The Year in Review: Trust Owned Life Insurance (TOLI) in 2017

While 2017 was another challenging year for those of us who manage life insurance portfolios, ITM TwentyFirst started the year highlighting the efficiency of life insurance in an ILIT as a preferred method of passing wealth to the next generation. In our first post of the year we cited an example of a 65-year-old couple in good health purchasing a survivorship guaranteed universal life (GUL) policy. The policy relies on a fixed annual premium paid in full and on time each year for its guarantees, but for those with the cash flow to fund the asset, the return on the death benefit is very attractive.   As seen in the spreadsheet to the right, if the death benefit was paid twenty years out (age 85) the internal rate of return (IRR) on the death benefit would be 11.36%. If it was paid 30 years out (age 95) the IRR would be 5.36%. Even at age 100, the IRR would be over 3.6%. Remember, the policy death benefit is guaranteed (if the premium is paid in full and on time), which makes these returns even more attractive when compared to other “guaranteed” investments. Yes, life insurance can be a great way to leverage assets to the next generation, but managing the asset can be difficult and this was another trying year.

Restrictions were placed on in force illustrations for a handful of carriers, which limited our ability to review some policies. In a February post we noted that John Hancock cited “regulatory standards that govern illustration practices” for limiting the illustrations on some Performance UL policies issued between 2003 to 2010. The issue stemmed from the fact that “experience has differed from the current assumptions which are reflected in the illustrations.”  In at least one instance in 2016, restrictions on in force illustrations were a direct precursor to a cost of insurance (COI) increase.

The Start of Life Insurance Dividend Season

Earnings season for investors are the months that most corporations release their financial results.  Falling in the months of January, April, July, and October after the books are closed on the last quarters financials, they not only tell past performance, but in many instances, are a predictor of future earnings.  Bellwether stocks like Wal-Mart, Caterpillar and JP Morgan, offer an indication of the future performance of a market segment. 

Phoenix Announces New Cost of Insurance (COI) Increases

This week our New York City office received letters from Phoenix alerting us to cost of insurance (COI) increases on Accumulator (I, II, III, and IV) and Estate Legacy Universal Life policies.  Per the carrier, the cost increase was necessary because “certain anticipated experience factors are now less favorable than we anticipated when we established the cost of insurance rate schedule.”  According to the letters we received, there will be a flat “overall increase to cost of insurance rates, as well as progressive increases…beginning when an insured reaches age 71 through age 85.”  A Phoenix representative told us that for policies on insureds older than 85, the full increase will be implemented at once.

Another Insurance Executive Rings An Ominous Industry Bell Because Of Low Interest Rates

In the last few years we have written over 20 articles on the cost of insurance (COI) increases that have plagued the life insurance policies we manage.  The main reason for those increases?  Most would say the historic low interest rate environment that we are (still) in. In a post published just over a year ago, we listed some low rate winners and losers. When rates are historically low, the winners are the borrowers, the losers are the lenders…and who are bigger lenders than insurance companies?  They take in premium, invest it, and hopefully make enough to support future benefits. By regulation they must invest the vast majority of those premiums in fixed investments. It has been widely reported that the industry has been hurting, but this week in an article in the Financial Times, an industry executive took it a step further saying that because of “anemic” returns, the environment in the insurance industry is “unsustainable.”

Transamerica Raising Cost of Insurance (COI) On Certain Policies Issued In 1998 and 1999

We recently received confirmation from Transamerica that they are raising cost of insurance charges on their Ultra 115 and Survivorship 115 products issued in 1998 and 1999. Increases will take effect on the policy anniversary dates beginning August 1, 2017. Although illustrations are not yet available, we have learned that the increases are expected to be 58%. Updates will be posted as they become available.

Penn Mutual Pays $110 Million Settlement in Class Action Lawsuit

Last week we reported on on a $37.5 million settlement paid by Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company for a lawsuit that alleged the carrier “was obligated to pay additional dividends on its participating policies.”  Recently, a similar lawsuit settled for a much higher sum.  Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company settled a suit for $110 million that alleged that the carrier failed “to pay the full amount of annual policy dividends out of divisible surplus that are due.”  The suit was initially filed in November of 2012 by a husband and wife who together owned 5 Penn Mutual participating whole life contracts, on behalf of them and “all persons similarly situated.” (1)

Mass Mutual Class Action Settlement Means Small Payout for Participating Policyholders

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A class action lawsuit brought against Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company has resulted in preliminary approval of a $37.5 million payout. The payout benefits policyholders of Mass Mutual participating policies held between January 1st, 2001 and December 31st, 2016. A participating policy is one that receives dividends. ITM TwentyFirst has begun to receive notices of the payout that was agreed to in a document filed March 13th of this year in United States District Court District of Massachusetts.  ITM TwentyFirst manages or reviews almost 1,000 policies from the carrier, the majority being whole life participating policies.

Lawsuits Consolidated Against Lincoln National For Cost of Insurance Increase

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In August of 2016 we wrote about a cost of insurance (COI) increase from Lincoln National (now Lincoln Financial Group) on a block of policies originally underwritten and issued by Jefferson Pilot from 1999 to 2007.  Lincoln Financial purchased Jefferson Pilot for roughly $7.5 billion in cash and stock in a transaction that closed in 2006.

Genworth Joins the List of Carriers Restricting In Force Ledgers

Since the beginning of the year, we have written about two carriers restricting their in force ledgers.  John Hancock recently noted a “temporary” situation on its Performance UL policies issued in certain states from 2003 to 2010, and alerted us that current assumption illustrations were unavailable for those policies.  Current assumption illustrations are those based on the current interest being credited and the current cost of insurance (COI) being charged on a policy.  In March of this year, Transamerica alerted us that they would “only run illustrations based on the guaranteed maximum charges and the guaranteed minimum interest rate” on a block of in force policies.  We noted that this was the second time that Transamerica placed restrictions on a block of policies.  The prior restriction was a precursor to a cost of insurance increase. 

Principle Based Reserving May Affect New Life Insurance Policy Pricing Going Forward

A new methodology for calculating policy reserves for life insurance policies has taken effect. The new methodology grew out of the 2009 National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) revisions to the Model Standard Valuation Law. Dubbed Principle-Based Reserving (PBR), the law was to take effect on the first day of the next calendar year if 42 states enacted the revisions by July 1st. The threshold was passed in 2016 and as of today, 46 states have adopted the revised laws.