AIG Seeks $2 Billion in Case Against Life Settlements Firm

By | October 27, 2015

An American International Group Inc. unit told a U.S. judge on Monday that a Philadelphia-area firm should be forced to pay more than $2 billion for overcharging it for life insurance policies acquired from elderly people.

A lawyer for AIG’s Lavastone Capital argued at the close of a trial in Manhattan federal court that Coventry First, founder Alan Buerger and others in his family involved with the firm engaged in “deviousness and duplicity” in inflating the price of 315 “life settlement” policies the insurance company bought.

“Motivated by greed, the Buergers resorted to markups to line their pockets, and now it’s time to hold them accountable for it,” Randy Mastro, AIG’s lawyer, said in his closing arguments.

Heidi Hubbard, a lawyer for Coventry, countered that no AIG executive during the trial had testified to being misled by documents at issue in the deals.

While communications between the companies were not the “model of clarity” and mistakes may have occurred, Coventry did not intend to defraud AIG, she said.

“The defendants reasonably believed this conduct was allowed,” Hubbard said.

Life settlements involve the sale of life insurance policies by policyholders for more than their cash value and less than their face value to investors, who then pay the premiums and then collect the payout when the individuals die.

Coventry, headed by Buerger and owned by Montgomery Capital Inc., describes itself on its website as the “leader and creator” of the life settlement industry.

AIG’s Lavastone bought nearly 7,000 life settlements from Coventry with a total face value of $20 billion from 2001 to 2011, when AIG stopped acquiring life settlements.

Lavastone, which filed its lawsuit in September 2014, says the Fort Washington, Pennsylvania-based firm caused it to pay about $160 million in hidden markups and fee overcharges.

The alleged scheme ramped up during the financial crisis in 2008, when AIG was receiving government bailouts to avert its collapse, Mastro told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who will ultimately rule in the case.

AIG has said it is already entitled to more than $250 million in damages, including interest, based on pretrial rulings finding Coventry liable on certain breach of contract claims.

In total, the damages equate to $2.02 billion, Mastro said, based on AIG’s demands that Coventry disgorge all of the fees it collected and its request for Rakoff to impose triple damages under the civil racketeering statute.

The case is Lavastone Capital LLC v. Coventry First LLC et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 14-7139.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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