When the Denver Broncos played in the 2014 Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks at MefLife Stadium in New Jersey, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was there—along with his mother and two staffers. It’s not surprising that the mayor of a city involved in such a big national event was present.
However, what was somewhat surprising to people in Denver was that Hancock accepted a $40,000 gift in the form of the Super Bowl trip, offered by the Metro Denver Sports Commission and funded by donors that included Comcast and two other current or past city contractors.
Under the city’s current ethics code, the gift was legal, although many questioned Hancock for accepting the trip given how it was funded. The situation recently led the city’s Board of Ethics looking into reforms to toughen up rules and close the loophole that allowed businesses to funnel payments for expensive trips like the Super Bowl junket through nonprofit groups.
No public official wants his name in the news due to an ethics issue, as the mere rumor of any impropriety can potentially be devastating to political career aspirations. This example serves as a reminder of the potential hazards involved in accepting gifts not just for public officials, but for people in the private sector as well—including insurance agents.
Accepting gifts, trips or incentives from insurance carriers or IMOs can have the appearance of hampering an agent’s objectivity when recommending certain carriers, products or services for clients.
It is always important to be as objective about product recommendations as possible. Whether you are a fiduciary or serve clients under the suitability standard of care, insurance and financial advisors have an obligation to consider the client’s interests first and to make recommendations without being biased or considering your own interests.