Critics Emphasize Jobs at Conn. Hearing into MetLife-Travelers Merger

June 9, 2005

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez criticized MetLife’s planned acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity, calling for major changes in the company’s proposal to preserve jobs and mitigate the economic impact on Connecticut’s capital city.

At a hearing called by the state insurance department to consider the $11.5 billion deal, Perez, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and community activists asked state regulators to press the insurer for stronger commitment to maintain jobs and philanthropic contributions in Hartford.

“This transaction will mean significantly fewer high paying insurance jobs in the city to support new investments in retail and housing,” Perez told regulators. “Approving this $11.5 billion transaction under the present terms flies in the face of common sense, as we are simply going to spend more public development dollars to make up for the economic damage caused by allowing MetLife to receive a more favorable deal than their Hartford-based competitors who were required to live up to a higher standard.”

MetLife Inc. told regulators it has turned over 50 boxes of documents demonstrating that it meets all requirements of state law.

“MetLife cares about the public interest of Connecticut and other states in which its business operates,” Ellen Dunn, a lawyer representing the New York-based life insurance company, told regulators.

State law requires the insurance commissioner to approve most mergers or acquisitions. Commissioner Susan Cogswell must determine whether the merger would substantially reduce competition or create a monopoly, jeopardize the financial stability of the insurance company, or violate the company’s license. She also may consider whether a proposed merger is in the public interest.

The proposed merger has been under fire in Connecticut since earlier this year when MetLife announced it will cut hundreds of jobs.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell intervened, winning a commitment from the insurer in April that would scale back the job losses from 600, with a relocation of an additional 100 workers, to cuts of 390 jobs with another 100 being relocated.

Overall, 1,310 of 1,800 jobs will remain in Hartford for at least one year beginning July 1 when the deal is expected to close.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal urged regulators to closely scrutinize MetLife’s future employment plans.

“MetLife should be required at the least to describe its present plans for these jobs after a year,” he said in prepared testimony.

In a letter to Cogswell, MetLife said it will bring more jobs to Hartford from its individual business segment, but did not specify the number of jobs. It said it has no plans to withdraw from writing any lines of business in Connecticut or “substantially reduce” such business in the state.

Cogswell has 30 days after the hearing to decide whether to give state approval to the merger.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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