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.

Lincoln Financial Group Raising Cost of Insurance (COI) On Another Block of Policies

In May of 2016, we reported that Lincoln Financial Group, acting as administrator and reinsurer, had raised cost of insurance (COI) rates on a block of policies issued by Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Company (now Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company.) In August of the same year, we reported that they were raising COI on a block of Legend Series Universal Life policies issued between 1999 and 2007 originally issued by Jefferson Pilot (Lincoln Financial purchased Jefferson Pilot in 2006). This January, we reported that the first class action lawsuit had been filed dealing with that increase, and in May, we reported that four lawsuits, including the first one we reported on, had been consolidated in the United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

This week, we received communication on another round of increases from the carrier. According to a representative of Lincoln, the COI increases will affect the following policies: Legend 3000, LifeSight 30, 31 and 32, UL 101, 102, 103, 130 and 131 and Vision 20.

In correspondence received from Lincoln regarding a Vision 20 policy we manage, it was noted the increases will begin on August 4th, 2017. The increases were made after Lincoln “updated projections” of their “future costs for providing this coverage,” and after undertaking an “in-depth actuarial analysis along with a rigorous review process.”
Per a FAQ sheet provided by the carrier, the rates are based on “future expectations” of “certain cost factors, including mortality, interest, expenses and the length of time policies stay in force.” Those “cost factors have changed; therefore, policy COI rates have been adjusted to appropriately reflect those future expectations.”

Lincoln has provided several options for policyholders including: continuing to pay the current premium, though “at some point premiums may need to be increased in order to keep the policy in force,” reducing the death benefit of the policy to lower the costs, replacing the current policy with another, or surrendering the policy for the cash surrender value.

Lincoln representatives could not tell us the size of the COI increase. They have provided a number of contact options and have suggested “the best way to learn how these COI changes will impact policy performance and to make an informed decision on managing your policy is to request an inforce illustration.”

We have requested inforce illustrations, and will be analyzing the information to determine the size of the increase and the effect on the carrying costs of policies. We will report back at a later date.

 

Lawsuits Consolidated Against Lincoln National For Cost of Insurance Increase

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.

At the beginning of this year we wrote about a lawsuit filed against Lincoln for that COI increase.  Since then, additional lawsuits have been filed, and on April 19th four suits, including the one we wrote about, were combined into a Consolidated Class Action Complaint in the United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The combined complaint was brought on behalf of the plaintiffs and “all similarly situated owners of JP Legend 300, and JP Lifewriter Legend 100, 200, and 400 series life insurance policies.”

The lawsuit charges that Lincoln breached the policy contracts in several ways by implementing the COI increases since they were based on “prohibited factors … designed to recoup past losses, [and were] non-uniform across insureds of the same class.”

The suit indicates that Lincoln effected the increases despite providing policyholders with in force illustrations that “reflected no change in future COI rates” from 2010 to 2014 and since that time in interrogatories filed with regulators, stated it “expects mortality experience to improve.”

Lincoln, when announcing the COI increases, cited three reasons, “lower investment income,” which was attributed to the historic low interest environment, changes in their mortality tables both negative and positive, and higher expenses, “including higher reinsurance rates.”

The suit claims that Lincoln’s “future investment returns could not reasonably be lower than what Lincoln originally expected,” and that Lincoln “cannot now claim that any change in investment return justifies the increase,” since the carrier provided in force illustrations from 2010 up to 2016 that showed no COI increase that were based on “Lincoln’s then-current assumptions as to mortality, interest, and any other experience factors that underlie the COI rates.”  The suit also points out that Lincoln’s own financial information disclosed that “investment income” had grown in those years.

Per the lawsuit, Lincoln is limited by contract to increasing insurance rates based on their “expectation of future mortality, interest expenses, and lapses” and cannot raise rates “to cover for improper dividends Lincoln Life paid to Lincoln National, or miscalculations concerning past mortality assumptions, or past interest rates, expenses or lapse rates,” or to “earn future profits higher than the level projected at the time the Policies were priced.”  The suit claims that Lincoln “admits that it is relying on its ‘past’ and ‘continued’ alleged lower investment returns to justify the increase.” In letters to policyholders outlining the reasons for the increases Lincoln referenced “nearly a decade of persistently low interest rates, including recent historic lows, and volatile financial markets.”

While Lincoln cites “higher reinsurance rates” as a reason for the COI increase, the suit claims “reinsurance costs cannot provide material support for the increase, and reinsurance costs are not an enumerated permissible factor for an increase.”

The suit contains 11 Claims for Relief, including a request that the court issue an injunction against the carrier from continuing to charge the higher rates, and “ordering any policy to be reinstated that was surrendered or terminated as a result of the COI increase.”

ITM TwentyFirst manages or tracks over 25,000 life insurance policies for trustees and institutions nationwide and has reviewed over $150 billion in life insurance death benefit.  While we take no sides in COI increase court cases, we will be watching with great interest and will report back as warranted.

For a copy of the Consolidated Complaint, please contact mbrohawn@itm21st.com

Special thanks to Joseph Belth for information used in this update.

1.) Lincoln National to Buy Jefferson-Pilot, Associated Press, October 1, 2005

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. 

Last week, our servicing team in Iowa received notice from Genworth that they would be unable to provide current assumption illustrations on a policy we manage.  They noted “existing illustration regulations” which limited them to only providing illustration projections “based on contractually guaranteed interest and cost of insurance, i.e., the lowest interest and highest cost of insurance rates allowed by your policy.”

