Monday, March 12, 2018

No. 257: Long-Term Care Insurance—A Major Legacy Problem for General Electric

The Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Pension Fund, a General Electric Company (GE) shareholder, recently filed a class action lawsuit against the company and several of its current and past officers. The lawsuit grew out of a huge charge taken by GE relating to a legacy run-off block of long-term care (LTC) insurance policies, and a resulting decline in the market value of GE shares. Here I discuss the background of GE's involvement in LTC insurance and the current status of the lawsuit.

My first experience with GE insurance was in 1997, when I received a promotional letter about guaranteed renewable LTC insurance offered by General Electric Capital Assurance Company. The letter included this sentence, with this underlining: "Your premiums will never increase because of your age or any changes in your health." I wrote the company expressing concern that the sentence, although technically correct, was deceptive. I said the promotional letter should make clear that the company has the right to increase premiums on a class basis.

The company officer who had signed the promotional letter responded. He defended the sentence by saying, among other things, that the company had never raised rates on existing policyholders and had an "internal commitment to rate stability." Nonetheless, and without telling me, the company removed the deceptive sentence from its promotional letters. I wrote about the incident in the May 1997 and February 1998 issues of The Insurance Forum.

Genworth Financial
Genworth Financial, Inc. was created in 2003. GE transferred to Genworth some of the LTC insurance business that had been sold through General Electric Capital. Genworth became a major company in the LTC insurance business. Genworth also sold life insurance, annuities, and mortgage insurance. In No. 144 (posted February 16, 2016) I reported that Genworth's companies had suffered sharp declines in their financial strength ratings, and that Genworth had discontinued the sale of life insurance and annuities. In Nos. 185 and 187 (posted in November 2016) I reported that Genworth and China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. had entered into a definitive agreement under which China Oceanwide had agreed to acquire all the outstanding shares of Genworth.

The Genworth agreement with China Oceanwide has been approved by some but not all the necessary regulators. An update is in Genworth's 10-K report as of December 31, 2017, as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on February 28, 2018. An excerpt from the 10-K is in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post. Also, in an 8-K (significant event) report filed with the SEC on March 9, Genworth said it entered into a $450 million five-year senior secured loan agreement with China Oceanwide on March 7.

GE's Recent Disclosures
It was not widely known until recently that GE had retained financial responsibility for a run-off block of LTC insurance policies sold prior to the creation of Genworth. On July 21, 2017, GE said it recently had adverse claims experience in the old LTC insurance block. On October 20 GE said it was conducting a comprehensive review. On November 13 GE said it was cutting its dividend in half, only the second cut since the Great Depression. On November 14 GE said that the old LTC insurance block had been largely reinsured, that it was reviewing its reserves for the old LTC insurance block, and that the charge was expected to be more than $3 billion. On January 16, 2018, in an 8-K report, GE said:
On January 16, 2018, GE provided an update on the previously reported review of premium deficiency assumptions related to GE Capital's run-off insurance business (North American Life and Health ("NALH")). With the completion of that review, and of NALH's annual premium deficiency test, GE recorded an increase in future policy benefit reserves of $8.9 billion and $0.6 billion of related intangible asset write-off for the fourth quarter of 2017. This will result in a $6.2 billion charge ($7.5 billion upon remeasurement under tax reform) on an after-tax GAAP [Generally Accepted Accounting Principles] basis to GE's earnings in the fourth quarter of 2017.
As a regulated insurance business, NALH is subject to a statutory accounting framework for setting reserves that requires the modification of certain assumptions to reflect moderately adverse conditions and other differences from the reserve calculation under GAAP. Under that framework, we estimate that GE Capital will need to contribute approximately $15 billion of capital to NALH over the next seven years. GE Capital plans to make a first capital contribution of approximately $3 billion in the first quarter of 2018 and expects to make further contributions of approximately $2 billion per year in each of the six following years, subject to ongoing monitoring by NALH's primary regulator, the Kansas Insurance Department. GE Capital plans to fund the capital contributions with its excess liquidity and other GE Capital portfolio actions and does not expect to make a common share dividend distribution to GE for the foreseeable future.
On January 24, 2018, GE disclosed the existence of an SEC investigation. The company said the SEC would be "investigating [GE's] process leading to the insurance reserve increase and the fourth-quarter charge as well as GE's revenue recognition and controls for long-term service agreements."

The Cleveland Bakers Lawsuit
On February 20, 2018, Cleveland Bakers filed a class action lawsuit against GE and four individuals: Jeffrey Immelt, GE's chief executive officer from September 2001 until August 2017; John Flannery, GE's chief executive officer since August 2017; Jeffrey Bornstein, GE's chief financial officer from July 2013 until November 2017; and Jamie Miller, GE's chief financial officer from November 2017 until the end of the class period (January 24, 2018). The Cleveland Bakers case focused primarily on LTC insurance, and grew out of recent disclosures, especially the January 16, 2018 disclosure of the huge charge relating to the old LTC insurance block. (See Cleveland Bakers v. GE, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case No. 1:18-cv-1404.)

Cleveland Bakers alleged that the defendants had understated reserve liabilities in financial statements. The complaint included one count of violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act by all the defendants, and one count of violations of Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act by the individual defendants. Cleveland Bakers sought class certification, damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, attorney fees, expert fees, and other costs.

The Earlier Cases
Three shareholder class action lawsuits against GE preceded the Cleveland Bakers case. They were filed November 1, November 2, and December 18, 2017. The earlier cases dealt for the most part with GE operations other than LTC insurance. (See Hachem v. GE, Mirani v. GE, and Tampa Maritime Association-International Longshoremen's Association Pension Plan v. GE, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case Nos. 1:17-cv-8457, 1:17-cv-8473, and 1:17-cv-9888.)

The Judge
All the cases were assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman. President Obama nominated him in June 2011, and the Senate confirmed him in February 2012.

General Observations
On February 26 Judge Furman issued an order consolidating the cases. He closed the Cleveland Bakers, Mirani, and Tampa Maritime cases, thus leaving only the Hachem case open. I believe that a consolidated complaint in the Hachem case will be filed soon, and that it will incorporate the allegations in the Cleveland Bakers complaint relating to GE's old LTC insurance block. I plan to follow the case closely and report major developments.

Available Material
I am offering a 42-page complimentary package consisting of the May 1997 and February 1998 Forum articles (4 pages), the excerpt from Genworth's recently filed 10-K report (5 pages), and the complaint in the Cleveland Bakers case (33 pages). Email and ask for the March 2018 package relating to GE's old LTC insurance block.