THE TRAILER PARK
Conseco, Conseco, Conseco: Where Did the Money Go?
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
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BANKERS LIFE AND CASUALTY COMPANY
Bankers Life and Casualty Company is one of the largest life and health insurers in the United States. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the company is focused exclusively on serving the retirement needs of the middle market.
Bankers serves nearly 1.4 million policyholders with a comprehensive portfolio of insurance products including long-term care and life insurance, annuities, and Medicare products including supplement plans, Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.
The company sells its products through a nation wide Captive Agent system, which utilizes a network of over 4,600 agents based in over 200 nationwide sales offices.
In business since 1879, the company was developed and owned by Chicago insurance man John D. MacArthur since 1935. At the time of his death in 1978, control of the company passed to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a major charitable institution in the U.S. The foundation later sold Bankers Life.
Today, Bankers is a subsidiary of Conseco, Inc., a holding company for a group of insurance companies operating throughout the United States. Bankers' currently manages over $650 million of capital and surplus and nearly $10 billion in assets under management.
Despite this fact, though, the company has faced several lawsuits where they were accused of denying claims to seniors and both Conseco and Bankers have routinely been noted as having a particularly high amount of complaints among long-term care clients: one complaint for every 383 such policyholders, whereas, according to 2005 statistics, Genworth Financial, the largest long-term-care insurer received one complaint for every 12,434 policies....
March 2, 2009
Insurers mostly slide, though AIG shares jump
By STEPHEN BERNARD, Associated Press
Most insurers fell Monday, led by the still struggling life insurance sector.
The sector was also mostly lower as American International Group Inc. reported the worst-ever quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history and said it would receive additional government support. Despite the AIG loss, its shares were one of the few to rise in midday trading Monday.
The KBW Insurance index, which tracks 24 of the nation's largest insurers, fell 1.9 percent to 50.75.
AIG said early Monday morning it lost $61.7 billion during the final three months of 2008 amid the ongoing credit crisis and recession. AIG's loss spurred the government to provide a fourth round of support for what was one the world's largest insurer.
The government pledged an additional $30 billion in aid to the company, on top of the $150 billion loan package AIG already received in November.
Shares of AIG jumped 6 cents, or 14.3 percent, to 48 cents amid the news as the government continues to ensure the insurer stays in business.
Greg Case, president and chief executive of insurance broker Aon Corp., said in a statement the additional government support will help provide further stability to the sector. l
"Aon supports any action taken in the marketplace where clients will benefit from reduced uncertainty and volatility in the commercial insurance industry, as there is an ongoing need for capital in order to provide a baseline of stability as well as a continued flow of innovative products to help clients through this crisis," Case said. But, the government support for AIG showed little effect on other insurers.
Aon shares fell 84 cents to $37.40.
Most other insurers fell Monday as well, with life insurers leading the declines. Life insurers were hit hard last week as credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut key ratings on 10 companies that operate in the space.
Among the life insurers who saw their credit and financial strength ratings cut were MetLife Inc., Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Prudential Financial Inc. and Conseco Inc.
All four were down sharply Monday after tumbling Friday, with Conseco leading the drop. Conseco shares were also hammered as the company said it lost $406.8 million in the fourth quarter and its independent auditors raised concerns about the insurer's liquidity.
Shares of Conseco fell 66 cents, or 54.5 percent, to 55 cents.
Among other life insurers, MetLife shares declined $1.14, or 6.2 percent, to $17.32. Shares of Hartford Financial Services declined 65 cents, or 10.7 percent, to $5.45. Prudential Financial shares fell $1.40, or 8.5 percent, to $15.01.
The life insurers fell despite a positive report from Citi Investment Research analyst Colin Devine, who said the sell-off among the stocks "seems completely disproportionate to the risks the industry faces despite the deteriorating economic climate."
In a research note, Devine said most life insurer's balance sheets were strong enough to handle the current credit crunch and ongoing recession.
Aside from AIG, the few gainers were mostly property and casualty insurers, like Travelers Cos., which rose 60 cents to $36.75 and Cincinnati Financial Corp., which gained 8 cents to $20.62.
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CONNECTING THE DOTS: KAMEHAMEHA ... MACARTHUR
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CONNECT THE DOTS!
