The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed Texas securities fraud charges against Life Partners Holdings Inc. and three of the company’s senior executives over their alleged involvement in a life settlement scam. Life Partners, which is a Nasdaq-traded company, makes nearly all of its revenue from the life settlements it brokers.
According to the SEC, CEO and Chairman Brian Pardo, CFO David Martin, and general counsel and president Scott Peden misled shareholders when they failed to reveal a significant risk, which was that Life Partners was materially underestimating the estimates for life expectancy that it was using to determine how to price transactions. The estimates have a critical effect on company profit margins, revenues, and shareholder profits.
The Commission contends that Life Partners, Pardo, Peden, and Martin took part in improper accounting and disclosure violations, which allowed the company’s books to become overvalued while making it appear as if there was a steady stream of earnings coming from the life settlement transactions that were being brokered.
Peden and Pardo are also charged with insider trading. The SEC claims that the two men sold about $300,000 and $11.5M, respectively, of Life Partners stock at prices that were inflated even though they had material, non-public information disclosing that the company had relied on short life expectancy estimates to make revenue.
In a statement issue by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami, the agency is claiming that Life Partners also deceived shareholders by retaining a medical doctor to designate baseless life expectancy estimates to underlying insurance policies. Dr. Donald T. Cassidy, who lacks actuarial training and had no previous experience in assigning life expectancy estimates, began working with Life Partners in 1999. (The Commission claims that Pardo and Peden neglected to perform substantial due diligence on the doctor’s qualifications to do this job. They also are accused of telling him to use a methodology created by a former underwriter, who is one of the company’s owners.)
Beginning fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2011’s third quarter, Life Partners allegedly understated impairment costs related to life settlement investments and prematurely recognized revenue. The company is also accused of improperly accelerating revenue recognition starting from the closing date until when it got a non-binding agreement with the policy owner to sell the life settlement. Because Life Partners used these Dr. Cassidy’s life expectancy estimates in its impairment calculations, millions of dollars in impairment costs were understated.
The SEC wants the repayment of bonuses and profits from stock sales.
These usually involve the selling and buying of fractional interests of life insurance policies in the secondary market. For a lump sum amount, life insurance policy owners sell investors their policies. The amount that is offered is supposed to factor in the life expectancy of the insured and the policy’s terms and conditions. The longer the insured is expected to life, the more the investor has to pay in premiums. Policies owned by persons expected to not life as long cost more.
SEC fraud case could give new life to life settlements controversy, Bloomberg/Investment News, January 4, 2012
SEC Charges Life Settlements Firm and Three Executives with Disclosure and Accounting Fraud, SEC, January 3, 2012
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