Tuesday, November 23, 2021

No. 447: A Class Action Relating to an Alleged Pyramid Scheme

On June 25, 2018, two individuals filed, in federal court in California, a class action lawsuit against a suspended California corporation, five individuals, a Texas corporation, and a California limited liability company. (See In Re Premium Financial Alliance, Inc. Insurance Marketing Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division, Case No. 4:18-cv-3771.)

The Original Complaint
The plaintiffs alleged in the 29-page original complaint that they had been victimized by a "classic pyramid scheme." The first paragraph of the "Introduction to the Case" section of the original complaint reads:
The Defendants are operating a classic pyramid scheme. What makes this scam particularly egregious is that the Defendants have never marketed or sold insurance policies to any retail customers, but instead derive 100% of the scheme's revenue from chain recruitment. These practices have been prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission, and violate State and Federal Laws. Plaintiffs and tens of thousands have joined PFA and have become "Associates." Plaintiffs did not make money as promised. The Associates failed because they were doomed from the start by a PFA marketing plan that systematically rewards recruiting Associates over the sale of overpriced insurance product or service to retail customers.
The original complaint does not describe the targets of the pyramid scheme. Other case documents, however, indicate that the program was aimed at Chinese, Vietnamese, and other immigrants who may have limited fluency in the English language.

Subsequent Developments
Subsequent to the filing of the original complaint, there have been amended complaints, answers to the complaints, and unsuccessful motions to dismiss. On May 14, 2021, the plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification.

General Observations
This is an interesting case. Because I am not an attorney, it would be inappropriate for me to express a legal opinion on it. The case has a long way to go, and I plan to provide an update fairly soon.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

No. 446: The Bounty Trilogy

Recently I completed some pleasurable reading. I decided to prepare this blog post in case some of you might want to do the same.

The Bounty was a small English warship that in 1787 set out on a very long voyage to Tahiti to pick up breadfruit trees, which would provide a source of inexpensive food for slaves in the West Indies. Lieutenant William Bligh captained the Bounty. Fletcher Christian was the Master's Mate on the Bounty and the leader of the mutineers.

Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall wrote a trilogy of historical novels describing the voyage. The titles of the three books, all published in the early 1930s, are Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, and Pitcairn's Island. The first book is about the mutiny and its immediate aftermath. Instead of killing Bligh, the mutineers put him and 18 others in a small open boat, called a "launch," with food and supplies, and set them adrift. The second book is about Bligh's incredibly long and successful voyage in the launch, after which he returned to England. The third book is about a remote island where Christian and some of the mutineers settled permanently and destroyed the Bounty.

I read the trilogy about 70 years ago. Recently, on a whim, I decided to reread Mutiny on the Bounty. In addition to describing the mutiny, it also discusses what happened in the first several years after the mutiny, and, in an epilogue, what happened many years after the mutiny.

Several movies have been made about the Bounty. My favorite is the 1935 black-and-white film starring Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian and Charles Laughton as William Bligh. The narrator was Englishman Roger Byam, who was played in the film by actor Franchot Tone.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

No. 445: Kemper's Long Legal Struggle Relating to Lost Policyholders: An Update

In No. 424 (June 10, 2021), I wrote about Kemper's long legal struggle relating to lost policyholders. The struggle is now in the Florida Supreme Court. Here I provide an update on the case. (See United Insurance Company of America v. Patronis, Florida Supreme Court, Case No. SC20-1306.)

On October 12, 2021, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order setting oral argument at 9:00 a.m. on December 8, 2021. Each side is given a maximum of 20 minutes. No continuances will be granted except upon a showing of extreme hardship. I plan to provide a further update when I consider it warranted.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

No. 444: Adam Schiff's Important Book

Adam Schiff's important book was published on October 12, 2021. It is entitled Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.

Schiff represents California's 28th congressional district. As chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he was heavily involved in both impeachments of Donald Trump. Schiff's book presents a tremendous amount of detail about Trump's attack on our democracy. Here is what presidential historian Michael Beschloss says about Schiff's book: "In this thoughtful, absorbing and revelatory memoir, an important champion and defender of American democracy shows us how he became a national leader and, drawing on his experience on the inside, how close the Trump regime brought us to losing our system." Here is the final paragraph in the epilogue of Schiff's book:
Seventeen years from now, when the present is a distant memory for all but the cicadas, we will look back on this time as a decisive moment for our country, when we were at sea and our destination remained unknown, our future obscure, the great enterprise in self-rule in doubt. Did we turn back toward the shores of our Founders, or was this the moment when the clouds descended, the stars disappeared, and we became irretrievably lost? We must understand that we are not passengers on this journey, unable to steer the country we all love in one direction or another. It is within our power to take hold of the rudder, choose the future we want for our children and grandchildren, and, with the grace of God, make it so.

