by Structured Settlement Watchdog
CrowFly, LLC has moved on from email blasting lawyers to email blasting the structured settlement industry in a letter many received in the past few days from co-founder and CEO Tony Barnes. Barnes co-founded CrowFly, LLC along with its former CEO and current Director John Bair, the CEO of Milestone Consulting and Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC and COO Nita Bhatia.
The solicitation goes like this
"Tired of hearing that your clients have factored payments at 10%, 15%, or even 20% discount rates? Thousands of individuals make this decision every year despite distrusted industry players and elevated discount rates.
"CrowFly(dot)com was created to help solve this problem. We can't stop people from the urge to get money in their hands now rather than later. But we can educate them on how much those payments can really garner and provide a better outcome in the case that they need the funds.
Barnes says the "service connects an expanding group of qualified buyers to those who already wish to sell". The results they claim are easy to see. Industry norms for factoring transactions were recently stated as 7% - 18%. Barnes states that CrowFly is averaging 6% (discount rate) this year. Recently being able to go as low as 4% for one transaction.
"At CrowFly says Barnes, we understand that selling the rights to structured settlement payments is not the right thing for everyone". Which makes it all the more interesting that its co-Founder and former CEO John T. Bair sent a Milestone email blast to on April 20, 2020 to get out of annuities and continues to beg the obvious question. Is Milestone providing information about its client lists to CrowFly to solicit those annuitants to sell their structured settlement payments?
Barnes continues "Investors using our service also know that earning even close to 4% on payments from A++ rated insurers is a good thing. You see that everyday when trying to find the best pricing for your clients' settlement annuities".
Barnes asks "Tell me how we can do better". Here you go "Barney"!
- This is total BS. The client's settlement annuities are not for sale. The annuity remains with the qualified assignment company and only the rights can be purchased in a structured settlement transfer.
- The only current A++ rated insurers are New York Life, Berkshire Hathaway and USAA. And former structured settlement annuity issuers, Mass Mutual. The majority of deals are likely not from these insurers.
- The 7%-18% is a range from the website of the National Association of Settlement Purchasers. In my observation NASP members will pay much less than that, especially when in competition.
Need for More Transparency About Seventh Amendment Holdings, Milestone and CrowFly
John T. Bair has written several blog posts on behalf of Milestone Consulting, LLC and Crowfly, LLC questioning the relevancy of structured settlements Milestone Consulting has communicated to trial lawyers to eliminate annuities from their client portfolios and settlement plans on April 20, 2020. Milestone and CrowFly, LLC operate out of the same address, 737 Main Street, Suite 100 in Buffalo, New York. John T. Bair put in writing in an October 3, 2018 communication, from his Milestone Consulting email to a third party in the secondary market, that he is "the only primary market and secondary market origination firm that he knew of".
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defines origination as "any service involved in the creation of a federally related mortgage loan, including but not limited to the taking of the loan application, loan processing, the underwriting and funding of the loan, and the processing and administrative services required to perform these functions. Origination is something different than simply a fintech platform.
- Has Milestone Consulting, LLC, or any of its employees, provided its list of structured settlement annuitants, or any of their protected information to Crowfly, LLC?
- Has CrowFly approached an annuitant, or shopped their structured settlement payments rights, placed by its Director and Co-Founder and Primary Blogger John T. Bair, through Milestone Consulting in the last 5 years?
- Has there been any attempt by John T. Bair directly, or indirectly through any entities that he owns or is a director of, soliciting, or facilitating the solicitation of any annuitants he solicited and placed into structured settlement annuities through Milestone Consulting, Forge Consulting, or EPS Settlements and making any profit on those deals?
- Does John Bair's origination activities, as characterized in the October 3, 2018 email go exclusively through the CrowFly platform or by some other means?
- What profits is any entity associated with John T. Bair taking (1) on the factoring of structured settlement payment rights (2) on the assignment of the rights to an investor or investors?
In June 2018, Nita Bhatia returned a call from 716-883-1833, a number with a Milestone caller ID and known to me as one used with by Bair in his structured settlement insurance agency) to my call that I made to an entirely different number that appeared contemporaneously on a website called Enuities.com (which included a claims "to beat JG Wentworth by 50%". Bhatia told me Structured Settlement Exchange was owned by one of Bair's/Milestone's upstream holding companies.
