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MassMutual Goes Public With Case Against OConnell

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The board of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company says it has fired Robert O’Connell, the company’s former chairman, president and CEO, because it believes he engaged in a “systematic and pervasive pattern of willful abuse of authority, violations of the company’s code of conduct and other acts of willful gross misconduct.”

The board of MassMutual, Springfield, Mass., says it notified O’Connell June 2 of its intent to terminate his employment.

The board said on June 23 that it now has terminated O’Connell for cause.

After meeting with the board on June 23, O’Connell issued a statement that said, “Today before the board, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the process that was used as a basis for my termination. As I said to the board, I have done nothing improper and always discharged my responsibilities at MassMutual in the best interests of the company.”

“Going forward, through my legal counsel, I will be following the terms of my employment contract to arbitrate this matter. I fervently hope that the turmoil that has consumed the company ends and the new leadership is permitted to focus its attention on advancing the best interests of policyholders.”

Among the reasons for firing him, the MassMutual board says O’Connell:

==”Engaged in willful malfeasance…related to his supplemental compensation account, directly resulting in over a $30 million improper obligation to him and a comparable recorded expense to the company.”

==Caused payment of “unwarranted and excessive separation payments to be made to company personnel in connection with personally motivated and retaliatory terminations of employment.”

==”Engaged in abusive and improper management of the company, including retaliatory behavior against company employees who tried to act in the company’s best interests.”

==”Inhibited or prevented communication between company officers and employees and members of the board, and attempted to restrict the board’s ability to obtain information from company officers and employees.”

==Caused the company to sell him a condominium at MassMutual’s Marco Island, Fla., development, for an amount “substantially below the market price at which the company expected to sell the unit.”

==”Took or diverted company non-financial assets for his personal ends, including use of company aircraft for the personal use of his family and friends.”

==Interfered with the investigation and reprimand of two of his family members concerning the improper disclosure of confidential information of OppenheimerFunds, a MassMutual mutual fund subsidiary.

James Birle, MassMutual’s new chairman, said in a statement that the company intends to continue its present strategic direction and capital structure as a mutual life insurer, and to develop stronger systems and controls to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.

“We are financially and operationally strong,” Birle said.

Stuart Reese has succeeded O’Connell as CEO.

The board says O’Connell’s actions resulted in a $30 million improper obligation related to his supplemental compensation account.


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