by John Darer CLU ChFC MSSC CeFT RSP CLTC
When you enter into a structured settlement for the long haul it can be quite unsettling to learn that the insurance company has been sold or the product line discontinued. While this can happen (and has happened) for a variety of business reasons, it's important to remember that insurance companies are regulated, which for some insurers who are licensed in all 50 states, means that the insurer must meet the statutory requirements in all places it does business. Regulators are involved in any merger or acquisition.
How an insurer manages the change says a lot about the company. Here are some examples of how divestitures and acquisitions of structured settlement product lines, or actual insurers, have gone over the years:
The Good Hands People
Allstate Life Insurance Company and its New York subsidiary, Allstate Life Insurance Company of New York were some of the foremost underwriters of structured settlement annuities until 2013. Known for competitive underwriting, innovation in expanding periodic payment solutions for taxable settlements and installment sales, the Advanced Funding Exchange Notice and having an outstanding marketing and service team.
When Allstate Corp went to sell its life and annuity business, it looked for firms not aggressively redeploying assets to riskier investments, Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson told Reuters. In January 2021, Allstate agreed to sell 80% to Blackstone Group Inc and the rest to Wilton Re, an insurer owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Both sales are expected to close in 2021.
"There are some people out there who take these assets, they assume the insurance regulators won't pay that much attention to them. And they swing for the fences. We chose not to even talk to people like that," Wilson said to Reuters. "We want our customers to be paid, even though they're not our customers anymore."
In May 2017 Wilton Re acquired several AEGON assignment companies that were used for qualified assignments for structured settlements funded by life insurers in the AEGON family. Annuitants and payees of structured settlements funded with annuities funded by Transamerica Life Insurance Company, Transamerica Financial Life Insurance Company or Transamerica premier Life insurance Company found new assignment companies' names. For example Transamerica Annuity Service Corporation (TASC) became Wilton Re Annuity Service Corporation.
in 2014, Wilton Re completed the acquisition of Continental Assurance Company from CNA Financial Corporation. As part of the transaction, an affiliate reinsured a block of run-off structured settlements from a Bermuda-based subsidiary of CNA. "Wilton Re is a leader in In Force Solutions to the life insurance industry” said Chris Stroup, Chairman and CEO in an August 1, 2014 press release. “We have significant capacity to provide companies with solutions for their largest and most complex issues and our administration platform provides high standards of service to policyholders and agents. We look forward to serving the policyholders of Continental Assurance Company.”
Continental Assurance Company became Wilcac Life Insurance Company. Wilcac is a portmanteau of the acquirer and the acquired company names. While Continental Assurance Company had an A (Excellent) rating from A.M/ Best, Wilcac Life Insurance Company holds an A+ rating from A.M> Best.
As I reported in December 2018 and also verified at the time of this publication, Wilcac Life Insurance Company is listed as a currently registered structured settlement transferee on the website of the State of Maryland Attorney General Bryan Frosh. It is believed that the registration was needed to offer a hardship exchange to annuitant/payees in the acquired structured settlement block of Transamerica and other AEGON companies, a service similar to that offered by several other current and former structured settlement annuity issuers. I attempted to contact Wilcac before publishing but did not receive a substantive response. If Wilcac responds this post will be updated accordingly.
Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston
Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston was a meaningful writer of structured settlement annuities until early 2018. Lincoln Financial Group announced January 19, 2018 that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston from Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. Upon completion of the transaction, Lincoln Financial will retain Liberty’s Group Benefits business and reinsured Liberty’s Individual Life and Annuity business to Protective Life Insurance Company ( a subsidiary of Dai-Ichi Life Holdings). But what about BARCO?
BARCO Assignments Ltd, an International Business Corporation in Barbados was an annuity funded non qualified assignment facility that from 1997 to 2018, funded the obligations it assumed through the purchase of annuities from Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston. Liberty Life also issued a Notice of Financial Commitment, a form of keep well agreement, where Barco Assignments, Ltd ("Barco") entered into a non qualified assignment agreement to assume the periodic payment obligations with claimants. The notice stated "Liberty Life will ensure that Barco has the minimum amount of net assets required to conduct business under Barbados law, and if at any time Barco has insufficient funds to make any required payment under the terms of any obligation it has to a creditor, Liberty Life will contribute to Barco the funds Barco needs in order to meet its payment obligations . Moreover, in the event that Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston decides to terminate the financial commitment, it stated that it will satisfy those obligations that predated the termination of the commitment.
Liberty lived up to its word and did a fantastic job of communicating what was happening and looked out for annuitants. Here is my February 27, 2018 write up on the Settlement News Network
John Hancock and MassMutual
John Hancock and MassMutual continue to provide excellent service to structured settlement annuitants. In recent years John Hancock recently began to offer a hardship commutation option to its structured settlement annuitants. They have maintained superior financial ratings.
In contrast, the Aviva exit story was not so good, but after a few twists and turns at least the story ends well. After writing 4,000 annuities for an estimated $1B in premium from 2002-2009, Aviva stopped writing structured settlement annuities in early 2009. Aviva was a popular company with settlement planners with its aggressive medical underwriting, competitive pricing, highly capable, professional and friendly staff and service and for some, a willingness to participate in qualified assignments from single claimant qualified settlement funds.
Aviva charged $500 extra to have what it advertised as a Capital Maintenance Agreement, a keep well agreement that was advertised as an obligation that was "absolute, unconditional and ongoing". Only it wasn't. It was lie, not just a white lie, but a real lie. Nobody in consumer facing roles actually saw the actual CMA, just a letter that represented what it was. The truth was not revealed to consumers, brokers and even front-line Aviva representatives who interfaced with brokers. One executive at Aviva actually referred to the CMA as a "form of guarantee" in a letter to support a court petition in Erie County New York. It wasn't until John Griffiths contacted me in August 2014 that Aviva's CMA ruse began to unravel. A year earlier on October 2, 2013 Aviva concluded the sale of its USA life companies to Athene. Griffiths and I learned that the CMA was not actually "absolute, unconditional and ongoing" from Athene and that the CMA "was terminated according to its terms". Discovery in the subsequent class action litigation filed against against Aviva and Athene July 27, 2015, revealed the deception. It was madness! Fortunately, there was no financial impairment.
Ultimately the settlement of the Aviva/Athene class action in 2018, righted the ship. Among other things, a new CMA backed by Athene Holdings, Ltd was part of the settlement, leaving annuitants with a better capitalized CMA than before. Aviva could have an should have handled things differently, in my opinion. Fortunately, annuitants' payments were not in danger and hopefully never will be. But consumers should get what they bargained for, and the insurer should be completely transparent in its advertising and marketing materials in compliance with the law. As the Structured Settlement Watchdog, I put in a shift on this for the good of the people that this product was intended to protect. The January 21, 2019 letter from Mr. Griffiths speaks for itself.
Choose your structured settlement partners carefully.
Last updated October 7, 2022