Estate planning company to pay $14M for 'scare tactics'

A King County judge has ruled that a company that provides estate planning services must pay more than $6.1 million to 1,100 people in Washington state because it used “scare tactics” to pressure people to buy its products.

Texas-based CLA Estate Services, Inc. and CLA USA must also pay $6.5 million in civil penalties and more than $1.8 million in attorney’s costs and fees. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had sued the company in 2018.

According to a news release from Ferguson, the company must make restitution payments ranging from $450 to approximately $80,000, plus interest.

Judge Michael Scott last week also ordered CLA to pay each consumer 12 percent annual simple interest starting at the time the consumer purchased a CLA product.

The judge wrote: “CLA used scare tactics to instill fear in seniors that they would be left vulnerable and their families unprotected unless they purchased CLA’s Lifetime Estate Plan and set up revocable living trusts, which in turn gave CLA agents access to their living rooms and their assets to aggressively market complex annuities.”

The company was also ordered to have its representatives disclose to potential customers during home visits that they are licensed insurance agents working on commission and CLA must obtain written consent from consumers for such marketing practices.

"Thanks to our lawsuit, CLA can no longer exploit Washingtonians and must pay them back for its unlawful conduct,” Ferguson said.

A message left for the company seeking comment wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.

This article originally appeared on Cleburne Times-Review.


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