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Disability Insurance Observer: Bank-owned property

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The Zillow and Trulia real estate sales sites are two of my favorite websites.

One thing I’ve learned: If you’re an amateur home buyer with no interest in getting a house with all of the drywall knocked out, look only at entries for homes with at least one photo of the interior.

The homes with just one exterior shot on display are probably in the “bank-owned property” or “real estate owned by lender” (REO) category, which means, in some cases, in my area, that an angry person may be busy smashing all accessible porcelain and taking out all of the copper wiring.

The weeds in the cracks in the stoop symbolize the creepy, gaping holes in the interior drywall.

Of course: Many seemingly respectable employers have come to be the hollowed out equivalent of an REO house. Maybe they’re owned by decaying ESOPs, or they’re public companies managed by executives who will beat the earnings forecast this quarter, then make off to the wilds of North Korea a day or two before the SEC invites the company to consider restating the earnings.

Those employers have axed all of the employees whose presence gave colleagues the physical ability to take vacations, or get checkups. The employers’ idea of promoting good nutrition is to offer a few packets of sucralose sweetener in the coffee room along with the cane sugar and the transfat creamer containers.

Every few months, an employee (surprise!) suffers a disabling heart attack or brain hemorrhage.

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Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC), the legendary California banking company, must know more than it wants to know about REO these days, and maybe its insurance arm, Wells Fargo Insurance, knows more than it wants to know about employers with weeds in the human resources area.

Now Wells Fargo Insurance has started a Health & Productivity National Practice to provide “health and wellness solutions that are aligned with healthcare reform and changing workforce demographics.”

The unit has hired a high-profile wellness specialist, Dr. Ronald Leopold, to lead the practice.

Leopold, who spent 13 years as national medical director at MetLife (NYSE:MET), has been trying to spread the word for years about the relationship between health wellness and financial wellness, and trying to get employers to invest both in protecting workers against disability and preventing disability in the first place.

Maybe, as better REO specialists come along and help the banks do something about blighted bank-owned homes, people like Leopold will help them understand that another key to improving their performance might be to do something about commercial customers’ blighted employee population risk profiles.

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