortunately, preserved for the ages. The Republic of West Florida declared its independence from Spain, only to find itself annexed by the fledgling United States a few months later. But only after a cabal of savvy diplomats introduced its elder citizens to shuffleboard, early bird specials, and Cubano sandwiches. In social news of the day, King George III of the United Kingdom was recognized as insane, which even now, is quite the feat, considering English royals inbreed as if they were competing for the top ribbon in the Westminster Dog Show.

And in a totally unexpected power move, Sweden of all places, declared war on the United Kingdom, using their time-honored battle tactic of hiding ABBA mixtapes within vintage cuckoo clocks and Marabou chocolate bars. Now, for some of this, I’ve blatantly stretched the truth somewhat, but if an insurance company can allegedly do it without any form of accountability, then why can’t I? After all, my stuff is way better written, and far more entertaining to boot. Plus, there’s the added perk of my action or the lack thereof, not ever actually causing anyone lasting physical harm, unlike say, a certain company that takes the money and bolts when called up to hit the winning home run.

Speaking of which, the Hartford’s first incarnation in 1810 was that of a fire insurance company, which may be the reason why they tend to be such Scrooges with their purse strings, as they’ve had to cover numerous and massive claims over their history. In 1835 and in 1871, devastating fires ravaged the New York City Financial District and the City of Chicago, respectively. At the time of the 1835 incident however, Hartford’s president and directors nobly pledged their private fortunes to underwrite claims. A major departure from the actions of other insurance companies, who didn’t feel the ethical necessity to stand behind the needs of their customers.

The odds of getting that kind of pledge these days is equivalent to me successfully scoring a girlfriend-approved three-way with Milla Jovovich, but a boy can truly dream. And as we shall see later on, that stance of integrity has melted away faster than the Antarctic Ice cap currently has. In 1906, the city of San Francisco was struck by an earthquake, a disaster which killed up to 3,000 people, leveled over 80% of the city, and spawned a hell-storm of individual fires which burned relatively unchecked for days.

Worst. Bouncy Castle. Ever.

The cost of settling related claims at the time was $11,000,000, which when adjusted for inflation, would be the equivalent of $28,594,000 today. To put that into terms you can relate to, that kind of money today could easily buy you twenty-seven luxury apartments set in the heart of NYC, twenty-five McLaren Senna supercars complete with transparent doors, eight copies of Action Comics #1, known as the debut of Superman, or 2,859 “dates” with our current first lady and former escort, Melania Trump. Honestly, I’d rather have the car and the comic book, rather than a case of Slovenian herpes, but then again, having a stockpile of 95,313,333 Ding Dongs would also be nice too, figuring they cost an average of 30 cents each.

Just a thought.

Their high-profile client list ranges from organizations such as Yale University, to American presidents Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, along with baseball legend Babe Ruth among the most notable, and public projects such as the St. Lawrence Seaway, Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge, round out this distinguished roster. Along with this impressive register, they’ve also been a sponsor of disabled athletes since 1994, and since 1993, a Founding Partner and the Official Disability Insurance Sponsor of the U.S. Paralympics.

And for once, I’m not going to let my cynicism suggest this sponsorship is nothing more than shelter for a tax write-off or an opportunity to milk a PR stunt for every drop of goodwill it can provide. I for one, am 100% sure it’s all being done selflessly in the name and under the grace of humble charity. You know, like all corporations frequently do, out of the sheer goodness within their hearts? But I have to give them some credit where it’s due, because they definitely have mastered the delicate art of the humble-brag. The most insidious form of self-flattery, it’s where one makes a seemingly modest, statement that is crafted to draw consideration to one's supposedly admirable qualities or past achievements. By way of example, here’s what the Hartford likes to publicly deify about itself, straight off its own badly-designed website:

“And we continue to this day on a path of excellence. We’ve been fortunate to receive a variety of recognitions, including being named a World’s Most Ethical Company® 11 times over the years by the Ethisphere Institute. But it’s helping our customers prevail through unexpected challenges that we’re most proud of. And we’re looking forward to doing the same for the next 200 years and beyond.”

Christopher Swift, the Hartford’s current Chairman & CEO goes even further:

“Building on our proud history of doing the right thing, you can count on The Hartford to engage on issues when we can make a difference and influence change, and to demonstrate our positive impact on society.”

