Whistleblower Bill Lloyd Speaks to Colgate Students


Bill Lloyd ’80 returned to campus Thursday, January 29 to share his journey after graduation and explain how his principles were pushed to their limits in the professional world. The lecture took place in the Meyerhoff Auditorium in the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center.

Lloyd was happy and successful in his job at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and was named financial agent of the year. Lloyd’s talk last week revolved around a dilemma when he discovered a key product would not perform as his company advertised. He was forced to make difficult decisions, having to choose between his career at his company and the interest of his customers.

“It wasn’t a moral choice, it was a moral reaction,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd started his story in 2008 when the stock market was going south. MassMutual put their annuity product into the market. The retirement income stream  product provides a guarantee to customers and was meant to do well in a time when there was little trust in the market. 

MassMutual promised its customers a revenue stream for the rest of their life. Trailing behind competitors, MassMutual rushed the product and made a glaring mistake: once the customer started withdrawing money, the income stream began to disappear until it hit zero. They would be left with no money and no income stream, which was the issue Lloyd found. He credited his upbringing with his final decision.

“I was raised in a no-nonsense household, my dad and grandfather were Marines, and I had a German mother who was the toughest of them all. I learned that there was right and there was wrong, and this was definitely wrong,” Lloyd said. 

Once Lloyd discovered the true nature of the product he was selling to people, he said he immediately contacted his supervisors, doing everything possible to fix the problem internally. He said his calls and emails went unanswered until he used the three magic words, “class action lawsuit” to finally obtain a meeting with the leaders of MassMutual.

Lloyd admitted he was very naive in the beginning.

“I was thinking, this is great because they want to fix the problem! But I was the problem they wanted to eliminate,” Lloyd said. 

Once he realized the disturbing truth – that all the top people at MassMutual were aware of the problem – his journey truly began. The company had made the conscious decision to bury their mistake, believing that when the truth finally did come out, circumstances would lessen how much they would have to pay.

Lloyd began to keep track of the people who knew about the problem, gathering evidence of the crimes being committed. Lloyd said the environment at his work completely shifted.

“All my friends started ignoring me. Eventually I was an army of one,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd’s new boss told him to stop digging into the issue. Lloyd had no other option than to turn to an external source, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and, by extension, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Dodd-Frank is the government’s response to fraud issues. It protects consumers in the financial market and helps the “whistle-blower” by awarding them provisions and prohibiting the company from retaliating. Lloyd showed two different illustrations at his meeting with the SEC and MassMutual. One displayed what MassMutual sold to their customers, titled “I’m fooled.” And the other exhibited what would actually happen, titled “I’m screwed.” 

“These names didn’t go over well with the hierarchy at MassMutual,” Lloyd said.

The SEC did its job and finally forced MassMutual to change the product; it cost them $40 million.     

Lloyd expressed the many different difficulties he faced. At one point, he was being sued by MassMutual, a family member he had sold the product to and an ex-employee. But through perseverance and a little help from his Colgate friends, he was able to right the wrong. His peers supported him emotionally and legally throughout the whole ordeal, even defending him in court.

“You will find that Colgate people really take care of each other. I call it the fellowship of the hill,” Lloyd said. 

Despite heavy snowfall that night, Colgate students bundled up to hear Lloyd’s speech.  Lloyd ended the talk with encouragement and advice for the students present.

“If no one steps up to protect people, who’s gonna do it? If you see something wrong, like someone else is being abused, ultimately it’s on your watch. It’s going to happen to everyone in this room, where you have to make a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life,” Lloyd said.