Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Regulators Rein In Murky Life Policies

JUNE 21, 2010
Wall Street Journal
Regulators Rein In Murky Life Policies


The life-insurance business was good to Steven M. Brasner for much of the past decade, so good that he and his wife named their motor yachts after it. Their first, a 34-footer, they christened "Preferred Risk." Its 50-foot replacement: "STOLI on the Docks."

While it rings of vodka, STOLI also stands for "Stranger-Originated Life Insurance"—controversial policies that older people take out and then sell to investors. The investors pay the premiums and collect proceeds when the original owner dies. Mr. Brasner was a sales agent who specialized in such policies. In the years before the financial crisis, he connected aging retirees in need of money with cash-flush hedge funds eager for offbeat investments.

Times are different now. In April, Florida authorities arrested Mr. Brasner on 22 counts of alleged grand theft, fraud and other offenses tied to $78 million of policies that earned him nearly $2 million in commissions. The state accuses him of lying to insurers about applicants' financial status and their reasons for buying the coverage. If convicted, the 44-year-old could land in jail for decades...