The first thing that comes to mind as I read these ever so humble declarations from the corporate coyotes who’ve been stonewalling my valid claim for nearly two years, is this: give me a f**king break, you carpet-bagging snake-oil salesmen. If your arms were any longer from patting yourself on the back, you’d be able to give the person sitting three seats in front of you on the corporate jet a full reach-around without even suffering the indignity of a case of wrist cramp. But there’s still yet another curious achievement here for me to call attention to, that being their claim of “being named a World’s Most Ethical Company® 11 times by the Ethisphere Institute.”

This is in fact, a true statement, and is an accolade that the Hartford loves to laud. However, it sets up the question of what exactly is The Ethisphere Institute, and why does their fawning approval mean anything in the first place? Don’t misconstrue my curiosity, as I love compliments as much as the next steeped in pure narcissism scribe, but I prefer to receive them from people I actually know, and/or respect to begin with. For instance, if the late Kurt Vonnegut had ever complimented my writing, I would have had his critique tattooed on my chest in reverse so I could read it in my bathroom mirror every single time I stepped out of my shower. But if my local hemp-clad barista said essentially the same thing, I’d accept the compliment, but would hardly brag about it to the inner circle, if you know what I mean.

Well… unless I got a free Mocha out of it, and then everyone within earshot would be forced to hear about how even the general populace thinks I’m brilliant. So, who are these guys again, and what do they actually do? According to the online information available, The Ethisphere Institute is a for-profit company located in Scottsdale, AZ, that defines itself on its official website as such: “The Ethisphere® Institute is the global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices that fuel corporate character, marketplace trust, and business success. Ethisphere has deep expertise in measuring and defining core ethics standards using data-driven insights from our Ethics Quotient, and works with the world’s largest companies to enhance culture capital with the insights from our culture assessment data set, which is grounded in our 8 Pillars of Ethical Culture. 

Ethisphere honors superior achievement through its World’s Most Ethical Companies recognition program and provides a community of industry experts with the Business Ethics Leadership Alliance (BELA).”

Wow. That is certainly one of the of the finest amalgamations of buzzword hubris wordsmithing that I think I’ve ever read, and I’m a huge fan of corporate gobbledygook as a rule. They are also responsible for the publishing of Ethisphere Magazine, and honor select businesses with a yearly World's Most Ethical Companies award. Founded in 2007 as a facet of Corpedia, a compliance training company, the division was sold in 2010, but the Ethisphere's proprietorship was retained by current Executive Director Alex Brigham, who was initially responsible for its origin. Other amenities offered are corporate ethics verification services, promoted under catchy names such as "Ethics Inside Certification" and "Compliance Leader Verification", and an annual Global Ethics Summit, presented in New York City every March.

The question has been raised over the years by a slew of articles [links below] asking how one can balance the granting of ethics awards while still maintaining a for-profit business model, which I feel, is not only a valid query, but a fair one. After all, how can an organization that decides which companies are the most ethical in the world, also accept membership dues from those very same contenders without the appearance of a massive conflict of interest?

LINKS: 

/// https://slate.com/business/2010/03/beware-of-corporate-consulting-firms-offering-awards-for-corporate-ethics.html
 /// https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20141028-column.html https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/morning_roundup/2016/05/widener-schwartz-ethic-rankings-pepsi-ups-intel.html 
 /// https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2015/03/19/the-worlds-most-ethical-companies-2015/#2ef1236c51e8
/// https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/ethical-awards-green-wash-sustainability 
/// https://psmag.com/economics/the-oxymoron-of-business-ethics-proves-its-worth-3889

Ethisphere stipulates in an attempt to avoid conflicts of interest, that its self-nominated WMEC applicants contribute to no more than 1.5% of its annual revenue. However, Ethisphere has also consistently declined to inform the public how much revenue it annually collects, so your guess is as good as mine what that figure may actually be in the long run. It has been estimated however by www.owler.com, that it’s revenue may be as high as 11M per year. Ethisphere’s main source of funding is underwritten by its yearly seminars regarding business ethics, along with ad revenue generated from its in-house magazine, which is published quarterly. This is in addition to the 10K fee that Ethisphere already charges WMEC recipients for their use of the World’s Most Ethical Companies logo, along with a “processing fee”, that companies must pay to even be considered for a review.

