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MassMutual Dismissal Non-Financial

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The abrupt dismissal last week of Robert J. O’Connell from his posts as president and chief executive officer of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company was definitely a “non-financial event,” says a Standard & Poor’s rating analyst. [@@]

“We were not made privy to any additional information that had not been disclosed,” S&P analyst Kevin Ahern says. “But we have had further discussions with the company, and we have been able to assess that.”

MassMutual, Springfield, Mass., issued a statement Thursday saying O’Connell’s contract was terminated “due to certain issues, subject to his rights under his employment contract.”

O’Connell had been appointed CEO in January 1998.

He issued his own statement through a public relations agency noting the strong financial performance of the company during his 7 years as CEO but saying it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the termination.

Ahern noted that the company has S&P’s highest rating and has always met revenue and earnings expectations. While there was some pressure from policyholders in recent years to demutualize, the analyst said that the company’s access to capital is adequate now.

Meanwhile, MassMutual announced that 2 more top executives have been terminated.

Susan A. Alfano, executive vice president for enterprise systems and services, and Ann F. Lomeli, senior vice president, co-general counsel and secretary, were no longer with the company, according to a report in The Republican, a Springfield, Mass., newspaper.

Alfano had worked for MassMutual since 1971 and was promoted to her last position in 2001. She previously had been the company’s head of human resources.

Alfano was escorted from the company’s headquarters Thursday, the same day the company announced O’Connell’s termination, and Lomeli was let go Friday, the newspaper said.

The newspaper also quoted a company e-mail notifying employees of the changes that used such phrases as “ethical leadership” and “standards of behavior [that] must be set from the top.”

The e-mail also stated MassMutual’s board “fully investigated certain matters that required” O’Connell’s termination. The appointment of Stuart Reese to replace O’Connell “signals the beginning of a new era of greater transparency, clear accountability and meritocracy at MassMutual,” according to the message quoted by the newspaper.

Reese had been the company’s executive vice president and chief investment officer.


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