The future of structured settlements depends upon which of two alternative business models ultimately prevails - the traditional (defense-controlled) claim management model or the emerging (claimant centric) settlement planning model. (Note: see Addendum).
The Claim Management Model
The claim management business model was developed by members of the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA), which is hosting its 2012 Annual Meeting this week in Washington, D.C. The claim management model has dominated the United States structured settlement industry since the enactment of the Periodic Payment Settlement Act in 1982. Its general characteristics:
- Defense control resulting from defense funding;
- Defense-approved lists of annuity providers and brokers;
- Proactive case identification and negotiation participation by defendants designed to sell structured settlements;
- De minimus regulation of sales conduct resulting in a lack of:
- Disclosure - of compensation sharing and/or conflicts of interest;
- Product suitability standards; and/or
- Informed written consent by structured settlement recipients.
- Political and case-specific opposition to single claimant 468B qualified settlement funds (QSFs);
- A hostile view of the secondary structured settlement market.
The business justification for the claim management business model for defendants and liability insurers:
- Reduce claim costs by utilizing structured settlements; and
- Protect themselves from future risks by utilizing qualified assignments.
The traditional cost/risk analysis of the claim management model, however, does not adequately consider the impact on defendants of:
- Negotiating and defending damages using structured settlements funded with historically low interest rates;
- The added claim management costs specifically resulting from review of structured settlement-related file documentation;
- Potential accountability and liability resulting from:
- Increasing legislative and regulatory protection for consumers and investors;
- Defendant status as deep pocket originators of long-term payment promises with complex life-cycles;
- Sales activities by defendant employees, attorneys and agents without qualified compliance supervision.
The Settlement Planning Model
As defendants and liability insurers re-think the traditional claim management structured settlement model, they should also investigate (for their own self-interest) an emerging, alternative structured settlement business model - the settlement planning model.
What is settlement planning? Joseph Tombs, a former President of the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) and co-founder of the Registered Settlement Planner (RSP) program, defines settlement planning as "... a profession helping recipients of settlement proceeds use those proceeds to achieve post-loss goals and transition successfully to post-settlement financial life."
What is a settlement planner? The SSP Standards of Professional Conduct define "settlement planner" as "... a representative who provides advice and other services to a person participating in the design, negotiation or implementation of a settlement or satisfaction of judgment for the benefit of a person claiming a legal entitlement to an award of damages or other compensation."
- The SSP Standards recognizes that "a settlement planners may represent a plaintiff, a defendant, an insurer, a guardian ad litem, an heir of the claimant, an attorney or another person participating in the settlement services", settlement planning is more "claimant centric" than the claim management model and involves a commensurate reallocation of responsibilities and risks away from defendants and liability insurers.
- Not dependent upon QSFs, the settlement planning model recognizes that QSFs provide important advantages and protections for plaintiffs and defendants.
- Product neutral, the settlement planning model recognizes structured settlement represents a core settlement planning tool that combines relatively low investment and dissipation risks.
The basic characteristics of the settlement planning model and professional, as outlined by Joseph DiGangi at the NSSTA 2009 Winter Meeting:
- Planning orientation
- Solutions before products
- Blended products and services
- Product neutrality
- Disclosure and informed consent
- Professional training and designations
- Comprehensive skill sets and knowledge base
From a claimant centric perspective, the settlement planning process includes five stages:
- Needs assessment
Multiple professional associations and 2012 conferences are now studying various components and issues related to the settlement planning business model:
- The Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP) - S2KM attended and reviewed the ASNP 2012 Annual Meeting.
- Risk Settlement Planning Practicum - Hosted by the University of Tulsa Law School, S2KM reviewed this settlement planning conference whose presenters included Patrick Hindert, S2KM's primary blog author. Hindert spoke about the "History of Structured Settlements" and provided a schematic analysis of the structured settlement business cycle.
- Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) - S2KM will attend and review the SSP 2012 Annual Meeting April 30 - May 1 in Las Vegas. Among the presenters, Hindert will address "Settlement Planning Business Models: the Defense Perspective"
ADDENDUM (April 26, 2012): After reading S2KM's blog post, Charles Schell, President-Elect of SSP, asked the following question (which Schell promised to address at the SSP Annual Meeting): "Is it necessary for one or the other business model to prevail or could each side benefit by recognizing the role of the other?"
For additional information about settlement planning (aka settlement consulting or special needs settlement planning), see the structured settlement wiki.