TN 1 (09-10)

PR 07115.012 Georgia

A. PR 10-138 Adequacy of Coverage Provided by a Dishonesty Bond Submitted by an Organizational Representative Payee Applicant

DATE: August 16, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

A dishonesty bond submitted by a nonprofit organization fails to meet Social Security’s bonding requirements because it does not protect SSA, Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients against dishonest acts by the organization’s directors.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether a dishonesty bond submitted to the Social Security Administration (SSA) by Paradise for Living Services, Inc. (PFL) meets SSA’s bond requirements to allow PFL to collect a fee for serving as an organizational representative payee.

OPINION

The dishonesty bond provided by PFL does not meet SSA’s bonding requirements.

BACKGROUND

According to its website, PFL is a non-profit organization operating in Georgia. See Paradise for Living Services, http://paradise4living.org/aboutus/aboutus.html (last visited July 28, 2010). PFL’s website also indicates PFL has a board of directors and its primary function is to serve as a representative payee for individuals, including for Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients. SSA records indicate PFL currently serves as representative payee for more than five beneficiaries or recipients and has applied to become a fee-for-service (FFS) organizational representative payee. PFL submitted a “Commercial Crime Policy” (hereinafter Bond or the bond) that lists PFL as the “Named Insured” and provides Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland will pay for loss of, or damage to, money, securities, and other property resulting directly from theft committed by an employee. The bond includes a rider that names SSA as the Joint Loss P~.

The bond covers theft by employees, see section A, Insuring Agreements, but excludes from coverage managers, directors, trustees and authorized representatives, see section D.1.c. The bond defines “employee” so as to include a director or officer working in the capacity of an employee, see section F.5. PFL also submitted a rider that amends the definition of “employee” to include specified non-compensated officers as employees. The rider specifies “ALL” of PFL’s non-compensated officers as employees. The rider does not include directors, whether compensated or uncompensated.

DISCUSSION

The Social Security Act (Act) permits “qualified organizations” to collect a fee from payments to a beneficiary or recipient for expenses the organization incurs in providing representative payee services for the beneficiary or recipient. See Act §§ 205(j)(4), 1631(a)(2)(D)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a), 416.640a(a) (2009). However, SSA authorization is required before an organization can begin collecting a fee from a beneficiary or recipient’s monthly payments. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a), 416.640a(a); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00506.001(B). A “qualified organization” is either: 1) a state or local government agency with fiduciary responsibilities or whose mission is to carry out income maintenance, social service, or health-care related activities; or 2) any community-based, non-profit, social service organization founded for religious, charitable or social welfare purposes, which is tax exempt under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, bonded/insured to cover misuse and embezzlement by officers and employees, and licensed in each State in which it serves as representative payee (if licensing is available in the State). See Act §§ 205(j)(4)(B), 1631(a)(2)(D)(ii); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a), 416.640a(a); POMS GN 00506.001(C).

1. SSA’s bonding requirements

A non-governmental FFS organization must be bonded before SSA will authorize the organization to collect a fee. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a)(2), 416.640a(a)(2); POMS GN 00506.001(C); POMS GN 00506.105(A). The bond or insurance contract must protect the representative payee and SSA from financial loss caused by the action or inaction of the organization, a corporate officer/owner, or an employee of the organization. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a)(2), 416.640a(a)(2); POMS GN 00506.105(A). Generally, bonds or insurance contracts protect the representative payee from financial loss due to theft by an employee. See POMS GN 00506.105(B). However, coverage for financial loss must also include theft by the corporate officer/owner(s). See id. The bond or insurance contract must show that SSA is also guaranteed payment if they are the “loss party” (in the event the representative payee is unable/unwilling to secure a claim). See id. In addition, the amount of coverage the FFS organization purchases must be sufficient to compensate the beneficiary for any loss of Title II or XVI benefits and any conserved funds on hand. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a)(2), 416.640a(a)(2); POMS GN 00506.105(B), (C)(5). A fidelity bond is a type of insurance that indemnifies the insured for loss caused by the dishonest or fraudulent acts of its employees and usually covers the insured against various other losses. See POMS GN 00506.105(C)(4)(b). A fidelity bond covers only losses incurred by the insured. See id. Fidelity policies do not cover losses caused by owners or partners of the insured. See id. Therefore, for those FFS applicants that use a fidelity bond, SSA requires a separate rider or an additional bond to cover the corporate officer/owner/director(s). See id. There are two different types of fidelity bonds: a schedule bond and a blanket bond. See id. A schedule bond guarantees the honesty of only named employees of an entity up to the stated amount of the bond. See id. By contrast, a blanket bond guarantees the honesty of all employees of an entity up to the stated amount of the bond. See id. An employee dishonesty bond is usually a blanket bond covering all company employees except non-profit officers, directors and volunteers (unless specifically mentioned in a separate rider). See id. PFL’s bond purports to be a blanket bond as that term is defined in POMS GN 00506.105(C)(4)(b) because the bond language itself includes all employees and the rider purports to cover all non-compensated officers of the organization.

