by Structured Settlement Watchdog
With all the good work that the South Carolina legislature is now doing and working on to create the state of the art Structured Settlement Protection law, an April 16, 2023 opinion piece by the Editorial Staff of The Post and Courier was reckless.
The Post and Courier editorial staff wrote:
"Alex Murdaugh’s double-murder trial was peppered with references to structured settlements and how the shady lawyer had used these complicated financial vehicles as another way to exploit his clients.
Particularly close observers might have noted that at least one of his clients — Allendale County resident Arthur Badger — got doubly exploited when he ran out of money from a lawsuit settlement and sold the rights to future payments for his children for pennies on the dollar"
Here is my commentary of the McClatchy story
Murdaugh and Mayhem | Client of Color Ripped Off. Then Factoring Cos. Churned His 6 Children's Structures - Structured Settlements 4Real® Blog: Structured Settlements | Settlement Planning News and Commentary (typepad.com)
Why did Badger run out of money? It wasn't so much about "Murdaugh using structured settlements as a way to exploit his clients". That's the kind of inattention to detail emulating the South Florida press coverage of the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme (where certain members of the press and a former US attorney recklessly mislabeled certain fraudulent investments structured settlements). Using a highly non-credible slight of hand, Murdaugh used part of the name of a legitimate settlement planning firm to cover (from his firm) the destination of the check that was deposited in a bank account that was not the law firm trust account.
Forge Consulting Partner Michael Gunn, whose firm was a victim of Murdaugh, testified in the Murdaugh murder trial, with the following a relevant excerpt to this discussion:
"But I do know that Alex Murdaugh used our good name to defraud his clients, his law firm and countless others. I know that Bank of America could have stopped it all there with a single phone call to verify the truth. Unfortunately, that call was never made. I wonder how much tragedy could have been avoided if it was.”
One of the dots that the South Carolina press did connect was that concurrent with the announcement of the Maryland Attorney General of a number of Ryan Blank's associated companies being banned in Maryland for 7 years for fraud in January 2018, the Owings Mills Maryland native was the registrant of another entity, Pitchberg Funding, which had a hand in dismantling of the Badger children's structured settlements.
McClatchy reporters, who broke the original Badger story, was able to link Pitchberg Funding to Owings MIlls Maryland bred Ryan Blank. As we've previously reported and McClatchy reports as background to the Badger case, "the Maryland Attorney General’s Office banned Blank and several of his business associates in 2018 from doing business in the state after an investigation found they were acting deceptively in pushing structured settlement transfer deals through the courts. Blank and his partners sent thousands of mailers to structured settlement recipients that made false claims and used fake names, including a non-existent Judge Larry C. David, purportedly a reference to the famous comedian and creator of the TV show, “Seinfeld,” according to the settlement agreement outlining the investigation’s findings". See my January 9, 2018 post Annuity Sold Fraudsters Nailed by Maryland AG In Structured Settlement Buyer Crackdown - Structured Settlements 4Real® Blog: Structured Settlements | Settlement Planning News and Commentary (typepad.com)
Blank was also co-principal (with his high school chum Richart Ruddie) in another company, RIR1984 that tied him to a Rhode Island matter involving a phony court consent order.
Annuity Sold's Ryan Blank is Co-Principal Of Co. Dissolved Days After WaPo Article Was Published - Structured Settlements 4Real® Blog: Structured Settlements | Settlement Planning News and Commentary (typepad.com)
The SC Senate bill’s main sponsor, Senate Judiciary Chairman Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach was quoted as saying
“South Carolina has effectively become the playground of … the moneychangers of structured settlements,” he said. “We’ve been seized upon … by folks who are preying on the uninformed, the folks who have suffered a dramatic loss, oftentimes including mental health and brain functioning.
What is a Money Changer?
" A money changer is a person or organization whose business is the exchange of coins or currency of one country for that of another. This trade was a predecessor of modern banking". Source: Wikipedia
In the plot line of Arthur Hailey's 1975 novel " The Money Changers", "Ben Roselli, president of First Mercantile American Bank and grandson of the founder, makes the shocking announcement that he's dying. With no offspring to inherit the company, Roselli knows that executive VPs Roscoe Heyward and Alex Vandervoort are the obvious candidates to succeed him. Heyward, who has been with First Mercantile for two decades, will do whatever it takes to bring in new clients and win the coveted presidency. Vandervoort, a newcomer from the Federal Reserve with a left-wing girlfriend, advocates for a socially responsible plan of growth. And now the discovery of counterfeit cash and credit card fraud threatens the future of the bank itself.
From the day-to-day business dealings to the inner sanctums of the money trading center and the boardroom, Hailey s novel is a riveting tale of ambition, greed, and the US banking system". Source: Goodreads.com
While South Carolina's efforts to reform its Stuctured Settlement Protection laws are to be commended, it's a strong reaction to an award winning news story by David Weissman and others. Unfortunately as we've seen in Maryland, Minnesota and elsewhere , the strategic failure of state legislatures across the nation to take the initiative to deal with an ongoing known threat and "patch the holes", for two decades IS the root of the problem. By regulating the structured settlement factoring companies, requiring licensing/registration (knowing very clearly and easily, in a publicly accessible data base, who is doing business in your state with your citizens and who controls these entities), setting and enforcing standards of conduct consistent with other financial services industries. Without consequences the ne'er do wells will exploit weaknesses. It's a shame that legislators have been blind to the obvious until a major embarassing news story hits the headlines.