KAMEHAMEHA SCHOOLS / BISHOP ESTATE ... MARSH & McLENNAN ... THE MacARTHUR FOUNDATION ... BANKERS LIFE & CASUALTY CO ... JAMES MacARTHUR ... DAVID C. FARMER ... KESSNER DUCA ... CONSECO ... BARACK OBAMA ...
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
And for even more ...
The Catbird’s Nest
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
Views from The Catbird Seat
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December 17, 2002
Conseco faces the abyss as
acquisitions turn sour
Mark Jewell, Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS - When Conseco Inc. bought Green Tree Financial Corp. in 1998, the fast-growing insurer hailed the deal as the breakthrough it needed to become a financial services supermarket to middle America.
Instead, the $6 billion acquisition has turned into a nightmare, triggering a torturous stock slide that has left Conseco in financial ruin and facing several shareholder lawsuits.
The seventh-largest insurance provider in the United States could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as the end of this month - a step the company said it would take if it could reach a reorganization plan with creditors.
Although such a filing would not be surprising given Conseco's recent woes, it would mark a dramatic downfall for the company whose stock was once a Wall Street darling.
From 1988 to 1998, the company's stock averaged a total return of 47 percent per year and Conseco shares traded as high as $58 apiece. The shares closed Friday at 3.1 cents.
Observers say the 23-year-old company was led astray by a series of missteps in the 1990s that took it off its earlier path of successful insurance acquisitions and into a wide range of unrelated businesses. It bought interests in assets ranging from a riverboat casino to the General Motors building in Manhattan.
"The senior management of the company went on an aggressive growth path at the wrong time, and brought on billions of dollars of debt that we're now dealing with today," said Robert Rodriguez of the Los Angeles-based First Pacific Advisors, one of Conseco's largest institutional shareholders.
In particular, the Green Tree deal is viewed as a watershed event. Experts say the acquisition left Conseco unable to shake off $6.5 billion in debt. "It was the major act that pushed the ball rolling down the hill," Todd Saxton, a business professor at Indiana University specializing in corporate strategy and governance, said.
Observers now say Green Tree's problems should have been obvious when Conseco, under the leadership of its co-founder, Stephen Hilbert, bought it.
Green Tree's balance sheet "was a disaster in the making," said David Erb, managing director of Merrion Group LLC, a New Jersey-based investment firm.
"It was an acquisition that was completely out of Conseco's expertise," Erb said.
"There was really little synergy between Green Tree and the insurance operations, and Hilbert vastly overpaid for it."
Indeed, Conseco shares fell nearly 15 percent the day the Green Tree deal was announced. The stock's slide continued, and, two years later Hilbert was ousted after piling up $8.2 billion in debt, including a $545 million loan that enabled company insiders to buy more company stock.
Hilbert's successor was Gary Wendt, who earned a reputation as a savvy cost-cutter in the 1990s as head of GE Capital Services. Wendt unloaded about $2 billion in debt, largely through asset sales. But he was unable to boost the company's languishing stock. Meanwhile, credit downgrades hurt insurance operations.
Wendt gave up on his turnaround plan in August in favor of the restructuring talks. He resigned as chief executive Oct. 3 while staying on as board chairman. He was replaced by William Shea, who joined Conseco as chief operating officer in September 2001.
As recently as May 1, Wendt said that Conseco's short-term debt problems were behind it.
That statement and other reassurances from Conseco executives have led to the recent filing of a string of shareholder lawsuits. Investors were also unhappy about the $45 million signing bonus Wendt got for coming to Conseco.
Conseco Finance Corp., the unit created by the Green Tree deal, has said it is seeking new investors or a possible sale by year's end.
ONE DAY LATER...
December 18, 2002
Conseco files bankruptcy petition
over huge debt
INDIANAPOLIS - In the third-largest bankruptcy in U.S. History, Conseco Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection after four months of talks with creditors to restructure the insurance and finance company's $6.5 billion in debt.
Although the filing was not surprising given Conseco's recent woes, it marked a dramatic downfall for a company whose stock was once a Wall Street darling.
From 1988 to 1998, the company's stock averaged a total return of 47 percent per year and Conseco shares traded as high as $58.
Today the stock trades at less than a nickel per share.
The bankruptcy filing follows a years-long tailspin after the conglomerate's aggressive acquisition strategy in the 1990s backfired.