As of 2014, this fee ranged from $500 to $1,500, depending on the company’s profit status and annual earnings.

The process required to win a WMEC Award, starts with a company who after nobly nominating itself, answers a survey containing 150 specifically targeted enquiries concerning its business culture in regards to its leadership, corporate citizenship, and of course, its sense of ethics. As posted on it’s website, Ethisphere practices due diligence by searching online for information about the company, not only looking at what employees have said about the company, but what’s been written about them as well. What Ethisphere seemingly doesn’t do in depth however, is survey the customers of the nominated businesses they evaluate, or accept input from the general public, which in my opinion, is a far better indicator of veracity regarding a company’s publicly presented ethics.

I only say this because in my personal experience, it’s rare for a current worker to directly call out their employer, and ex-employees may have an axe to grind in regards to the same. Based on the contender’s answers, along with any equivalent evidence they’ve submitted to bolster their claims, Ethisphere then scores and ranks the said nominees accordingly. A process that when done, will result in its assessors determining what companies deserve the status of World’s Most Ethical. Despite this set of strictly followed guidelines, there have been more than a few cases of companies making the cut, despite being enmired in alleged unethical activities.  

In 2014, Blue Shield of California was one of these, who previous to its being bestowed the honor, received a sharp rebuke from the state’s insurance commissioner for its 10% rate hike affecting over 80K policyholders, which was called “unreasonable”. Other dubious winners include the garbage-disposal company known as Waste Management, that in 2011, settled charges that it violated environmental laws in Massachusetts by cutting a check for $7.5 million, and Eastman Chemical, who in 2016, settled a class action lawsuit lodged by 224,000 residents and 7,300 business owners in the state of West Virginia, after the chemical they manufactured polluted the principal drinking water supply for thousands in the Kanawha Valley in January, 2014 This by the way, left more than 300,000 people without water… for days.

“World’s Most Ethical”, in the same way that I’m a “Russian Ballerina.”, or that Donald Trump is “Respected Worldwide”. If I were to issue an opinion, I wouldn’t suggest outright that their system of value assessment is corrupted, but I do believe that they still have a few ethically challenged people to bounce out of the club, as 2019’s list of honorees debatably proves. Shockingly, the aforementioned and the equally reviled Eastman Chemical and Blue Shield of California are back in the fold, along with Allstate Insurance, which has been accused of delaying its claims process in order to thwart its customers, by denying valid claims or offering lower settlements rather than what should actually be paid. It has been ranked as one of the worst insurance companies in America by the American Association for Justice, which I discovered in under two minutes using Google, a factoid that the due diligence team at Ethisphere somehow missed.

Other entities that are on this dubious list of goodness have been accused of having alleged ethical lapses, that in theory, should have permitted the bouncer staff to keep them outside waiting in line, as the truly deserving get escorted upstairs to the VIP lounge. Other honorees that represent a Schrodinger’s paradox for being dually lambasted in public as unprincipled, and yet, are somehow still eligible to receive an ethics award at the same time? For sake of clarity and my readers sanity, I’ll list a small sample of the most egregious, and their alleged offenses, all of which apparently sat well with Ethisphere. This information by the way, all comes from either deep Google searches and/or publicly accessible archives, for anyone who wishes to see this data for themselves.

Capitol Power: environmental pollution concerns. Lilly Pharmaceuticals: multiple violations of the
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of I 977 in connection with the activities of its subsidiaries in China, Brazil, Poland and Russia. They also paid out in excess of $2.7 billion in fines and damages for deceptive sales tactics, paying $1.4 billion in 2009 to settle federal and state charges that they illegally marketed Zyprexa, which at the time, was one of the largest fines ever levied. In addition, they also faced more than 200 lawsuits alleging that the company knew that a pharmacist in Kansas City was diluting the company’s cancer drug Gemzar, but failed to notify authorities promptly. In 2003 it was reported that Lilly had paid $48 million to settle the cases. H&M Apparel: allegations of slave labor exploitation in their overseas production facilities, unsafe working conditions, racist or culturally insensitive marketing, and theft of intellectual property.