2. Analysis of PFL’s Bond

PFL’s website reveals that PFL has a board of directors and an executive director. See Paradise for Living Services, http://paradise4living.org/aboutus/aboutus.html (last visited July 28, 2010). PFL’s bond must include coverage for all employees, officers, directors, and owner(s), if applicable, to satisfy SSA’s corporate-officer/director/owner bonding requirement.

Neither the bond nor the rider covers directors. The bond covers theft committed by “employees” and defines employee as:

(1) Any natural person:

(a) While in your service and for the first 30 days immediately after termination of service, unless such termination is due to “theft” or any other dishonest act committed by the employee;

(b) Who[m] you compensate directly by salary, wages, or commissions; and

(c) Who[m] you have the right to direct and control while performing services for you;

(8) Any of your “managers,” directors, or trustees while:

(a) Performing acts within the scope of the usual duties of an ‘employee;’ or

(b) Acting as a member of any committee duly elected or appointed by resolution of your board of directors or board of trustees to perform specific, as distinguished from general, directorial acts on your behalf.

Bond at section F.5. This definition does not include directors acting as directors, because the bond defines “you” as the “Named Insured,” which in this case is the non-profit corporation. The board of directors makes the decisions for the corporation so there is no one directing and controlling the directors.

The rider also does not include directors. It amends the definition of employee to include “ALL” non-compensated officers. Officers and directors are distinct roles. The Act does not define officer, but other federal statutes, as well as Georgia law define an officer. An officer is a position that is described in the corporation’s bylaws or elected or chosen by the Board of Directors. See Clayton Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 19(a)(4) (2009), Ga. Code Ann. § 14-3-840(a) (West 2009); see also Motions Sys. Corp. v. Bush, 437 F.3d 1356, 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (“The magisterial Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘officer’ as, among other things, ‘a person authoritatively appointed or elected to exercise some function pertaining to public life or to take part in . . . management or direction of a public corporation, institution, etc.’”). SSA requires directors to be covered by the dishonesty bond. See POMS GN 00506.105(A). Because this bond does not cover directors, it does not meet the requirements of the Act.

Although the bond does not meet SSA requirements, you also asked whether the term “ALL” as used in the rider sufficiently identified the PFL’s non-compensated officers. We conclude that it does. SSA regulations on bonding require only that the organization be “bonded/insured to cover misuse and embezzlement by officer and employees” and does not specify whether the bonding agreement must include specific officers’ names or titles. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2040a(a)(2), 416.640a(a)(2). The POMS also do not explicitly require the listing of specific officers’ names or titles, but requires “[c]overage for [loss of or damage to money, securities, or property from] theft by corporate officer/owner(s).” POMS GN 00506.105(B). “Because the words in this contract are plain and obvious, they must be given their literal meaning . . . and unambiguous terms are taken in their plain and popular sense as supplied by dictionaries.” Record Town, Inc. v. Sugarloaf Mills Ltd. P’ship of Georgia, 687 S.E.2d 640, 643 (Ga. App. 2009). The use of the word “ALL” in the rider would seem to include every non-compensated officer involved with PFL.

CONCLUSION

PFL’s dishonesty bond does not meet SSA’s bond requirements because it does not protect SSA and Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients against dishonest acts by PFL’s directors.

Mary Ann S~

Regional Chief Counsel

By:_________________
Kristin M. T~
Assistant Regional Counsel


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507115012
PR 07115.012 - Georgia - 09/16/2010
Batch run: 09/16/2010
Rev:09/16/2010