That documentary featured interviews with the family of a woman who once worked as a cake decorator for Walmart and died of asthma complications while in her twenties. Her family maintained that they did not receive any portion of the insurance proceeds paid out to Walmart after her death: That segment was one of the most powerful scenes in the film, and its details were among the most memorable. Such policies lost their attraction for corporations long ago but disputes over liability for the tax consequences continue for companies in a position similar to WalMart’s.
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Corporate-owned life insurance (COLI), is life insurance on employees' lives that is owned by the employer, with benefits payable either to the employer or directly to the employee's families. Pejorative names for the practice include janitor's insurance and dead peasants insurance. When the employer is a bank, the insurance is known as a bank owned life insurance (BOLI).
Dead Peasant Policy: a life insurance policy that employers can own as the beneficiary in case their employee dies. This immoral and unethical practice by many large corporations was unknown to the average American worker until the film maker Michael Moore popularly exposed its existence and wide spread abuse at the turn of the 21st century. Hey my fields will not get plowed if my peasants suddenly die and my crops rot. I need insurance on my dead peasants. Hey, then I can make even more money if I deny my peasants health care and work them to death
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How did dead peasant insurance come about? Banks and large companies originally used corporate-owned life insurance as a tax-advantaged way to fund employee pension programs and hedge against their financial loss in the untimely death of a top executive, a practice known as key man insurance. Hunter agrees that dead peasant policies fail the insurable interest test. If a very low-level worker dies, there is usually someone to replace them and it doesn’t really impact the entire corporate structure, he says. It puts no financial strain on the organization.
Dead Peasant Life Insurance Can Be an Invitation to Murder. Admittedly a small risk, an unscrupulous employer could murder the employee to collect the term life insurance. com tells of an employer in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, that faces charges of conspiracy to commit the murder of a former employee to collect on a life insurance policy. It had continued to pay the insurance premiums and was legally entitled to collect the death benefit.
A Useful Idiot discusses an older story about life insurance policies taken out by corporations and banks on their low wage workers - policies referred to as "dead peasant" policies. If the name that evolved wasn't offensive enough, the details of how these programs work and what they are used for certainly is. Many have heard the story about Walmart using this practice but, it is estimated that 25% of all Fortune 500 companies do it as well as over 3000 banks.