At the moment, there are over 120 ‘winners” on the *current WMEC award scorecard, and if a less than six-minute search can turn up what I just posted, I wonder aloud what else I might find out if I decided to go all-in on the rest I haven’t looked at. But then again, maybe the remainder are all morally pure as the thoughts of a Catholic priest- after all, Ethisphere has a due diligence team, and just because I managed to easily dig up the bones of Jimmy Hoffa, doesn’t mean that they’ve made a mistake, does it? And aren’t most corporations the ones we look to for calibrating our moral compass anyways? Maybe it was late on a Friday when they were compiling their *list, and everybody had mentally checked out by 2pm- it does happen. And as noted earlier, the Hartford has won 11 of these honorariums, and is on this year’s list as well.
*[https://www.worldsmostethicalcompanies.com/honorees/]

What fine company they tend to keep. That’s heavy sarcasm, for those of you who are new here.

Keeping in mind my own personal experience with these alleged wealth-hoarding hucksters of healthcare, and the unethical hypocrites they find themselves lumped in with, one must ask the question of what particular sins their representative stag tries to trample underfoot in a futile attempt to keep its public face from having  a truckload of egg on it. And because I’m a giver at heart, I’m more than happy to answer that query for you, in the nicest way possible, and to do so, I’ll be using the Internet the same way Ethisphere claims it does, except I’ll be doing it correctly when I make my final assessment, due to the fact I’ll be posting comments from their customers, not their PR department. A small writer’s note: all customer reviews regarding The Hartford can be found at the links listed below, in case any of you want to be further disappointed with this company then I already am.
---------------------------------------
*From https://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/hartford_life.html  

*Stephanie of Redlands, CA, April 14, 2019 : We had Life Insurance on my hubby which was taken out automatically for almost 24 years before they started bothering us to double/triple our payments then to finally Terminate the Policy all together without any reimbursement? Hope they enjoy the tens of thousands that we gave them for NOTHING! CROOKS!!! 

*Sheila of Littleton, CO, March 9, 2019: My mother worked for Burberry for 15 years. She went on LTD due to Ovarian cancer. Despite her continuous employment Hartford denied the life insurance claim after she passed. My research shows they are the worst. Ironically, she had another policy with a no name company who paid out, no questions asked. Hartford has no problem collecting premiums but it ends there. I only gave them one star because I had to. 

*Ellen of Belmont, CA, June 14, 2018: No one should trust The Hartford. The Hartford claims to provide insurance but my personal experience was the opposite of insurance: 5 years of delay and harassment by The Hartford's attorneys instead of insurance payments. I am not a litigious person but after five years, I had to get an attorney just to close my claim so I could take care of myself independently (not allowed to do that with an open claim). This is a vicious, sadistic company full of psychopaths who delight in harming people desperate for insurance they have been promised in a crisis. My extended family has decided to never purchase any Hartford insurance products because there is no insurance. It's a fraudulent claim. One star is generous.  

*Deborah of Tavares, FL, April 16, 2018: Had Hartford Home Insurance for approximately 22 years. Never had claim on homeowner’s insurance. Recently had two roofs, trees, fence damaged from Hurricane Irma. Our claims adjuster lied to my husband and me constantly saying different things. Going back and forth six months. Not wanting to pay for damages done. Even spoke to his supervisor and nothing was done. Even gave us problems over ten different contractors. Even lied about the amount being paid. Not the correct figures. Now finding out Hartford's figures were incorrect with another Adjuster being Approximately $2,0000 short of paying Restoration Specialist for repairs. Mr. Edward ** was our claims adjuster and constantly lied to us. And not the correct materials. We are still very upset with the results and how we were treated. Always paid our insurance monthly on time 23 years and was treated like this. Was first claim on home in 23 years. 

*Vicky of Marion, VA, Oct. 31, 2017: I took out this insurance will I worked as a LPN... They faithfully took out their premium every 2 weeks. Was deducted out of my paycheck... through a Lutheran nursing home. Then I was diagnosed with cancer. Worked for a while, but chemo and radiation therapy took a toll on my body. Had to quit work... Almost died. They paid me 875$ a month. Until I was to see a Dr. out of their network. Dr. ** ... For him to do an eval... Which was touch my toes, walk, and talk to him. Question is he did nothing... I got denied. How convenient for The Hartford. Does not matter if I have memory issues, can't walk well... Or have bilateral hand tremors... I have been treated unfair by The Hartford and their Dr., Dr. **... 

