This structured settlement secondary market report updates S2KM's most recent secondary market reporting:
Falsified New York Transfer Orders
S2KM previously reported that a New York law firm had falsified court orders approving structured settlement transfers in as many as 100 cases - and possibly more. Industry sources have identified the responsible law firm as Paris & Chaikin where a former non-lawyer employee, apparently created the fraudulent, court-related documents. The primary transfer companies represented by Paris & Chaikin in these transactions were J.G. Wentworth, and its affiliate Peachtree Financial Solutions, as well as Stone Street Capital.
Paris & Chaikin has retained Pery D. Krinsky , according to industry sources, as outside ethics counsel for assistance with these cases. An online 2013 Speaker Biography states in part: "Pery’s ethics-based defense litigation practice focuses on: attorney ethics matters, representing judges before the Commission on Judicial Conduct, criminal defense matters, art law ethics & litigation matters, and representing law school students before the Committees on Character & Fitness. Pery serves as the Chair of the Ethics Committee of the Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Section of the N.Y. State Bar Association. Pery also serves as Chair of the Committee on Professional Discipline of the N.Y. County Lawyers’ Association."
Ongoing investigations of these fraudulent transfers are being conducted by the New York State Courts and the New York County District Attorney's Office. Primary and secondary market representatives with whom S2KM has discussed these fraudulent transfers disagree on how they are impacting judicial attitudes toward structured settlement factoring transactions and factoring companies in New York.
Proposed Amendment to IRC 5891
Representative Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa) has introduced H.R. 3897, a bill which, if enacted into law, would amend IRC 5891 and impose standards and procedures which are substantially different than currently provided by the Model State Structured Settlement Protection Act (Model Act) and almost all of the 48 related state statutes.
The most controversial provision of H.R. 3897 appears to be proposed new paragraph (5) under current subsection (b) titled "Transaction Requirements" which would provide in part: "(A)" In General - A transfer of structured settlement payment rights shall be treated as satisfying the requirements of this paragraph only if the transfer meets the following requirements:
- "(1) The annual discount rate of the consideration for the transfer, determined by taking into account charges, fees and other expenses, does not exceed the prime rate plus 5 percentage points.
- "(2) The aggregate amount of the charges, fees and other expenses payable by the payee do not exceed 2 percent of the value of the consideration to the payee (net of such charges, fees and other expenses)."
This H.R. 3897 language is similar to provisions in the North Carolina structured settlement protection act. North Carolina is one of only three states which currently impose statutory ceilings on discount rates. A recent bill to amend the Florida structured settlement protection act likewise proposes a discount ceiling similar to North Carolina.
Note: following years of conflict, the primary market National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA) and secondary market National Association of Settlement Purchasers (NASP) reached an agreement in 2000 to support a combined federal and state legislative solution for structured settlement transfers which resulted in IRC 5891 and the Model Act. It is S2KM's understanding this agreement remains in effect.
Peachtree Settlement Funding v. Cathy Brenston
In 2013, an Illinois 5th District panel, sitting for the 4th District Illinois Court of Appeals, held that an Illinois state court, which had previously approved transfers requested by Brenston:
- Had a duty to enforce anti-assignment provisions in Brenston's original structured settlement documentation; and
- Had no authority under the Illinois protection act to approve the transfer petitions - even though all of the relevant parties had waived the anti-assignment provisions.
The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently denied Peachtree's petition for appeal of this decision leaving both primary and secondary structured settlement market participants uncertain about the case's precedential meaning and scope. In an Amicus curiae brief, NASP asserted the Appellate Court decision could render the Illinois transfer statute "a practical nullity"
S2KM has learned that a companion case involving Peachtree and Brenston remains on appeal in the 3rd District Illinois Court of Appeals and will be argued February 27, 2014. The parties had previously stayed their appeal waiting for the Illinois Supreme Court to rule on the 4th District case.
In a recent Florida case, summarized in this Drinker Biddle Structured Settlement Alert, a Sumter County Circuit Court Judge cited the Brenston case as authority in ruling that an April 2011 transfer order was void ab initio, and that resulting arbitration awards were “impotent and without substance.”
For additional information about structured settlements and anti-assignment provisions, see S2KM's prior blog post "Anti-Assignment Restrictions".
METLife Split Payment Policy
During NASP's 2013 Annual Conference, NASP Executive Director Earl Nesbitt reported that MetLife has begun actively opposing transfers that involve split payments as well as court-approved servicing arrangements. Under such servicing arrangements, structured settlement annuity providers typically remit the entirety of specific periodic payments to transfer companies to administer even when the original recipient/transferor only assigns a portion of the payments.
Primary market proponents of MetLife's new policy argue that at least 27 state structured settlement protection acts prohibit partial transfers. In addition, they maintain that servicing contracts represents an annuity provider obligation and that post-transfer problems can occur from subsequent, multiple transfers resulting from such occurrences as divorces, child support obligations and improper transfers by trust beneficiaries.
In response, Nesbitt believes this "Hobson's choice", forcing injury victims to sell all or nothing, will cause "deep trouble" for MetLife and other annuity providers who may adopt MetLife's split payment policy. Nesbitt argues that annuity providers are protected by stipulation agreements and administrative fees. He predicts litigation, legislation and attorney general investigations could result.
Stock Market Prices
- JGWPT Holdings, Inc. - JGWPT Holdings IPO, which occurred November 8, 2013, was poorly received with JGWPT Inc. reducing the initial offering price of its common stock from $19-$22 per share to $14.00 which then traded down to the high $12s. Since then, the common stock, which now trades on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: JGW), reached a high of $18.00 per share and closed Friday January 31 at $16.992 per share.
- Asta Funding Inc. - Asta, a publicly traded company (Nasdaq: ASFI), acquired an 80% ownership interest in CBC Settlement Funding, LLC ("CBC"), a structured settlement factoring company on December 31, 2013. Following announcement of the purchase on January 7, 2014, Asta's stock price closed during regular trading hours at $8.28 per share. The stock closed Friday January 31 at $8.20 per share.
For S2KM's complete reporting about the structured settlement secondary market, see the structured settlement wiki.