December 18, 2002
Conseco plans quick
exit from Chapter 11
By MARK JEWELL, AP Business Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Conseco Inc. said Wednesday it plans to make a quick exit from bankruptcy court protection, even though a group of creditors who were late to the table threaten to delay and potentially tangle the insurance and finance company's reorganization.
Conseco - mired in debt from 1990s acquisitions that backfired, including a $6 billion purchase of a mobile-home lender that proved disastrous - late Tuesday became the third largest U.S. company to file for bankruptcy protection.
The Carmel, Ind.-based company, which employs about 14,000 people and had $8.1 billion in revenues last year, expects to emerge from Chapter 11 protection during the second quarter of next year, if not earlier, the company's lead attorney told a bankruptcy court in Chicago
Banks and bondholders reached a tentative agreement on bankruptcy terms with Conseco over the $4 billion those groups are owed.
But a group of preferred shareholders - who initially were left out of talks begun in August to restructure Conseco's debt, but eventually won a seat under protest - have held out. They continue negotiations with Conseco. Preferred securities holders carry privileges over owners of common stock in recovering their investments from failed companies, but rank below banks and bondholders. Common stockholders are expected to recover little if any of their investments in Conseco. . . .
Despite the odds, the owners of preferred shares still could slow the process and may use the company's desire for haste to their advantage, said David Erb, managing director of Merrion Group LLC, a New Jersey-based investment firm.
"Given that they have the ability to cause trouble, they're looking for someone to throw them a bone," Erb said. . . .
Details of Conseco's Chapter 11 plan, which have yet to be filed, must be approved by investor groups members before a reorganization plan can be submitted for the court's approval. A filing outlining specifics could be submitted within four to six weeks, Conseco spokesman Mark Lubbers said.
Under the proposal, St. Paul, Minn.-based Conseco Finance Corp. - which Conseco bought in a $6 billion 1998 deal that proved its downfall - would be sold to a group of investors. The mobile-home lending unit quickly soured on Conseco, as loan defaults grew in advance of the recession and deepened further during the downturn.
Conseco Finance, formerly called Green Tree Financial Corp., is insolvent after failing to make a $4.7 million payment due Dec. 4. Because of that, Conseco had said it likely would have to offer the unit at a fire-sale price.
The restructuring talks were slowed in part by uncertainty over the unit's future, Jones said. The fact that Conseco was able to find a strong buyer for the unit helped bring the parties together, Jones said.
Conseco Finance has tentatively secured $125 million in debtor-in-possession financing so it can operate during bankruptcy.
Conseco's bankruptcy filing does not include Conseco's insurance operations, which the company and insurance regulators say remain financially sound. Conseco is the nation's seventh-largest insurer.
Conseco is the third-largest company to file for bankruptcy protection in the United States. The company and its subsidiaries had $61.4 billion in assets at the end of 2001. In its filing Wednesday, which excluded its profitable insurance subsidiaries, the company listed $52.3 billion in assets and $51.1 billion in debts.
WorldCom's assets at its July filing totaled $104 billion.
Enron had $64 billion when it filed last December.
Before Tuesday, the third-largest bankruptcy was the 1987 filing by Texaco, which had nearly $36 billion in assets at the time.
With last week's filing by United Airlines' parent company and now Conseco's, seven of the 12 largest bankruptcies since 1980 have been filed this year.
August 14, 2002
Putnam profits stung by Conseco investment
Boston Business Journal
Putnam Investments could see its third-quarter pre-tax income fall by between $10 million and $15 million as the result of an indirect investment in Conseco Inc., an Indiana insurer.
The earnings hit was revealed in a federal regulatory filing by Marsh & McLennan Cos., parent company of the Boston-based money manager.
Putnam's earnings decline has its roots in a partnership the mutual fund firm formed with Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, the Boston buyout firm, in 1999.
That year, Thomas H. Lee invested $500 million in Conseco, in the hope the insurance company's falling fortunes would turn around. Instead, Conseco now may be having trouble making some bond payments and may be considering ways to restructure some $6.5 billion in debt, according to the Marsh filing.
Conseco has seen its stock plunge 98 percent in the past year and has been suspended from trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Putnam officials could not be reached for comment.
© 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.