*Joie of Yorktown, VA, May 16, 2017: My husband recently passed away from Leukemia after a long hard battle. I just found out from the company he worked for that Hartford had denied the life insurance claim even though they had been paying for the insurance each month up until the time he died. Harford is stating that since he had been collecting Long Term Disability through Hartford for over 12 months they will not pay us his life insurance money, I don't understand. Hartford was more than willing to accept the payment each month from the company he worked for but when it comes time to doing what's right, they don't. I do not even know what to say.
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Damn… if even half of these are true, and I see no reason why they would not be, I’d opine that the Hartford keeps it’s sense of ethics and personal morality in the same place where they keep their checkbook- that being out of reach of it’s large base of feeling-screwed-over customers. But this site isn’t the only one out there hoping to add the rack of a stag on the walls of its study, far from it. Check out these customer reviews as well, and you might come to the realization as I did, that if this company’s ethics were any lower, they could pole-vault with headroom to spare, under a cockroach doing the Cobra Pose in a yoga class. And that boys and girls, is as low as you can go.

With that being said, let’s read some more reviews of this noted WMEC “winner”, shall we?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
**From https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-hartford-hartford-2:  

**Kim J, Temecula CA, 9/11/2019: The biggest scum bag POS company and people ever to exist on this earth. May G_D strike them all down. My tiny company has been harassed for years by these parasitic tape worms. We canceled their insurance, received email of the cancellation, and these blood sucking liars still sent attorney and collectors. This experience makes me very upset with this country's lack of protection of commerce and individuals engaging in business. DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH AND HARTFORD DEPT. Why is there NO class action? I'm willing to organize. 

**Audrey J, Las Vegas NV, 6/18/2019: I just canceled my policy with this company and switched to another. Multiple reasons. First and foremost, pathetic customer service from the adjuster VERONICA HARRISON and also from the regular agents. Also, the collision company that I was sent to for a repair quote, Gerber Collision on Boulder Hwy in Las Vegas, is just as pathetic. "Well there could be some damage underneath your car but I won't know that until I lift it up" ... which he didn't even bother to do before sending a vehicle repair quote. Won't elaborate on VERONICA HARRISON's pathetic customer service skills. Glad I don't have to deal with her anymore. The Hartford sent me a letter stating that they pulled a consumer report and found that there was someone in my household who was a licensed driver (male, under 25) and considered a risk.  I needed to contact them and if they didn't hear from me, the person would be added to my policy and my premium would go up. Adding someone to my policy without my permission or consent is a no no and good reason for me to cancel my policy with your company. I will NEVER do business with this company again!!! 

**Chris M, Bayside NY, 6/1/2019: I had insurance for a small business with Hartford in 2018.  I Mailed, emailed, and called Hartford to give them notice that I was not renewing the policy, yet Hartford did not acknowledge it and keeps sending me bills that I do not owe.  I'm still receiving messages threatening collections for a bill that I do not owe. I received an email this morning at 5:30 am.  I called their customer service AGAIN, but they refused to correct the situation. 

**Ali R, Folsom CA, 11/22/2019: If you are an employer do NOT go with this company. This is my workers comp people (unfortunately) while they may seem so helpful and nice, when it comes to actually following through and paying, they are horrible. NOBODY, with half a brain expects to get rich off workers comp we barely make anything out of it yet this horrible claim company treats the little they give out like a cake ration in a sea of asparagus rations. Point blank I am unhappy, they just put a hold on a very small check after taking over a month and resending it multiple times to get to me. If you are an employer considering going with them please for the sake your employees do not. If you are an employee stay on top of these people because they are the opposite of reliable and honest. Even when they clear and give me the small due amount they promised. It will still leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I can’t dissuade you enough from this terrible company. Just because they come across as courteous and likeable, what really matters is their follow through, and The Hartford lacks in their follow through.
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World’s Most Ethical”? indeed. And the truly sad part of all these reviews and tales of personal experiences? The lists of complaints literally go on forever. I’ve seen less vitriolic bitch-slaps occur between drag queens fighting over a tube of lipstick than I’ve witnessed within these websites. Hell, I’ve gotten kinder and more charitable reviews from my ex-fiancé, and she had the misfortune of having to see me naked more than once, never mind the additional horror of knowing intimately how creative I can get with a box of Twinkies and a case of spray cheese. 

