In a rather brilliant April Fool’s Day joke, Garrett Planning Network announced on its website that it was being acquired by Mutual of the Internet Life Insurance, a bogus company.
The announcement noted that while details of the deal could not be disclosed, "it is more (a lot more) than the rumored amount NWM is paying for LearnVest." Sources close to the LearnVest acquisition say NorthWestern Mutual paid $250 million for Alexa von Tobel's online advice platform. In the fake press release, Garrett said the deal looked to combine the network’s 300 fee-only independent advisors with the Angkor Wat, Texas-based insurer’s 3,500 advisors and agents.
But the devil is in the details. Angkor Wat was an American Thrash metal band, not a town in Texas. And MILICo and its broker/dealer subsidiary, MILICo Securities Corp., are, of course, not registered. Additionally, the insurer's website was mysteriously malfunctioning and had notice at the bottom:
“April 1, 2015: Don't be a Fool. April 1st, better known as April Fools' Day, is a time to laugh with friends, play jokes on neighbors, and just let loose and be a little silly. But did you also know that our company processes more accidental dismemberment claims resulting from April Fools' Day pranks than any other day of the year and almost twice as many as on Grandparents' Day…”
Twitter caught onto the joke quickly...
Garrett started the network of independent fee-only advisors 15 years ago and currently has over 300 advisors who work with about 25,000 clients. President Obama recently highlighted her efforts and fiduciary stance in his speech supporting the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rulemaking initiative.
The gag was the brainchild of Garrett’s director of communications and financial planning, Dylan Ross, who said it was a last-minute idea “We didn't even plan to do anything until our staff meeting yesterday,” he told WealthManagement.com.
Ross built MILICo’s website in about 30 minutes using a stock template on Google sites and found the penguin logo using a search for unrestricted use images. “I just went with the first decent image I thought would work, and I just happened to be a penguin,” Ross said, adding he set up the fake Twitter account Wednesday morning.
Updated 1:55 to include comments from Dylan Ross.