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September 11, 2001
Conseco Sues Six D&O Insurers Over Litigation Coverage
Conseco Inc. is suing six of its own insurers, claiming they are attempting to dodge legitimate potential claims on directors and officers policies bought by the Indianapolis-based insurer.
In its annual 10-Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Conseco said it "maintained certain directors' and officers' liability insurance that was in force at the time the Indiana securities and derivative litigation was commenced and, in our view, applies to the claims asserted in that litigation," according to BestWire.
The Indiana litigation involves 45 lawsuits filed against Conseco in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Conseco said 19 of those cases were putative class actions on behalf of people or entities that purchased the company's common stock during alleged class periods that generally run from April 1999 through April 2000.
In those cases, plaintiffs allege that the company and individual directors and officers violated federal securities laws by, among other things, making false and misleading statements about the then-current state and future prospects of Conseco Finance - particularly with respect to performance of certain loan portfolios of Conseco Finance - which allegedly rendered the company's financial statements false and misleading.
Because it had directors and officers coverage, Conseco didn't establish any reserves for possible losses with respect to those claims, the company said in its 10-Q. "The insurers have denied coverage for those claims, so we commenced a lawsuit against them on June 13, 2001, in Marion County Circuit Court in Indianapolis," Conseco said.
Named as defendants are National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, a subsidiary of American International Group Inc., Royal Insurance Company of America, a unit of Royal & Sun Alliance; Westchester Fire Insurance Co., a unit of Ace Ltd.; RLI Insurance; Greenwich Insurance Co., a unit of XL Capital Ltd., and HSBC Insurance Brokers Ltd.
Morgan Stanley analyst Alice Schroeder, in an Aug. 31 property/casualty insurance briefing, wrote that she doesn't believe an unfavorable outcome for the defendants would have a material impact on the earnings of AIG, XL or Ace.
Schroeder said in her report that AIG's National Union Fire "was apparently the primary carrier issuing the policy, which carries limits of $10 million."
"With jury awards rising at a rapid pace, insurers are getting tougher to protect against larger losses--whether they succeed remains to be seen," Schroeder said in her report. "This event also confirms our view that the D&O market remains difficult, and prices must continue to rise."...
March 18, 2002
Bond Proposal a Loser for
By Peter Eavis, Senior Columnist
How long can it be before Conseco's disclosure practices come under the microscope?
The financially shaky insurer and lender sent letters specifically to institutional bondholders last week saying that Conseco wanted to make them an unspecified "proposal." This communication was taken to mean that Conseco was going to ask bondholders to restructure their bonds to give Conseco longer to pay them back.
The company didn't issue a press release on the proposal last week, even as speculation pushed Conseco's stock up over 14% in active trading Friday.
The bull view -- that a debt restructuring would ensure that Conseco had enough cash to get through this year -- appeared to be winning the day.
However, the Conseco pumpers had a rude awakening Monday, when the company finally decided to publish details of the proposal it was considering. The stock tanked 16% Monday as the disclosure showed that Conseco wasn't offering the bondholders much in the way of concessions to extend the debt.
Rating agencies Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's all reacted negatively to the proposal. Conseco shares fell 65 cents to $3.40 on triple their average volume.
Adding insult to injury, Conseco isn't offering the restructuring to small investors; it's open only to specially qualified institutional investors that can invest in deals that aren't registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
And before we get to the financial aspects of the deal, consider its timing. It comes just days before Conseco has to file its audited annual report on March 31. The restructuring offer closes on April 12.
It's hard to imagine in this post-Enron environment that Conseco auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers would sign off on the annual report before Conseco completes this transaction. Does this mean Conseco will delay filing its annual report?
PricewaterhouseCoopers didn't immediately comment on the timing of the annual report, and Conseco didn't return a call seeking comment.
Conseco is offering to extend $2.54 billion of bonds maturing between 2002 and 2008 by up to 2 1/2 years. The stated reason is to improve "financial flexibility."
Bondholders who participate get to move up the credit rung by gaining a guarantee from CIHC, a Conseco subsidiary that has claim to the equity of Conseco's insurance companies. But importantly, accepting bondholders still would sit beneath holders of the bank debt, which have first claim to CIHC equity, whose value is something of a mystery. . . .
Conseco's core lending business is a disaster zone. State insurance regulators must be getting very concerned about the health of insurance companies. Insurance rating agency AM Best could downgrade if the annual report gets delayed or if the asset sales program isn't completed soon.
