Premium Producers Group Named in Civil Suit Over Blog Review of Indexed Annuity

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The Annexus Group, marketer of the "Balance Plus Annuity", has filed a civil suit in Arizona Superior Court (Case No. CV2007-003021) against software provider Premium Producers Group. The case revolves around a product review and other comments about possible conflicts of interest, which were posted by Premium Producer Group's principals on their blog.

The old adage may need to be rewritten to read, "If you can't take the heat, then sue."

The Annexus Group, marketer of the Balance Plus Annuity, is alleging product disparagement and other related charges over a February 2006 critical review of their flagship equity indexed annuity product. The comments and analysis, posted to a blog maintained as a side activity of software provider Premium Producers Group, blasted the claims of the annuity being "new and revolutionary" and its interest crediting method as "superior".

While letters attempting resolution were exchanged between the parties last year, a stalemate was reached. "We believe we are within our rights to post the comments, and assert that our analysis was and is correct," states Premium Producers Group Vice President, Dorice Maynard. "Annexus Group kept insisting we were wrong, but has not to date provided any counter-analysis that supports their position. We thought they had decided to drop the issue."

Instead, Shurwest Product Connection dba The Annexus Group filed a civil suit against Premium Producers Group in Arizona Superior Court (Case No. CV2007-003021).

An interesting question is if the annuity's underwriter, American Investors, will step in to defend against the critical product review. Mrs. Maynard was uncertain. "As a customer so plainly put it, it's their ox that has been gored. But when we contacted the legal department for American Investors, their head counsel said he wasn't even aware of the lawsuit."

The selling agreements and licensing contracts between American Investors and Annexus Group member firms will likely become a part of the case, as well. This is because Annexus also alleges in the court document that they suffered damages when Premium Producers Group launched their TAD Project (transparency and disclosure) in mid-2006 and listed Annexus member firms on the project's "Controlled IMO" page. Annexus alleges in the court document that Premium Producer's statements about their production requirements creating a sales bias are false. "They have not demonstrated that any policies or procedures are in place to overcome the potential for conflicts of interest," Mrs. Maynard said.

The dispute between the parties was also reported in an InvestmentNews article on August 25, 2006 by Gary Mogel titled "War of words over equity index annuity".

This case is watch-worthy because of its Free Speech and consumer protection themes. In recent legal rulings, Blog articles about public figures or issues of public interest tend to be protected. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees Free Speech on these matters. The equity indexed annuity has also been a subject of much media press over recent months.

Details about this civil suit and documents at issue can be read at http://premiumproducersgroup.com/legal-defense.htm

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