Boston – Phillips & Cohen LLP issued a press release on Oct. 23, 2008 stating a Boston jury found that Unum Group defrauded the United States by forcing its customers to submit false claims for disability benefits to the Social Security Administration (SSA), when Unum knew that they were not eligible for government benefits.

Unum, issued its own release in response stating, “A news release issued this morning by Washington law firm Phillips & Cohen LLP claiming victory in a trial against Unum regarding Social Security Claims is misleading and filled with inaccuracies. The jury actually sided with Unum on the majority of claims. The two claims that were decided in favor of the plaintiff resulted in a total award of less than $3,000.”

"This is a blatant attempt by Phillips & Cohen to try to influence public opinion in a situation where they were unable to claim victory in a court of law," says Chris Collins, SVP and general counsel for Unum US. "What makes this even more ridiculous is that Phillips & Cohen, while claiming to be lead counsel, was rarely in court, never asked a single question and never called a single witness. Phillips & Cohen was already chastised by the judge at the beginning of this case for issuing an improper news release, so their credibility is at question."

According to the Portland, Ore.-based insurer, the case for the plaintiff was actually tried by the now-defunct law firm Heller Ehrman after the presiding trial judge chastised Phillips & Cohen for an earlier improper press release concerning the same case.

According to Phillips & Cohen LLP, Unum compelled people seeking disability benefits from Unum to apply for Social Security disability benefits even though its customers often told Unum they were not eligible. In an attempt to enrich itself, Unum told thousands of claimants that it would cut their private disability benefits in half—or more—if they did not comply with Unum's directive that they must apply for Social Security disability benefits, says the firm.

The law firm stated Unum admitted during the trial that it had caused many of its customers to apply for Social Security disability over the 10 years covered by this case. Unum had nearly 500,000 long-term disability claimants over this period. The full extent and magnitude of Unum's conduct will be addressed in future hearings.

Unum responded, “As part of the trial, Unum produced 1,600 claim files that the plaintiffs then narrowed down to 101 claims that they said should not have been submitted to the Social Security Administration. This number was later reduced to 61 as it was revealed that many of these claims were actually awarded Social Security disability benefits, and in other instances there was no proof that an application was ever made to the government.”

Sources: PR Newswire, MarketWatch 

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