We caution reading too much into this Genworth notice as the restriction appears to be limited and no COI increase has been announced.  We will, however, be tracking all the referenced policies for any changes in their cost structure.

TOLI Trustees Need To Be Aware Of Life Settlements

It is estimated that every year, seniors in the US surrender or lapse over $112 billion dollars in life insurance death benefits (1). Most of them probably have no idea of their options, but grow tired of the premium payments and walk away without maximizing the value of an asset they may have paid for over a lifetime. For the uninformed consumer, this could be just a lost opportunity, for the Trust Owned Life Insurance (TOLI) trustee, this can be a source of potential liability.

An alternative to a policy lapse or surrender is a life settlement, the sale of a life insurance policy for a lump sum greater than the policy’s cash value and less than the death benefit. The purchaser of the policy will maintain the policy by paying the policy premium until the death of the insured.

The life settlement industry grew out of the “viatical” movement of the of the 1980s when AIDS victims were given the opportunity to sell their life insurance policies to a third party for a lump sum payment to be used to provide medical and other care in the final years, sometimes months, of life. Advances in the treatment of AIDS made these types of policy sales less common, but the idea of life insurance as an asset that can be sold grew into the life settlement, or secondary marketplace, we see today.

Originally the industry was lightly regulated and some who sold their policies were taken advantage of, but today’s life insurance settlement marketplace is heavily controlled. The vast majority of states (42) have strict regulations that provide a framework for the orderly transfer of policies, with required consumer disclosures that protect the policy seller. The improved regulations have dramatically decreased issues in the sales process.

For the TOLI trustee managing life insurance today, life settlements are an option that must be considered. Because of changes in the estate tax, increased policy costs, and the natural evolution of trust goals, there are more “unwanted” policies to deal with than ever. Those of you who have attended our ITM TwentyFirst University sessions in the past know that we have developed many methods for analyzing options to maximize the value of a life insurance policy. We do this because it is our clients’ (TOLI trustees) responsibility to maximize the value for their clients (life insurance trust beneficiaries), and life settlements can be a way to do that.

Typically, life settlements are available to insureds age 65 and older, though health will play an important role in whether an offer is forthcoming. Most policies sold are universal life policies – especially current assumption universal life, though other policies, even term insurance policies that can be converted to a permanent policy, can be sold. The offers depend on the death benefit of the policy, the annual premium needed to carry the policy, the life expectancy of the insured, and the rate of return that the buyer needs to make the purchase a viable investment.

The sale of a policy has potential tax implications to the seller. A life insurance policy held in trust until a death benefit is paid is received income and estate tax free, however if a policy is sold there is a possible tax liability to the trust.

While all the advantages and disadvantages of a policy sale are beyond the scope of this article, we believe that the full discussion of life settlements in the TOLI world is important enough to schedule a webinar session that will provide a TOLI trustee (and all financial professionals) with a thorough understanding of the process. Our next free webinar session, entitled Learning When Why and How to Do a Life Settlement, will be held on March 28th at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, and will provide one hour of continuing education for CFP, CTFA and FIRMA members. You can register here.

  1. LifeHealthPRO, February 25, 2015, Forfeited Life Insurance Benefits Pegged at $112 Billion

Transamerica (Again) Restricting Inforce Illustrations On Certain Universal Life Policies

In November of 2015 we published a blog noting that Transamerica was no longer providing inforce illustrations with “current assumptions” on a number of universal life policies.  We pointed out the challenges that raised in managing policies without an understanding of “what Transamerica is actually charging and crediting” in the policies.

This week, Transamerica announced that beginning March 15th they would “only run illustrations based on the guaranteed maximum charges and the guaranteed minimum interest rate” on another block of inforce policies.

Per the carrier, the “decision was made following significant review of NAIC regulations” relating to current assumption inforce illustrations and their “interpretation of those NAIC regulations.”

For the affected policies, Transamerica will provide only the current accumulation value of the policy and the current monthly deduction amount.  The policy owner (or servicer) will then have to compute whether the current policy premium will be sufficient to “sustain the policy until the next anniversary.”

This announcement follows a similar announcement by John Hancock that we noted just last month.  In that blog entry, we mentioned that we did not “wish to speculate on the future actions” of the carrier as to future COI increases and we will not here.  But we would be remiss if we did not point out that the notice from Transamerica in November of 2015 was a precursor to COI increases we uncovered in February of 2016 on the very same policies.

As always we will provide updates as warranted.

Illustration Restrictions Placed On Some John Hancock Inforce Policies

In the past we have written about limitations on obtaining ledgers to manage inforce life insurance.  In one instance the inability to provide in-force ledgers based on “current assumptions” was a precursor to a cost of insurance (COI) increase.

Our servicing team recently received notice that due to a “temporary” situation John Hancock cannot provide inforce ledgers on its Performance UL Policies issued in particular states from 2003 to 2010.

According to the information received from the carrier, they are unable to provide this information because “regulatory standards that govern illustration practices…prevent us from illustrating currently payable amounts based on our current non-guaranteed elements.”

John Hancock is “reviewing the non-guaranteed elements applied to these Policies because emerging experience has differed from the current assumptions which are reflected in the illustrations” and it expects the review to be completed “in the first half of 2017.”

The carrier notes that if the review results in “changes to Non-Guaranteed Elements such changes will not take effect before the policy anniversary immediately after the completion of the review.”

While we do not wish to speculate on the future actions of a highly rated and respected carrier, we will be closely monitoring the situation.