That disturbing visual aside, I was still very curious about how both the Hartford and Ethisphere were able to square the reality of what I discovered with the merest of research, with what said companies promote publicly. So, to satisfy this nagging concern of mine, I reached out to both organizations, via their media contact departments, requesting an official statement from each, to either defend or clearly explain their respective positions.

In the case of the Hartford, the first and I ,might add, the only one who bothered to respond back, that person on point would be one Matthew Sturdevant, who returned my message within the span of ten minutes, thereby proving he wasn’t trained under the slothful eyes of their customer service department, and for that, I’m extremely grateful. Presenting initially as polite, professional, and to the point, he was the first person I’ve dealt with from this company who didn’t make me feel like I was going to develop an aneurysm while talking to them. Initially. And I was at the time, grateful for this, as I can only afford so many CAT scans in a given year out of pocket.

After establishing the reason for why I was calling, he asked for additional info, to which I responded with this email:
-------------------------------------------------

Mr. Sturdevant-

First, thank you for your quick and professional response- it is appreciated. Second, what I’m looking for is a direct statement regarding your marketing as an ethical company, weighed against the numerous concerns and complaints regarding the same, that have been posted online. These seem to contradict the publicly presented image your PR team has crafted over your 200 year+ history, and in regards to my case, I’m simply using it as a conduit to add a personal dimension to my upcoming narrative as to how your company has conducted itself within the context of my experience.

I will be contacting Ethisphere this week as well, to get a similar statement if possible, as their alleged sins seem to be hidden from the general criteria of the public. I’m gravely concerned as a consumer, that they may have advertently created some questions that will have equally uncomfortable answers.

As also noted, I’m not trying to swing the needle one way or the other in my case- that’s for the courts to settle. I’m just interested in being able to use my horrendous experience to hopefully inform others how not to become ensnared within the mire that I and many others have found themselves in. My in-process screed is the first of a series of planned articles in which, I’m hoping to address certain workers’ rights issues as part of a total package for the various magazines I’m “pitching” to, and I feel that they and their eventual readers, will find them interesting, if not enlightening.

One can only hope.

As I stated in our conversation, I’d like to present your side verbatim, as to why I’m seeing a recurring common theme concerning certain issues that scores of your customers claim have occurred. This is solely intended as a means to achieve a truly balanced article that can show both sides of the coin, as it were. I have listed two web-links for you to peruse, that highlight the questions I asked of you earlier, and I hope they will be useful to you and your company in the future. I would also like to note that it took all of five minutes for me to find these resources, and that they are not the only ones that portray an exceedingly dim view of your corporation.

Links:
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/hartford_life.html
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-hartford-hartford-2

In closing, I thank you for your time and diligence.

Respectfully,
Wayne Michael Reich
------------------------------

See? I can be polite when the situation or the authorities demand it. Unexpected wonders never cease, as my Oma was fond of saying. But then again, she also used to tell me hopefully jokingly, that the German race was far superior to everyone else, so it might be prudent to take her advice with a tall pitcher of ice-cold milk and about a pound of ganja-laced *Pfeffernüsse.
*[Pfeffernüsse are traditional holiday spice cookies, that like most good and virtuous things, hail from the countries of Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands, which have given us windmills, cuckoo clocks, high-end chocolate, as well as ABBA, for which somebody should have gotten some kind of medal. Sadly, as a brittle diabetic, I’m only allowed to eat them under the supervision of a far more mature adult, rather than being left alone with the bag in my living-room pillow fort, as I would be if this world was truly just.]

To be honest, I didn’t expect much from my outreach- after all, why would any corporation with an increasingly tainted reputation want to willingly throw themselves in front of a possibly biased runaway bus? I sure as Hell wouldn’t, and I’m the type of guy who looks forward to confrontation the way a four-year-old looks at Christmas. And to be fair, it’s not like I work for the New York Times, or the Washington Post to begin with, so the only interest they might have in attempting to placate me or my concerns, is strictly one of regionalized damage control- no more, no less. But I could be wrong. I doubt it, but I could be. After all, I’m still flummoxed that the ghastly films Saw and Sharknado apparently deserved a franchise, but the truly magnificent Xanadu did not.

