Fraternity financial managers are bracing for an uncertain future amid a growing number of lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny and mounting financial stress.
The latest is the recent lawsuit filed by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency against the Fraternity Health and Wellness Institute of America, or FHIIA, a student-run fraternal organization in Florida.
FHIAA is accused of improperly marketing student health insurance plans on college campuses and selling health care products to students for profit.
“The allegations are without merit, and we are confident that the complaint will be resolved amicably,” the group said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges that the fraternity’s marketing of student health benefits was “grossly deceptive” and “gross violation of federal law.”
FHIIDA is also under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Justice Department, both of which have said that the company violated federal law.
The fraternities health care business is based in the state of Florida, which has been hit hard by the financial crisis, the lawsuits said.
It is a business model that’s been around for more than 40 years.
The fraternity, which says it is a nonprofit organization, is also the primary source of financial support for more-than 500 fraternity chapters across the country.
The group also runs a health insurance marketplace that helps students sign up for health insurance through their college insurance.
Fraternities have been criticized for misleading consumers about their health insurance coverage.
The Fraternity Healthcare Foundation says it’s made millions in annual revenue by selling health insurance to students and their families.
In an annual report filed in June, the group found that more than 2 million students enrolled in student health plans through the foundation, including some who did not qualify for subsidies.
In Florida, the lawsuit alleges, the fraternity failed to provide students with accurate information about its plans and did not ensure that it adequately reviewed enrollment and data to make sure it was not violating federal law by selling plans to students without their permission.
The federal lawsuit alleges FHIIDA and other fraternations violated federal financial fraud and consumer protection laws by “misleading” students about the health insurance programs.
In the lawsuit, the OCC alleges that FHIADA “repeatedly and unlawfully sold health care coverage and other products to individuals who did no qualify for financial assistance.”
“FHIIA knew that students and others with pre-existing conditions would be unable to obtain these benefits and failed to notify students of the fact, or to ensure that enrollment of pre-approved individuals was not limited to the group of students enrolled,” the complaint said.
The OCC is also looking into the claims against FHIIDS Health Services Inc., which the complaint alleges sold health insurance on its own website to students.
The company’s website says its health insurance program is “for anyone in the U of A community.”
FHISAIA spokeswoman Laura McBeth told the Wall Street News the company was “not aware of the allegations” and that it would defend itself vigorously in court.
“Our compliance and compliance management teams are actively engaged in addressing the allegations,” McBess said.
“We take seriously our obligations under the laws of the United States and are reviewing them.”