In defense of Suze Orman

Suze Orman is in a federal court in Oakland defending herself against civil fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy charges related to a long-term care insurance policy sold by her financial advisory business in 1999. It's a convoluted case, but the gist of it is this: The Suze Orman Financial Group of Emeryville, California sold a long-term care insurance policy and there was confusion about what it covered and the policyholder sued.

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The brochure specified that in order for the policy to pay out, the caregiver "cannot be a member of your immediate family living with you." but the fine print in the actual contract specified that payments couldn't be made to family members, regardless of where they lived.

When the policyholder got sick and her family cared for her, CNA Financial Group -- the issuer of the policy -- refused to pay up. Forbes reports that "The complaint, which seeks unspecified damages from CNA, Orman, her firm and others, quotes repeated advice in Orman books to buy long-term care coverage." Orman's lawyers say the case is without merit.

The case itself is not that interesting, but Forbes' decision to cover it is. Forbes writer William P. Barrett adds to the piece, somewhat clumsily, that "At the time, Orman, now 57, portrayed herself to the public as a practicing financial planner. But a contemporaneous Forbes story said she hadn't done such paid work in years; her financial services earned income was coming mainly from selling insurance. Our story pointed out a number of other false statements in her published author's bio, which was quickly changed."

And that has precisely nothing to do with the lawsuit, but who cares about that? Barrett adds at the end that "The lengthy New York Times Magazine profile of Orman published Sunday calls her "the best-known financial adviser in the country" and "a trusted national adviser." It makes no mention of this litigation, which has been pending in the courts against her for several months."


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