12 life-insurance agents from same B.C. agency lose licences for cheating on qualification test: council

A dozen life insurance agents who worked together at the same brokerage in B.C. have lost their licences because they all conspired to cheat on their qualification tests, according to the provincial regulator.

'It's a very unusual level of cheating,' says Insurance Council of B.C.

Twelve life insurance brokers in Surrey, B.C., have all been barred from selling insurance after the provincial regulator found they'd cheated on their qualification tests. (Shutterstock)

A dozen life insurance agents who worked together at the same brokerage in B.C. have lost their licences because they all conspired to cheat on their qualification tests, according to the provincial regulator.

The Insurance Council of B.C. said it's a "very unusual ... level of cheating" that was unseen anywhere else in the country after a national audit — one that left the board with no choice but to cancel the agents' licences.

'Odd' test pattern

The 12 agents wrote their LLQP tests to earn their licences between October 2016 and June 2017. All of them worked at a World Financial Group (WFG) branch in Surrey.

Anyone who wants to become a life insurance agent in Canada needs to pass the LLQP — Life License Qualification Program — exam to prove they have basic knowledge to sell life insurance.

Last fall, a third party ran a national audit to check for fishy patterns on tests results from across the country that could point to cheating.

Nearly two dozen red flags popped up in B.C. — there was an "odd" group of multiple-choice exams with answers, both right and wrong, that were nearly identical to one another. 

The provincial board immediately suspended 21 brokers licences after their exams were flagged. The council found they all came from the same brokerage and appeared to have used the same answer keys.

Life insurance policies sold by cheating brokers are still valid. Liability would fall to the World Financial Group, as the agency would've approved the packages when they were sold.

After the investigations, the council moved to cancel 19 of those certificates. Twelve have accepted that ruling and seven have filed appeals. Two are still pending.

"Our concern was that anyone who had cheated on this exam, we didn't consider to be qualified," said Janet Sinclair, executive director of the insurance council.

"You want to make sure people who are practicing are competent and that's why we acted as we did ... You expect [agents] to conduct themselves with the utmost of integrity and cheating on an exam does not meet that characteristic."

She continued: "Anyone who wants to practice in this area should be able to pass it without needing to cheat."

The executive director said the cheating is "frustrating" for regulators and fellow agents, and has prompted the board to bolster exam security: phones will be placed at the front of the exam room, security cameras will be running, and extra supervisors will be on hand in the future.

President says agency 'does not tolerate cheating'

Sinclair said the council can't comment on exactly how the cheating was done, as the investigations are still active. She also wouldn't say which branch the brokers worked at.

As for life insurance policies sold by the agents, Sinclair said they're still valid. Liability would fall to the World Financial Group as it would've approved the packages when they were sold.

The twelve brokers "provided no explanation" for the collusion and cheating when contacted for the investigation, according to their cancellation notices.

They accept the council's move to cancel their licences by default by failing to appeal for a hearing within two weeks of the ruling. 

The World Financial Group did not respond to CBC's request for comment on Monday, although the company's president said, after the initial suspensions, it "does not tolerate cheating."

In October, Rick Williams said the agency would be "taking all necessary steps regarding the matter."

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk

@rhiannaschmunk

Rhianna Schmunk is a reporter for CBC News based in Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca or @rhiannaschmunk.