Who Owns Crowfly, LLC?
We know that there are three co-founders Bair, Barnes and Bhattia.
Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC applies for Trademark for What Would Later Be Called CrowFly, LLC
In June 2017, Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC, for which John T, Bair is CEO, submitted an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in an attempt to trademark "Structured Settlement Exchange". Download Seventh Amendment Holdings LLC attempt to Trademark Structured Settlement Exchange. The application was initially rejected by the USPTO for descriptiveness (i.e. cannot trademark descriptive) . Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC, the holding company for Milestone Consulting, appealed. Structured Settlement Exchange was changed to CrowFly in the 4th quarter of 2018. John Bair's bio on Milestone Consulting's website states "He is the Founder and CEO of Seventh Amendment Holdings, a company that provides comprehensive, plaintiff-focused settlement planning and management through its subsidiary companies, specifically Milestone Consulting and Monolith Advisors". and serves as Qualified Settlement Funding Administrator according to a September 15, 2014 blog ("one of our holding companies Seventh Amendment Holdings frequently serves as Fund Administrator") and according to the Buffalo News, Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC owns land at 130 Depew Ave in Buffalo, acquired in the Fall of 2019. The undeveloped lot next to the residence of the Milestone Consulting and Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC CEO, still shows a for sale sign.
Upon information and belief CrowFly has a more than $1,600/day Adword (pay per click) budget.
Where's Waldo? CrowFly episode
Seventh Amendment Holdings, a company that provides comprehensive, plaintiff-focused settlement planning and management through its subsidiary companies, specifically Milestone Consulting and Monolith Advisors is how John Bair's bio reads on the Milestone Consulting website.
According to Carl Hunley, who "received an opportunity to work with John Bair to rebrand his company Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC" and created a design around a timeline that used the size and color of spaces in the timeline "in order to represent each of the FIVE subsidiaries under the Seventh Amendment Umbrella" (Milestone, Monolith, Bairs Foundation and two assignment companies United States Periodic Payment Assignment Company (USPPAC) and Global Periodic Payment assignment Company (GPPAC). No mention is made of CrowFly, although to be fair, CrowFly became Crowfly in October 2018 with the name change from Structured Settlement Exchange. It is not clear when this " Refreshing the Brand" took place. But again, Seventh Amendment Holdings sought the trademark application and per the USPTO TESS database is currently is the owner of the word mark " structured settlement exchange" as defined in the resulting registration.
What I wrote in June 2018 about the optics still rings true. in my opinion. The idea of an exchange or marketplace is not a bad one. However, despite what I'm sure were good intentions, common controls and/or ownership and operation with an individual or entity that owns at least 5 companies with a "spaghetti junction" of potential conflicts of interest. How is that being managed? The answer should not require an attempt to secure an NDA, multi-year non compete and $100,000 liquidated damages clause. This needs to be transparent.
1.Structured settlement and insurance general agency and secondary market origination firm (Bair's admission in October 3, 2018 email). If Seventh Amendment Holdings, LLC owns Crowfly, LLC then that should be clear,
2. Seventh Amendment Holdings is Qualified Settlement Fund Administrator is the entity that owns a qualified assignment company.
It cannot be disputed that Milestone and its CEO are big proponents of QSF's. Its holding company, Seventh Amendment Holding is a frequent administrator as admitted by Bair in several writings.
To the extent that any of the Seventh Amendment Holdings assignment companies are used , or have been used for qualified assignments from where Seventh Amendment Holding is the QSF Adminstrator, how is this potential Rev-Proc 93-34 Section 4 conflict being managed?
(4) the assignee is not related to the transferor (or transferors) to the designated or qualified settlement fund within the meaning of sections 267(b) or 707(b)(1); and
(5) the assignee is neither controlled by, nor controls, directly or indirectly, the designated or qualified settlement fund. For purposes of this section 4.01(5), examples of control include an assignee that is a corporation the stock of which is owned by the fund or an assignee that is a trust the trustee of which is the administrator of the fund
The marketing of factored structured settlement payment streams to investors in concurrent fashion, raises an eyebrow, in my opinion. To be fair, in my opinion, Bair should divest his interest in Milestone and go into the factoring business full-time, or relinquish CrowFly.