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1,500 ELNY short fall victims under pressure to accept payment cuts rather than appeal

When an injured party is the recipient of a court-awarded compensation it is often encouraged by everyone involved for the party to receive their settlement in the form of periodic payments through a tax-free income stream. The intention is to ensure that the injured party does not prematurely exhaust their settlement funds and have guaranteed income for a specific time period. [2]

As previously reported, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John Galasso approved a plan to liquidate Executive Life Insurance Company of New York (ELNY) resulting in major losses in benefits for many personal injury victims. [2]
Obviously this causes a great financial burden to those victims who rely on the money in order to support themselves as well as their families. As you can imagine there are many people who disagree with the outcome, specifically the 1,500 annuitants who will be receiving cuts in their payments as a result of the approved liquidation. In some cases these cuts are more than 50%. [1]

According to structured settlement industry expert, Patrick Hindert, the life insurance industry is voluntarily establishing a $100 million “Hardship Fund” to assist those people who are affected the most by the liquidation. This amount only represents 10% of the actual shortfall. [3]

Hindert, quoting several passages from documents sent to shortfall victims, has implied that any appeal and subsequent rejection of Judge Galasso’s order will cancel the conditions for establishing the fund. As a result no payments will be made available to the shortfall victims. [3]

Many individuals are worried by the perceived attempt to strong arm annuitants into accepting the deal rather than appealing the terms of liquidation order. [3]

Speaking for the ELNY structured settlement shortfall victims he represents, attorney Edward Stone states, "These statements represent another strong arm tactic to try to prevent ELNY shortfall victims from pursuing their constitutional rights." [3]

Some victims who chose to remain anonymous believed it would have been more fair if the loss would have been distributed equally among all annuitants rather than single out the 1,500.[3]

One industry expert had a different take stating, “Annuitants received 100% of what was a grossly unreasonable annuity amount.” [5] Implying incompetent regulators who allowed the sales to happen, the poor pricing of annuities as well as the annuitants’ willingness to put all their “eggs in one basket” were part of the reason ELNY failed while others prevailed. [5] This individual suggests that ELNY victims, many of whom were minors at the time, should examine all the facts around their cases, sales literature, correspondence and financial comparison to determine if their parents, lawyers etc were at fault for buying the ELNY annuities in the first place. [5]

Since the 1970’s, life insurers have paid benefits worth approximately $100 billion, according to industry experts.[1] Structured Settlement annuities have been a major source of profits for many life insurance companies including some that are currently experiencing losses. [4] Therefore it comes as a shock to discover that the insurance companies aren’t willing to do more to help the victims.

If annuitants can no longer believe the guarantees stated by insurers, the perceived value of annuities, as a whole, will greatly diminish ultimately decreasing the demand for such products. While the ELNY case may be the only such case of an insured not being able to pay its annuitants, we do not know if it will be the last time this will happen. We do know that any perceived instability by insurers, whether real or imagined, could adversely affect the reputation of an industry that markets itself as a “safer” investment.

Regardless for the reason for ELNY’s demise there needs to be something in place to protect the rights of all annuitants ensuring that their guarantees are honored. Perhaps there is a need for additional legislation, perhaps the system as a whole needs to be re-examined.


Posted by Dawn Anderson