Recently, KELO posted a story on their KELOLAND.com website about a donation made by Sammons Financial Group to the Great Plains Zoo. It was a “feel good” story about a good cause; however, KELO failed to disclose the rest of the story.
KELO uses Facebook for its Comments Section and on March 28th a comment was posted by Midland National Life Update reminding readers where the donation money came from and KELO then removed the comment. Sammons and its affiliate Midland National Life Insurance Company are local Sioux Falls employers that have been the subject of regulatory and enforcement actions in multiple states. The latest was Midland National agreeing to pay a $1.3 million fine in February as part of a settlement with the California Department of Insurance and agreeing to make reforms to its business practices after a probe showed Midland National was allegedly misleading senior citizens when selling annuities deemed inappropriate.
This fine may have been a result of Midland National making a $31 million dollar payment last year as part of a settlement of a federal class action lawsuit in California that had alleged that Midland National had used deceptive sales practices in selling their products. Sammons, Midland National, and its sister company North American for Life and Health have paid settlements in many states over the past ten years as a result of their sales practices and the adverse effect it has had on the senior citizens that have purchased them.
KELO has also failed to report that in federal court on December 19, 2014 Midland National Life abandoned their long standing denial of threatening women to cover up their criminal acts by changing their position to one of silence. Faced with overwhelming evidence of state and federal crimes Midland National, in effect, exercised their rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to remain silent to avoid incrimination. Midland National was given an opportunity to clarify their position; however, they declined (Castaneira v. Midland CIV. 10 – 4039).
Midland National’s current position is a significant departure from a previous sworn statement by senior Midland National executive Robert "Rob" TeKolste in which he stated, under oath, that Midland National had not posed “…a threat of physical harm to Mr. Castaneira, his friends, or his family.”
A search of the KELOLAND.com website does not currently display any article reporting on these legal issues for Sammons or its Midland National affiliate nor has KELO shown any concern for how Sammons acquired the money it donated to the Great Plains Zoo. In August, 2013 KELO reporter Don Jorgensen - South Dakota’s Broadcaster of the Year for 2010 by the South Dakota Broadcaster’s Association – was provided the documents that Midland National has now chosen to remain silent about. KELO chose not to pursue the story.
Is this bias on the part of KELO and, if so, why?
The KELOLAND.com story included a quote by Rob Tekolste praising his employer’s generosity. Mr. TeKolste is listed as a member of the Board of Directors for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce along with Jay Huizenga of KELO. Has this relationship caused KELO to compromise their journalistic integrity or does KELO have other reasons for failing to investigate a compelling story in their community?
To learn more about Midland National Life Google "Midland National Life" threat or "Midland National Life" women.
Reason of review: Bad quality.
Preferred solution: Provide comprehensive and unbiased coverage.