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MassMutual Officially Fires OConnell (Updated)

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The Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company board says it has fired Robert O’Connell, the company’s former chairman and chief executive officer, because it believes he violated the company’s code of conduct.[@@]

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

The board now has terminated O’Connell for cause, the MassMutual board says.

After meeting with the MassMutual board Thursday, O’Connell issued a statement emphasizing his dissatisfaction with the process that was used as a basis for his 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,” O’Connell says in the statement. “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.”

In earlier statements, O’Connell noted that MassMutual’s net operating income increased every year while he led the company.

The MassMutual board says O’Connell:

- Used a supplemental compensation account to create a “$30 million improper obligation to him.”

- 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.”

- Made personal use of company aircraft.

- Interfered with the investigation and reprimand of 2 of his family members concerning the improper disclosure of confidential information concerning a MassMutual mutual fund subsidiary.

- Caused payment of “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.”

The MassMutual board announced earlier this month that it has hired Stuart Reese to succeed O’Connell as CEO and James Birle to succeed O’Connell as chairman.

Birle says in a statement that the company intends to develop better controls but plans to continue MassMutual’s present strategic direction and capital structure as a mutual life insurer.

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


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