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Santangelo v. New York Life Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 6, 2015

PETER SANTANGELO, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant, Appellee

Page 66

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Nathaniel M. Gorton, U.S. District Judge.

Paula M. Minichiello, with whom Christopher G. Fallon and Law Office of Christopher G. Fallon, PC were on brief, for appellant.

Jessica Unwin Farrelly, with whom William E. Hannum III and Schwartz Hannum PC were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Thompson and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 67

BARRON, Circuit Judge.

The appellant was a life insurance agent with the New York Life Insurance Company for more than forty years before his termination. He now contends that he was an " employee" of New York Life and that in firing him New York Life engaged in age discrimination in violation of both state and federal law. He also argues that New York Life wrongfully refused to pay him a particular form of retirement compensation. The District Court granted summary judgment for New York Life on all of these claims, and we affirm.

I.

Peter Santangelo started as a life insurance agent with New York Life in the late 1960s.[1] His difficulties with that company started in July of 2006. That was when New York Life " Standards Consultant" John Quarella, Jr., conducted an audit of Santangelo's files. The audit turned up two forms (a dividend withdrawal form and a life insurance application) related to New York Life insurance policies that Santangelo's customers had signed before the forms were completed. A New York Life rule prohibited agents from obtaining and retaining such incomplete signed forms. The concern, presumably, was that an agent would later complete the signed form and use it to make changes that the customer had not authorized. As a result of the audit, New York Life gave Santangelo a " Letter of Reprimand" in September of 2006.

One year later, in September of 2007, Quarella conducted another audit of Santangelo's files. The audit turned up three more incomplete forms signed by customers (a dividend withdrawal form, an annuity application, and a beneficiary form). New York Life then gave Santangelo a " Letter of Severe Reprimand" in March of 2008. In April of that year, New York Life also placed Santangelo on " Enhanced Supervision," a status that subjected his files to more frequent audits. During one such audit, in December of 2008, Quarella found two more incomplete forms signed by Santangelo's customers in Santangelo's files (an annuity application and an " agreement to exchange" form).

After that December 2008 audit, Quarella and Santangelo met with James A. Robertson III, a higher-level " Standards Consultant" at New York Life. They discussed Santangelo's repeated violations. Following that meeting, Robertson recommended terminating Santangelo's agent contract.

On April 1, 2009, Santangelo received a letter from New York Life's human resources department that referred to his " upcoming retirement on May 1, 2009." Confused, Santangelo contacted New York Life's human resources department the next day, April 2. In ...


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