But that’s a topic for another time, as I just find it so infuriating when people fail to comprehend that Olivia Newton John + Jeff Lynne + Electric Light Orchestra = MAGIC. And don’t even get me started on how 1980’s Flash Gordon was snubbed at that year’s Oscars- we’ll be here for weeks.

Speaking of possibly deliberate snubs, I noted that Ethisphere couldn’t be bothered to respond to my request for an official statement, despite several phone messages and an initial email asking for a clarification of their very public stance regarding the number of ethical voids their diligence team puzzlingly missed. If I were to look at this with a cynical eye, I might suggest that a for-profit company that hands out awards for ethics in regards to their accuracy, and whose selection process allows applicants for such to self-nominate, may not be all that interested in answering a slew of discomforting questions. And Heaven forbid, if I were to draw any definitive conclusions from that. One thing I do find odd though, is the fact that there is an *estimated staff of forty-five supporting this company, and yet when you call their contact number as I did for three days, it immediately goes to voice mail. Say what I will about the Hartford, but I didn’t have to sit on my hands for three days waiting for their media liaison to return my messages… initially.
*[https://www.owler.com/company/Ethisphere]

Just a casual observation from me to you, and anybody else who’s currently paying attention.

Normally, I’d be thrilled when my bitchy Thunderdome is a few contestants shy of a full-on Battle Royal, but not this time.  I’m actually quite morbidly curious as to how these companies can allegedly practice the craft of *doublethink without any sense of irony or shame, and I really wanted to see if their respective takes lined up on any level. For me, their reluctance to join in is a mixed bag at best. On one hand, I get to run my mouth unchecked, but I do so without the pride that comes when you’ve earned the right by turning your opponent into a metaphorical if not screaming, holster for your chain-saw.
*[Doublethink is the ability to accept in tandem two contrary beliefs as equally accurate. It is somewhat of a relative to the concepts of duplicity, impartiality, and cerebral discord, although practitioners who possess this self-preserving ability typically never acknowledge the inherent conflict within their divided psyche. This descriptive term was coined by author George Orwell in his dystopian masterwork tome, also known as 1984. In the plotline of the book, the citizenry by and large, are incapable of being able to refuse ever acknowledging any deviation of belief from what they’ve been told by their society’s all-encompassing leader and father figure, AKA, Big Brother. To do so is considered an act of unforgiveable disloyalty, resulting in a criminal charge of Thoughtcrime, typically punishable by incarceration in a prison workcamp, or even death.]

So, it seems an alleged seller of reputations has disappeared into the Witless Projection Program, and yet, one of their best customers remains as viable as ever, despite the easily discovered and apparently common knowledge that it’s metaphorical crawlspace is congested with desiccated corpses that once walked this earth representing its reputation and corporate conscience. But I did say that I would willingly, if not happily, post their statement / rationalization verbatim, and here it is, complete with my responses in return:
Impressive. It only took two phone calls, two emails, and eight days for these poltroons to prove that the numerous online complaints regarding their practices are most certainly not only valid, but possibly underreported as well. It does strike as truly hilarious that this multi-million-dollar company, which brags like a Yiddish grandmother about winning a self-purchased ethics award for over a decade, folds like a Chinese contortionist when any form of focused scrutiny is cast upon them and it. 

As any American has discovered, when any corporation releases a cop-out statement of “no comment”, it foreshadows their future declaration of “we plead guilty to all charges, your honor”, in an open courtroom. Damn- I just hate it when I win a gentleman’s bet that was based on noting more tangible then my proven correct sense of pessimism. But on the upside, there’s a six-pack of Cinnamon Coke, and a green-chile-bacon-cheeseburger from the Toad in Downtown Silver City, NM, that a particular someone now has to pay up, so overall, it’s turning out to be a pretty good day for me, if I do say so myself. 

I guess it’s true what Albert Camus said: “A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.”

