While Berkshire Hathaway quietly assumed leadership among primary market structured settlement annuity providers during 2013, J.G. Wentworth (JGW) continued to consolidate its control of the secondary market with the same "subtlety" and ubiquitousness that have characterized its late-night television advertisements.
Various industry experts estimate JGW's secondary structured settlement market share, following its 2012 merger with Peachtree Financial Solutions (Peachtree), now totals somewhere between 50% and 75%, and the combined JGW/Peachtree's share of industry profits now exceeds 80%.
JGWPT Holdings Inc. IPO
JGW's 2013 apogee occurred November 8 when JGWPT Holdings Inc.'s IPO produced what is currently the only publicly traded structured settlement company. The IPO 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.
The stated purposes for JGWPT's IPO were to pay down some of JGW's $572 million debt and to provide its pre-IPO equity holders (JLL Partners) an opportunity to earn additional profits. Post-IPO, JLL Partners continues to hold a 39% economic interest and a 63% voting interest in JGWPT while four of its partners sit on the company's Board of Directors.
JGWPT's common stock, however, now trades on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: JGW) and closed Friday (December 27, 2013) at $17.10 per share. At least one analyst has informed S2KM he believes the stock is currently worth at least $20 per share based upon JGW's "dominant franchise", access to securitization markets, low costs relative to competitors and "incalculable returns on capital", among other factors.
Problems and Controversies in 2013
As S2KM reported in this prior blog post, JGW, which was founded in 1995, had experienced a tumultuous history prior to 2013 - and problems and controversies continued to plague the company during 2013:
- Abandoned Sale - Bloomberg News reported in January 2013 that JLL Partners had abandoned plans to sell the company after bids failed to meet expectations. Earlier reports had indicated that JLL Partners was seeking a $1 billion purchase price for JGW from private-equity firms.
- Ratings Downgrade - Moody's Investors Service (Moody's) announced in February 2013 a downgrade of its Corporate Family Rating (CFR) for JGW from B3 to Caa1. Under Moody's credit rating scale, "Caa1" signifies a long-term rating "rated as poor quality and very high credit risk." Moody's CFR ratings for JGW are separate and distinct from financial agency ratings applicable to JGW structured settlement securitizations which historically have been rated as high quality and low risk investments.
- Shareholder Distribution - Moody's announcement confirmed "JGW is undergoing a leveraged recapitalization that will result in a tripling of the company's corporate debt as it pays its shareholders a very substantial dividend....Net proceeds from the $425 million Senior Secured Term Loan issuance will be used to finance a $309 million capital distribution to JGW's shareholders as well as to repay an existing $142 million term loan."
- Falsified Court Orders - JGWPT's amended S-1 statement, filed October 28, 2013 in anticipation of its public offering, included the following statement under a section titled "RISKS RELATED TO OUR BUSINESS OPERATIONS: ... there have in the past and may be in the future deficiencies in court orders obtained on our behalf by third parties that result in those court orders being invalid, including as a result of failures to perform according to our requirements and acts of fraud,..." That statement apparently references as many as 100 falsified court orders in New York approving JGW structured settlement transfers.
- Brenston Case - The Illinois Supreme Court denied Peachtree Settlement Funding's petition for appeal of the 4th District Illinois Court of Appeals' decision in the Settlement Funding v. Cathy Brenston case. The earlier Court of Appeals decision held the Illinois state court, which had previously approved transfers requested by Brenston 1) had a duty to enforce anti-assignment provisions in Brenston's original structured settlement documentation; and 2) 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. In an Amicus curiae brief, the National Association of Settlement Purchasers (NASP) asserted the Appellate Court decision will render the Illinois transfer statute "a practical nullity"
- Competitor Outrage - During NASP's 2013 annual conference, in remarks apparently directed at JGW, former NASP President Robin Shapiro expressed personal outrage about "troubling reports concerning the structured settlement factoring business" including:
- Falsified transfer orders.
- Inter-state forum shopping.
- Short-cutting waiting periods and disclosure requirements.
- Expediting hearing dates before preferred judges.
- "Competing bids" from the same company.
- NASP Conference - In addition to Shapiro's comments, NASP's 2013 annual conference focused on controversial issues which have historically divided the primary and secondary structured settlement markets. In her keynote remarks, NASP President Patricia LaBorde encouraged diverse perspectives and re-inforced NASP's policy of politically unobstructed learning. "We want to hear from all structured settlement stakeholders - even if they disagree with us or don't like who we are," LaBorde stated. "We are here to listen. We are here to improve."
- METLife Split Payment Policy - During his NASP presentation, Executive Director Earl Nesbitt reported a controversial new business practice that is troubling JGW and other transfer companies. MetLife apparently is now 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.
- Educational Forums - In addition to the NASP conference, JGW competitor Strategic Capital sponsored an online structured settlement "expert roundtable" which examined secondary market business practices and issues. S2KM Managing Director Patrick Hindert participated in the expert roundtable and also served as moderator for NASP's annual primary market panel discussion.
- Former Executives' Lawsuit - Another 2013 JGW nadir occurred in October when two former JGW executives and directors filed a Complaint in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware against current JGW CEO David Miller, three current JGW Directors and multiple JGW affiliate companies seeking to enforce a Tax Receivables Agreement (TRA) under which they claim they are owed approximately $35 million. A copy of the Complaint, which is posted on the structured settlement wiki, highlights JGW's complex organizational history as well as a shareholder focus disconnected from the welfare of its customers.
SEC Addresses Structured Settlement Transfers
Responding in part to concerns about secondary market business practices, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued an Investor Bulletin in 2013 titled "Pension or Settlement Income Streams: What You Need to Know Before Buying or Selling Them".
The Investor Bulletin highlights questions potential sellers and investors should ask before proceeding with proposed structured settlement transfers and includes a number of additional warnings and resource links.
A responding article , written by two industry leaders, characterized the SEC Bulletin as "misleading and in some cases inaccurate concerning the sale of structured settlement payment streams and factored structured settlements as an investment vehicle." The authors assert the SEC Investor Bulletin should have clarified the following features of structured settlement factoring transactions:
- "Always court ordered"
- "No negative tax consequences to the seller"
- "Investors' rights"
Secondary Market Growth
Despite problems and controversies, the U.S. structured settlement secondary market appears to have experienced additional growth during 2013. Based upon various industry sources, and subject to future revisions based upon subsequent information, S2KM estimates the 2013 structured settlement secondary market has increased approximately 7% compared with 2012 resulting from approximately 12,800 transfers and $385 million PV of secondary market purchases.
Adding these 2013 numbers to prior historic estimates, S2KM estimates:
- Approximately 149,000 structured settlement transfers have occurred since 1986;
- Involving approximately 74,000 recipients - many of whom have made multiple transfers;
- With approximately $4.4 billion PV in aggregate sums paid to those recipients.
- For an average of approximately $30,000 per transfer.
For comparison, S2KM estimates the primary market has sold approximately $139 billion PV of structured settlement annuities to approximately 800,000 recipients since 1975 with an average premium of approximately $174,000.
For additional S2KM reporting about the secondary market, see the structured settlement wiki. For additional S2KM 2013 annual reports, see: