by Structured Settlement Watchdog®
Is Florida structured settlement forum shopping alive and well outside of Judge Michelle Morley's Sumter County courtroom?
After receiving an anonymous tip concerning a pending structured settlement transfer with effective discount rate in excess of 19% with a June 8, 2015 transfer hearing in Lake County Florida, a brief investigation suggests a conflict between publicly available information and information contained in a notarized affidavit signed by the annuitant and submitted by the licensed attorney for the settlement purchaser. The notary, who I spoke with yesterday said that the annuitant supplied him with a New York license, and the notary also stated that the annuitant "was moving to Florida". The annuitant who signed the document stated he was a resident of Florida. However there is nothing in the background check that shows any connection to Florida. A "585" Monroe County New York cell phone tied to the annuitant was personally verified with a greeting of the annuitant with the Lake County Florida petition. The annuitant's LinkedIn profile lists current employment at a Rochester New York based company.
Calls made to the annuitant and to the transfer attorney, who is also believed to have a financial interest in the settlement purchaser were not returned.
The legal representative for the insurance company, who I spoke with yesterday, seemed satisfied with the declaration of domicile provided, which I understood to include a Florida voter registration card and a copy of a lease and felt the judge would approve the transfer on that basis and saw no reason to use the resources of her client, one of of the currently writing structured settlement annuity issuers, to chase down the driver's license or contact the notary. The allegations in the amended complaint Lafontant v Imperial Structured Settlements case should give anyone pause.
What astonished me was the attorney's ascerbic comments about "serial sellers" in connection with the Terrence Taylor and Michael Lafontant cases. I sure hope that the comments of the subject attorney whose law firm, upon information and belief gets significant amounts of billable legal work from annuity issuers of structured settlements, does not represent the views of the annuity issuer on the case in question or any other company it represents.
Should lawyers for annuity issuer or assignee, squawk about "best interest" when they are up at the plate? The same law firm represented Allstate Life Insurance Company in another Florida transfer in 2013 in which a 29 year old father with toddlers was approved to sell his entire Allstate $60,000 tax-free lifetime annual income stream for under $600,000. Allstate, the law firm's own client may have offered a better rate than the settlement purchaser! Fortunately for the annuitant, he ended up retaining legal counsel and a compromise saw the structured settlement transfer order vacated and his payments restored. Is a higher or lower discount rate in the annuitant's best interest?
The attorney and law firms client's through their appointed agents, market their products extolling the protections that were fought for more than a decade ago that resulted in structured settlement transfer laws in the majority of states that are used in sales pitches and marketing materials to help convince plaintiff lawyers, judges and parents of minors that a structured settlement is difficult to squander. The structured settlement protection acts are the foundation for any transfer work and significant revenues that such law firms derive from that work.
The structured settlement secondary market is dangerously under regulated. Reckless marketing and solicitation of structured settlement annuitants that would not have a prayer of being kosher in any financial marketplace that regulates sales practices are a pock mark on the industry.