And if I were to extrapolate a theorem from this, I’d opine that a corporation without ethics is akin to an unfettered pack of carnivorous *Bilgesnipe, who’s vile bite causes cancer. But not to worry, because these very same creatures who have a well-deserved reputation for trampling the innocent underfoot, will see to it that the payments for your chemotherapy are cut off halfway through your treatment. So, take some sincere comfort in the fact you won’t have to suffer too long a length of time before your problems are over, if even a few of the multiple concerns lodged online are to be believed.
*[In the Marvel Comic Universe, Bilgesnipes are typically depicted as creatures of Asgard who are repulsive, destructive, and dim-witted. Thought to be native to Thor’s home-world, or possibly another planet within the Nine Realms, they share many commonalities with those who work within the ichor-stained halls of Earth’s insurance industry, save for the fact that they actually may possess a sense of shame and remorse.]

If there is one constant in the Cosmos, it’s that the morally craven will always find a true sense of equilibrium- in this case, a group of alleged grifters maintain the illusive veneer of an established customer service-based company, and a lone individual who sold their conscience for a paycheck some time ago, chose to serve as their media flack. Allegedly, and with no names attached, of course. 

Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want to be affiliated with a company who along with purchasing its debatably faux reputation, is tarred with the shame of sharing a commonality with others who have extensive past & current histories of fraud, bribery, labor exploitation, unsafe working conditions, inherent racism, cultural insensitivity, intellectual theft, price gouging, and environmental contamination. I probably should point out what a relief it was to discover that there wasn’t an as yet known sex-trafficking agency among this crowd, because that might have cast a somewhat negative pall upon the sterling reputation these companies falsely project.

Unless of course, they nominate themselves based on their efficiency moving their product across state lines, but it’s still a risky roll of the dice- after all, what would happen if they got one of those questions wrong? Can you imagine the embarrassment you’d feel being beaten out by the company that not only allegedly used slave labor to make it’s overpriced clothes, but who also unwittingly, fell for a brilliant prank wherein they bought the full *merchandising rights for metal bands that never existed? How would you be able to look at yourself in the mirror? If you’re the Hartford, this is probably an easy question to answer, since your basic blood-sucking Vampire generally doesn’t cast a reflection.
That’s yet another obvious joke, of course. The majority of modern mirrors tend to use aluminum for their backing, rather than the more expensive and traditional silver, so today’s contemporary vampire in theory, would totally be able to see themselves, just in case you were wondering how the upper management team at the Hartford are able to style their hair and makeup. 
*[https://consequenceofsound.net/2015/03/scandinavian-collective-creates-fake-bands-to-troll-hm-over-metal-clothing-line/]

But as we reach the end of this, my latest narrative, what have we learned? Well, we know now that with enough cash, you too can easily buy a sanitized (yet hollow) reputation after destroying the solidity of the one it took almost 200 years to establish, that as long as you surround yourself with far worse people, you can still argue you’re the noble one, and we’ve discovered that when it comes to following the virtuous path, most corporations have no idea how to read the map to do so in the first place. Mostly however, we’ve learned that the entity who allegedly denies widows their deserved benefits, who dismisses valid claims on soft technicalities, charges exorbitant fees for services not rendered, harasses it’s own customers, and launches multiple attempts to run out the clock in order to avoid it’s responsibilities, now vaunts morals that it’s 1835 Board of Directors couldn’t even begin to grasp. After all, Character is much easier kept than recovered, but when one has let their integrity fester for decades, the only solution is to douse the shambling corpse with petrol, light a match, and start anew.

Abraham Lincoln once noted that: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” And if I were to run with this analogy, I’d flat out state that if the Hartford were indeed a tree, it would find itself dying from both it’s own hubris and the most virulent form of Armillaria Root ever unleashed upon Earth’s arbors. This by the way, is a disease that occurs in both hard and soft woods, killing indiscriminately. And is a key leading cause of oak tree failure. Like most predators, it prefers victims that are already compromised by climate change, pests, or resource competition. It can by its very nature alone, expose healthy trees to future attacks by other harmful agents, which when you give the concept some pause, is a perfect microcosm of what the insurance industry represents as a whole in this country, that being a creeping blight of rot, killing and strangling all that is healthy, pure, and  unblemished about our basic humanity.

Profit over people. Profit over principle. Profit over a sense of personal integrity. And no amount of well-funded and purloined misdirection will ever change that. But al least they can go and post that self-satisfied logo on their website, and that’s what counts in the long run, am I right?

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” - John Wooden