Mark Wahlstrom of Scottsdale, Arizona is launching a new venture where he is heading up the Mass Tort Division for Settlement Professionals Inc. out of Portland, Oregon.
Mark and I have a long history. We are the same age and we both got into the structured settlement business over 30 years ago.
At one time, we were both affiliated with the national company whose leader managed to find every "out of the box" thinker in the settlement planning industry and tried to get them to work together. One of those ideas like herding cats. It looks good on paper, but doomed to failure.
Since we were all rebellious, "out of the box" thinkers, all of the best producers split off and formed our own individual companies.
Mark focuses his attention on working with injury victims and their attorneys. There is a story often told that Mark switched from helping claims adjusters for a large insurance company after telling a claimant that the company Mark represented was ripping the man off.
Honesty is a great policy, but a bad short-term career strategy.
Mark lost his job, started his own company and, over 25 years later, has never looked back.
In short, Mark and I have similar personalities.
I always like keeping an eye on Mark, and it is pretty easy to do. One of his better ideas seven years ago was to start the Legal Broadcast Network, which provides video news and commentary for attorneys over the internet.
Mark, who looks like a slightly heavier George Clooney, is the perfect host for The Settlement Channel, which is part of the Legal Broadcast Network.
Whatever he is doing is working. When I talked to Mark last week, he told me that the network is getting ready to do a major expansion and has been a financial success.
What really spurred my call was to find out what he is doing in the mass tort administration business. It is one I know a whole lot about. I have my own mass tort company and it is a major source of my income. I was the first person to write in major legal publications about a concept called Qualified Settlements Funds (468b funds).
I wanted to see if Wahlstrom was as cutting edge as the news release claimed.
Trying to describe what a mass tort administrator does is not easy. You are not likely to see the position advertised on Craigslist.
Even if you don't know what a mass tort administrator or a class action administrator does, odds are that you have interacted with one at one time.
According to Wikipedia, "a mass tort is a civil action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or a few corporate defendants in state or federal court."
You've seen mass torts when products that thousands or millions of people purchased don't work the way they are supposed to. I worked with several mass tort cases when medicines made people sicker instead of making them better. Much of the litigation involving the BP Oil spill is related to a mass tort or class action.
How these funds are administered and what people do with any money they receive makes a huge difference. Which is why people like Mark Wahlstrom specialize in the topic.
Administering mass torts is one of those positions that every bank and financial services company thinks they can do. With millions and billions on the line, many are willing to give it a try.
A classic case of why you shouldn't let an administrator "learn as they earn" happened in my home state of Kentucky.
Several years ago, the attorneys who settled a diet drug mass tort didn't get an outside administrator; they decided to set up a committee administering the funds themselves.
Lots of bad things happened. The attorneys were accused of taking too much of the settlement as a fee, and a couple are serving long stretches in the federal pen. Others were disbarred and nearly a decade later, the case goes on and the injury victims cry out for justice.
If a highly ethical mass tort expert like Mark had been involved, I can't see how anything illegal would have happened.
We spoke for over an hour and I am convinced that Wahlstrom keeps himself on the cutting edge of what is happening in the mass torts world.
Combined with his strong sense of ethics, he is a good choice to be at the table when big money is being handed out.
And you can follow his every move on the Legal Broadcasting Network.
Don McNay is author of the bestselling book, Life Lessons From The Lottery, and three other bestsellers. He is also the Chairman of the Board of McNay Settlement Group, which specializes in structured settlements and qualified settlement funds.
McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC has Masters Degrees from Vanderbilt University and the American College and was inducted in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1998. He has four major professional designations and is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.