And bank regulators must be keeping a close watch on the federally insured Conseco Bank, which is an important source of funding for certain parts of Conseco's lending business.
In addition, it's extremely doubtful that bond investors could recoup anything close to their principal or original investment in a bankruptcy. The banks, led by Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase, have just under $2 billion of Conseco debt. Although they have first claim to the CIHC assets, even they may not be able to cover their debt. Market talk often has the life companies being sold for around $3 billion. . . .
Perhaps the biggest risk to the banks is that Conseco continues to run its core businesses as badly as it has over the past two years, depleting the value of CIHC assets still further.
As a result, the banks have one logical option left. They should try their hardest to find buyers for the insurance companies ahead of a prepackaged bankruptcy.
But it could be too late even for that....
April 3, 2002
RESEARCH ALERT ON CONSECO INC.
SAN FRANCISCO - PRNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by Breider, Moore & Co., a privately held, San Francisco-based investment banking and business management consulting firm. . . .
Conseco has received its much anticipated "unqualified opinion" from its auditors, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, on Monday afternoon. The market had been holding its breath on Conseco until this opinion was issued.
Now that it has the favorable opinion, along with a cash raising asset sale ($48.5 million) of its Life Insurance line, Manhattan Life, we think the risk/reward level is attractive....
From Conseco's website:
Conseco, Inc. Board of Directors
Lawrence M. Coss - Age: 63
Mr. Coss is the retired founder of Green Tree Financial Corporation (now Conseco's finance group) and was its chief executive officer since the company's incorporation in 1975 through 1998.
Under Mr. Coss' leadership, Green Tree became one of the nation's leading diversified financial services organizations. This was accomplished by focusing on the unique needs of retail dealers and the customers they serve.
In the years leading up to Green Tree's acquisition by Conseco in 1998, Mr. Coss successfully implemented the company's strategic diversification, expanding its value-added lending operations to a wide range of consumer and commercial finance sectors.
Conseco Finance, with headquarters in Saint Paul, Minn., and operations nationwide, is now America's fourth-largest diversified financial company, based on receivables.
$ $ $
A hurdle as important as the 4 minute mile was finally overcome in Corporate America when a CEO finally cracked the $100 million dollar compensation barrier in the non-Bill Gates division.
This stunning achievement was attained by Lawrence Coss, head of Green Tree Financial, a firm that loans money for mobile homes.
Mr. Coss was given a $102 million bonus because, said company spokesman John Dolphin, "The shareholders are delighted with Green Tree's performance... The only downside is you have to answer the media critics." (What a downer).
Meanwhile only the Wall Street Journal of March 27th reported on how Mr. Coss managed to delight his stockholders.
Green Tree's profits came from low income senior citizens who pay inflated loan rates for their "manufactured homes" because of what the American Association of Retired Persons describes as a lack of lending competition.
Mr. Coss had the "vision" to see this captive market.
More crimes of capitalism
Screwed by: Conseco Medical Insurance Company
Ben Walter email@example.com
Friday, June 28, 2002
I also was screwed by Conseco Medical. Conseco has decided drop medical coverage in the state of Ohio. I had a heart attack and at this time I am fully recovered but unable to get insurance. Conseco has made it impossible for me to go to a different company ... none will accept me. I just started looking into any type of class action going on with Conseco. If you hear of any please let me know .. and I you!
Good luck, Ben Walter
$ $ $
Screwed by: Conseco Medical Insurance Company
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Conseco Medical Life Insurance Co. refuses to comply with terms of single premium life policies originated with Connecticut National Insurance Co.
PLEASE DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THIS COMPANY.
$ $ $
Screwed by: Conseco Life Insurance
Saturday, April 20, 2002
10 years ago we purchased a term life insurance policy to age 100 from Mass General. In 1998 it was acquired by Conseco. We are now told that the policy will run out of money in two years or less, so even though we have been paying premiums all along. Conseco says it "really" was a Universal Life policy with a 30 year term. We have to double our premium to continue with Conseco's version.
Screwed by insurance.com - Life insurance forum.
April 10, 1997
CEO pay far outstrips economy --
NEW YORK, (Reuter) - Chief executives' pay far outstripped the roaring economy or the increases racked up by shareholders last year, with the average big-company CEO's annual compensation hitting $5.78 million, Business Week magazine reported Thursday.
