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Life Policy Buyout Fight Heats Up

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What You Need to Know

  • Bryan Nicholson spoke at the Fasano Longevity Conference.
  • He said typical enhanced cash surrender payments are for two to 10 times the usual cash surrender value.
  • He sees some states blocking the offers and many others approving the offers.

The Life Insurance Settlement Association is continuing to object to what it contends are unfair life insurance companies’ life policy buyout efforts.

For veteran life insurance advisors, the battle means that any in-force policies they struggled to sell years ago turned out to be a great deal for the customers.

Bryan Nicholson, LISA’s executive director, talked about life insurers’ enhanced cash surrender value efforts Monday, at an online longevity conference organized by Fasano Associates — a life, health, annuity and life settlements underwriting firm.

Interest Rates vs. Life Insurers

Life settlement companies buy in-force life insurance policies from the original policyholders, either to hold the policies as investments or to sell the policies to investors in the “tertiary market.”

U.S. life insurers typically invest most of the premium revenue they collect in bonds and other fixed-income instruments. Low interest rates have depressed bond yields and increased the value of the returns life insurance policyholders get on their premium dollars.

For life settlement companies and tertiary market investors, interest rate economics make older universal life policies and other older permanent life policies especially attractive.

Buyout Offers

Traditionally, life insurers wanted to retain as many customers as possible. Policyholders could get only relatively low payments based on a policy’s cash surrender value if they dropped their policies.

Now, Nicholson said, some life insurers are courting policyholders by making “enhanced cash surrender value” offers for amounts ranging from twice the cash surrender value to 10 times the cash surrender value. The offers are typically available for a few months.

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Life insurers may see themselves as offering policyholders a more convenient alternative to selling a policy to life settlement companies.

From LISA’s perspective, however, the offers violate state standard non-forfeiture laws, which prohibit insurers from making sharp increases in a policy’s cash surrender value that are available only during certain windows of time.

Life insurers are also making those offers outside of the reach of life settlement consumer protection rules, Nicholson said at the LISA conference.

Those rules require life settlement companies to verify that the policyholders selling the policies are competent and to provide disclosures for alternatives to life settlements, Nicholson said, according to a copy of his presentation slidedeck.

Some state insurance regulators have objected to the offers, but “during the pandemic, without face-to-face meetings, regulators became evasive and unresponsive to LISA,” Nicholson said.

Eventually, he said, regulators approved the policy buyout offers.

LISA is responding by supporting a federal bill that would let consumers roll life settlement proceeds into tax-free health care expense accounts, and by reaching out to members of Congress, congressional aides, federal regulators, and state regulators and legislators, Nicholson said.

(Photo: Emilia Mariana Ungur/Shutterstock)