Insurer reviewing relationship with former Rep. Greg Wren

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Greg Wren

Former Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, speaks to the media after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor ethics violation on April 1, 2014. Northwestern Mutual is reviewing its relationship with Wren, an insurance agent and financial advisor. (Amanda Sowards, Montgomery Advertiser)

An insurance company is reviewing its relationship with former Rep. Greg Wren, who resigned his office and pleaded guilty last week to an ethics violation.

Wren’s attorney said Wednesday he believed the review by Northwestern Mutual stemmed from a misunderstanding of the plea deal, and the nature of the charge.

“It’s really Northwestern’s insurers,” attorney James Anderson, who is also Wren’s brother-in-law, said Wednesday. “We’re talking about clearing this up and explaining what Greg pled to and what happened. I think it’s an initial misunderstanding on their part.”

The review was first reported by SNL, a financial news group, on Wednesday. Messages left with Northwest Mutual were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon. Wren, an insurance agent and financial advisor, owns Wren and Associates in Montgomery. He represented his eastern Montgomery district for 16 of the past 20 years before resigning; Wren said in January he did not plan to seek re-election.

Wren, 59, pleaded guilty April 1 to a misdemeanor charge of using his office for personal gain. According to a plea agreement, Wren attempted to put language in the 2014 General Fund budget that would have given an edge to Bessemer-based American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI) in landing certain prescription drug contracts for the Alabama Medicaid Agency.

The agreement said that as Wren was shopping the language around, APCI helped him secure an $8,000 a month consulting contract with RxAlly, a national association of pharmacies. The agreement also said that Wren later provided confidential testimony and analysis on a pharmacy benefit manager proposal to RxAlly.

Anderson said at the time of the plea that Wren’s actions did not constitute an “intentional violation” of the law. Anderson repeated that argument Wednesday, saying intention was the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. Under the state ethics law, an intentional violation of the state’s ethics law is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. Virtually every other offense in the statute is listed as a Class A misdemeanor, with sanctions of up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

Wren received two years’ probation and a 12-month suspended sentence as part of his agreement. He was also ordered to pay $24,000 back to the General Fund.

According to the state Department of Insurance’s web site, a felony conviction for a breach of trust can be grounds for denial of a license to sell insurance. In those cases, the state Commissioner of Insurance must provide written consent for the individual to begin or resume selling insurance and insurance products.

Anderson said he understood that Wren’s relationship with Northwestern was “on hold.”

– posted by Brian Lyman

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