The average total CEO pay soared 54 percent in 1996 and came on top of a 30 percent increase in 1995, the weekly magazine said . . .
That compared with a 3 percent raise in the average annual pay of factory workers, who made 209 times less, Business Week said.
The magazine said the highest-paid boss in its 47th annual survey, with $102,449,000 in salary and bonus, was little-known Lawrence Coss, chairman and CEO of Green Tree Financial Corp., a St. Paul, Minn.-based company that makes loans for mobile homes....
Between 1991 and 1996, the company had compounded annual returns of 53 percent as it became the largest lender in its sector, according to the magazine.
Experts argue that as long as CEOs continue turning in strong results for their shareholders, the absolute level of executive pay is irrelevant, Business Week said. But unions and shareholder activist groups say CEOs are making too much.
The average CEO pay, counting salary, retirement benefits, incentive plans and -- most importantly, Business Week said -- gains from stock options, was $5,781,300. . . .
The magazine also identified Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and Avon Products Inc. CEO James Preston as the best-performing executives over a three-year period.
Gates, who made $1.436 million in total pay from 1994 to 1996, got top honors for giving shareholders the most bang for their bucks.
Microsoft shareholders saw a 310 percent return for the period, calculated by taking the stock price at the end of 1996 plus dividends reinvested for three years and dividing it by the stock price at the end of 1993, the magazine said.
Business Week pointed out that Gates also has a 23.7 percent stake in Microsoft worth $27.7 billion.
Preston, whose three-year total pay was $7.907 million, was the leader among executives whose companies did the best, the magazine said. He racked up the highest return on equity -- a 141 percent three-year average -- relative to his pay.
Business Week also singled out "underperformers."
Conseco Inc.'s Stephen Hilbert gave shareholders the lowest return -- 133 percent -- from 1994 to 1996 relative to the $165 million he's collected since 1994, the magazine said.
America Online Inc. CEO Steve Case took "honors" for the worst corporate performance relative to salary, earning $33.5 million over three years while the online service's return on equity was a negative 413 percent, Business Week said.
Coming in second after Coss in the list of top-paid executives was Intel Corp. President and CEO Andrew Grove, who made $3.003 million in salary and bonus and $94.587 million in long-term compensation for a total $97.59 million.
No. 3 was Travelers Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Sanford Weill, with $6.33 million in salary and pay and $87.828 million in long-term compensation.
Other well-known names on the Top 10 list included H.J. Heinz Co. Chairman and CEO Anthony O'Reilly, No. 5 with $64.236 million in total pay, and Citicorp Chairman and CEO John Reed, seventh with $43.61 million....
February 23, 1998
Too Good To Be True
Larry Coss, the prince of pay, must
give back a big chunk of his bonus
By ADAM ZAGORIN, Time.com
Many U.S. executives savored fat bonuses last month after their companies pulled in record sales and profits.
But not Lawrence Coss, the chief executive officer of mobile-home lender Green Tree Financial, who in 1996 surprisingly topped the list of highest-paid corporate leaders--overshadowing such titans as the Travelers Group's Sanford Weill and Walt Disney's Michael Eisner.
To his dismay, Coss may have to repay $40 million of the $102 million bonus he received that year because Green Tree now concedes that accounting errors led it to overstate profits.
Says the taciturn and reclusive Coss of the financial revision, which included nearly $400 million of previously unreported losses: "It is certainly disappointing."
And how. But it was also hardly uncommon in an industry that had been white hot until recently. As a so-called sub-prime lender, Green Tree makes high-interest loans to people with damaged credit....
Few shareholders have suffered more than those of Green Tree, which was founded in 1975 in St. Paul, Minn., and has long been an industry leader. Hapless Green Tree investors have seen their stock sink from $50 a share last October to just $19 before it rebounded a bit to close at $24 last week.
Coss, 59, a former used-car salesman who sports jeans and cowboy boots off the job, has seen the value of his own shares fall from $330 million to $145 million.
Such misery has plenty of company: more than 20 Green Tree competitors have lost anywhere from one-quarter to two-thirds of their market value in the past year. "A lot of companies got into very serious trouble very quickly," says James Allen, executive editor of Specialty Lender, an industry newsletter.