Friday, October 22, 2021

No. 443: The Secondary Market for Life Insurance Policies

In my 2015 book entitled The Insurance Forum: A Memoir, Chapter 9 is entitled "The Secondary Market for Life Insurance Policies." In that 12-page chapter, I discuss the origin and growth of the secondary market, including viatical settlements, life settlements, and stranger-originated life insurance (STOLI). I refer to STOLI as speculator-initiated life insurance (spinlife).

I have long been concerned about the negative impact of the secondary market (the "unselling" of life insurance) on life insurance companies and their policyholders. Recently I heard reports about life insurance companies and life settlement companies competing vigorously against one another in their efforts to persuade policyholders to cash in or sell their life insurance policies. For that reason, I decided to prepare this blog post to revisit the subject. After you read Chapter 9 of my Memoir, I would welcome your comments.


Friday, October 15, 2021

No. 442: A 25-Year Prison Term for a Securities Fraudster in Texas

The TSSB Press Release
On October 4, 2021, the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) issued a press release announcing that Mejdi Mahmoud Abousaoui has been sentenced to 25 years in state prison and ordered to pay restitution of about $3 million for engaging in first-degree securities fraud. He was prosecuted in Fort Bend County, Texas.

The Felony Complaint
The charges against Abousaoui were in the form of an eight-page felony complaint. It charged him with engaging in a Ponzi scheme that ran from early 2015 through mid-2018 and involved at least 70 victims. The felony complaint lists the names of the victims and the amounts and dates of their losses. The first paragraph of the felony complaint reads:
Before me, the undersigned Assistant District Attorney of Fort Bend County, Texas, this day appeared the undersigned affiant, who under oath says he has good reason to believe and does believe that in Fort Bend County, Texas, Mejdi Mahmoud Abousaoui, hereafter styled the Defendant, heretofore, on or about and between March 1, 2015, and April 30, 2018, pursuant to one scheme and continuing course of conduct, did, unlawfully, then and there, directly and indirectly, and through his company Abousaoui Financial, LLC, sell and offer for sale investments in the Abousaoui Financial investment program (hereinafter referred to as the Program), being securities, namely: stocks, shares, notes, bonds, investment contracts, and evidences of indebtedness, to each of the persons listed below and in the following amounts:
The felony complaint lists the names of the victims. It also shows the dates and amounts of their losses.

According to the TSSB press release, Abousaoui has already paid more than $200,000 of restitution. He has been ordered to pay the remaining balance of about $2.8 million of restitution.

General Observations
I recommend that you read the felony complaint against Abousaoui in its entirety. A link to it is in the third sentence of this blog post. Comments from readers would be welcomed.


Friday, October 8, 2021

No. 441: The Massachusetts Securities Regulator Settles an Investigation of a Massachusetts Mutual Subsidiary

The Journal Article
On September 17, 2021, The Wall Street Journal carried a 600-word article on page B1 of the print edition entitled "GameStop Trader's Firm Is Fined—MassMutual faulted by regulator for lack of procedures to monitor activity of Keith Gill." The reporter was Caitlin McCabe. Here is the first paragraph of the article:
A Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. subsidiary agreed to pay a $4 million fine to settle an inquiry from Massachusetts securities regulators into the social-media and trading activity of its employees, including well-known GameStop Corp. investor Keith Gill.
The Two Consent Orders
William Francis Galvin is the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and heads the Massachusetts Securities Division. The settlement took the form of two Consent Orders, which readers may wish to review in their entirety, dated September 15, 2021 "In the Matter of MML Investors Services, LLC (MMLIS)."

One of the Consent Orders is Docket No. 2021-0004. Here is the first paragraph of the 18-page Consent Order:
This Consent Order is entered into by the Massachusetts Securities Division and MML Investors Services, LLC with respect to the investigation by the Division into whether MMLIS' activities and conduct violated the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act, Gen. Laws ch. 110A, and the corresponding regulations promulgated thereunder at 950 Mass. Code Regs. 10.00 - 14.413.
The other Consent Order is Docket No. R-2019-0096. Here is the first paragraph of the 13-page Consent Order:
This Consent Order is entered into by the Massachusetts Securities Division and MML Investors Services, LLC with respect to the investigation by the Registration, Inspections, Compliance and Examinations Section of the Massachusetts Securities Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth regarding MMLIS' failure to register its agents who conducted securities business in Massachusetts, as well as the individuals responsible for supervising the agents, in violation of the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 110A and the corresponding regulations promulgated thereunder at 950 Mass. Code Regs. 10.00 - 14.413.
General Observations
The regulatory settlement discussed in this blog post is complex. I recommend that you read the Journal article mentioned at the beginning of this blog post and the two Consent Orders. I would welcome comments from readers.