Yet with an estimated 30 million to 40 million potential customers who have few other places to turn for cash, sub-prime lenders have been Wall Street darlings. Borrowers whose chief alternatives ranged from pawnshops to loan sharks gladly jumped at the chance to pay nosebleed rates of 10% or more for a home-equity loan (vs. roughly 7% at a bank), if that was what it took to get money.
Depending on points, fees, insurance and other charges, the effective interest on some sub-prime loans, particularly for autos, can top 30%.
Small wonder, then, that the industry zoomed from about 10 companies in 1994 to some 50 participants last year. Giants such as GE Capital, Norwest Financial and Ford's Associates First Capital came barreling in alongside lesser-known newcomers.
But the overcrowded field swiftly became unforgiving. For example, the market value of Mercury Finance, a sub-prime auto lender in Lake Forest, Ill., collapsed from $2.2 billion to $130 million last year after the company disclosed that it had overstated profits.
Such lenders were unable to navigate the economy's rapid crosscurrents. Even as defaults eroded profits, the booming economy has allowed some sub-prime borrowers to pay off their loans ahead of schedule. That has reduced income and ruined profit projections in many parts of the industry.
Notes Daniel Phillips, chairman of FirstPlus Financial, a Dallas sub-prime lender: "No matter how conservative a lender's assumptions are, no crystal ball allows him to see what may happen."
Just ask Green Tree, where many shareholders remain bitter about the profit revision, which included a $190 million write-down for the fourth quarter of 1997.
Angry investors have filed at least a dozen lawsuits, some charging that Green Tree used improperly "aggressive" accounting methods to tot up profits and thereby boost Coss's personal pay--a charge the company denies. Coss did enjoy a formula that accorded him a salary of $400,000 plus 2.5% of the company's pretax profits. Half the compensation was in cash, the other half in the form of Green Tree stock that Coss was allowed to purchase for $3 share at a time when it was selling for more than 15 times as much on Wall Street.
Yet Green Tree seems likely to ride out its troubles. The company employs 5,700 people at 200 locations across the country and holds a whopping 30% of the lucrative market for financing mobile homes, making it the sector's largest lender.
In addition, more than 90% of its $28 billion loan portfolio is secured by mobile homes, houses and other customer assets. Such backing is rare in the sub-prime industry and enables Green Tree to recover a relatively high proportion of losses when customers default on their payments. And despite problems such as the downgrading of much of Green Tree's debt by rating agencies, the company just declared its 46th straight quarterly dividend and expects to expand its loan portfolio to $32 billion this year.
Like other sub-prime lenders, Green Tree makes a business of bundling up loans and selling them as packages of asset-backed securities to pension funds and other big investors.
That replenishes Green Tree's capital and lets the lender make fresh loans and thus pump up volume, which grew 39% in 1997....
October 25, 2002
Conseco Sells Off Its
Variable Insurance Company
Conseco sold Conseco Variable Insurance Company (CVIC) to Inviva, the holding company for The American Life Insurance Company of New York (ALNY), for approximately $90 million.
ALNY funded the transaction with equity and debt through an Inviva equity investor, Trimaran Capital Partners and new investor, GSC Partners.
Conseco was paid in cash and Inviva preferred stock. ALNY will transfer CVIC's $2 billion of in force policies onto its processing system, which it expects to complete in the first half of 2003, according to a statement released by Inviva.
The transaction was approved by the Texas Department of Insurance.
Goldman Sachs was the financial advisor.
© Copyright Institutional Investor, Inc. 2002
THE $64 BILLION QUESTION:
CONSECO, CONSECO, CONSECO, WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
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Harmon's Letters to the SEC
Nests in the Pentagon
No Bailout for Billionaires!
P-s-s-t. Wanna buy a good audit?
RICO in Paradise
Tarnished Wings: Lockheed Martin
The Devil and William Webster
The Great Nest Egg Robberies
The Marsh Birds: Marsh & McLennan
The Nuclear Nests
The Puna Connection
The Secret Nests
The Sinking of the Ehime Maru
Spotting the SEC
The Story of Enron
The Strange Saga of BCCI
The Turnstone Birds
Vultures in the Meadows
Yakuza Doodle Dandies
What Price Waterhouse?
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Last update December 10, 2009, by The Catbird