“That’s a big problem if Elizabeth Warren starts poking around….”



It’s always a pleasure to be quoted in the media, especially when the author is Warren Hersch, the well-regarded insurance industry investigator. Hersch has an article on the structured settlement industry in today’s Life Annuity Specialist. His focus is on the industry’s changing leadership which includes an insurance executive, Michelle Caine of Prudential Financial, taking over as President of the National Structured Settlements Trade Association (NSSTA).

An excerpt:

Training aside, advisors and consultants in the industry need to be better regulated, according Peter Arnold, a consultant who from 1995 to 2014 managed public affairs for the National Structured Settlements Trade Association.

Personal injury claimants may be getting less than an optimal deal on the annuity because of conflicts of interest arising from carriers or wholesalers offering exotic trips or other financial incentives to consultants who sell their products, he said. “That’s a big problem if Elizabeth Warren or someone like her starts poking around,” says Arnold of the U.S. senator and presidential candidate. In 2017, Warren issued a report charging that 24 companies paid kick-backs and awards to annuity sales agents, creating conflicts of interest that “can result in devastating consequences for retirees.”

“The optics are even worse,” adds Arnold. “Having an insurance company offer five-star resorts to brokers whose sole business involves financial assistance for accident victims undercuts the goodwill the industry’s going to need for future legislative efforts.”

For years, the NSSTA shied away from having an insurance executive as its president. The reason was easy to discern. Insurance executives were (and are) ill-suited to mediate policy disputes among structured settlement consultants since those consultants are the insurers’ customers. Regardless, here’s hoping Michelle has a good tenure.

Remembering 41: “If his glare had been a knife, it would have sliced through the USS Missouri”

Filed under: Uncategorized


The outpouring of kind words after President Bush’s recent passing is a deserved tribute to his leadership as President and his decades of public service. For two exceptionally good testimonials, click here and here.

But no tribute to President Bush would be complete without mentioning his zeal to win – especially on the softball field. Bluntly, this man did not like to lose even if the competition was “just a friendly staff game.” And woe to the staffer who didn’t appreciate the game’s gravity!

Mr. Bush’s passion to win and a young staffer’s naiveté were both on splendid display at a staff softball game in mid-1987 at Vice President Bush’s home on Observatory Hill. I was playing shortstop when the Vice President came to bat. He hit a one-hop and sprinted to first. I moved toward second base, grabbed the ball after the hop and then realized I had two options:

Option #1: Throw it hard to first, likely throwing him out but also risking “beaning” the nation’s second most powerful elected official.

This would not have been a good career move.

Option #2: Deliberately overthrow the first baseman, my fellow speechwriter Joe Casper.

After introspection that lasted slightly more than a nanosecond, I made my decision. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the height of his career couldn’t have grabbed the throw I tossed over Joe’s head.

More than 30 years later, I still vividly recall that look Mr. Bush gave me while standing on first base. He knew I’d deliberately overthrown and he was enough of a competitor not to like it one bit.

If his glare had been a knife, it would have sliced through the USS Missouri.

George Bush was a tough and demanding boss but never unfair. If a speech text wasn’t to his liking, he would stress clearly, firmly what needed to be improved. But he was always respectful to every member of his staff. In turn, this fostered the intense loyalty that so many of us have felt toward him for these past decades.

Rest in peace, Mr. President. Thank you for everything.

Al Gore, humorist

Filed under: White House


With the election season over, a bit of humor might be an appropriate balm to all the acrimony from the past several weeks.

Thirty years ago today was Election Day and I was on a flight from Washington to Houston as part of a White House staff migration to watch returns with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. I was a White House speechwriter for Mr. Bush and Election Day 1988 was the culmination of months of late nights and weekends in the office.

Mr. Bush’s staff had gathered in the Old Executive Office Building that morning for breakfast and Bloody Marys. Although alcohol was strictly prohibited during White House work hours, it’s possible that vodka was an ingredient.

The group took cabs to National Airport where we boarded a flight to Houston that had a stopover in Nashville. I was one of two staffers at the plane’s entrance who offered Bush/Quayle buttons to interested passengers. The rest of our team (perhaps 50) were in coach wearing elephant hats and holding Bush/Quayle signs.

More important, the vodka had kicked in.

Sure enough, the final two passengers in the plane were Al and Tipper Gore. I didn’t offer them buttons but said something along the lines of, “Senator, welcome aboard and you’re in for a surprise when you get to your seat.”

When the Gores entered the coach area, a loud roar went up from our group. To his credit, while surveying all the elephant hats and signs, he replied without missing a beat, “I’ve heard that Republicans are moving south but this is ridiculous.”

He then turned to Tipper and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Honey, as soon as we get to Nashville, I’m firing our travel agent.”

For a public servant oftentimes criticized for being excessively serious, these were pretty good one-liners.

Remembering Barbara Bush



With former First Lady Barbara Bush’s passing, the nation mourns a wonderful, remarkable First Lady whose signature issue was a lifelong campaign for literacy. Those who knew her have posted well-deserved tributes to her and her exemplary life (click here and here, for example).

No tribute to Mrs. Bush would be complete without a reference to her sense of humor. She was a funny person but not in a comedic way. Rather, her humor was purposeful and sharp – often very sharp.

I was a speechwriter for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush from June 1986 to January 1989. The Bushes were exceptionally kind about inviting staff to their home for softball, drinks and jokes. Mrs. Bush would always come out for those events and more than a few times, when she offered an especially barbed or bluff bit of humor, those of us in the conversation would shoot each other a look that asked, “Did she really say THAT?!”

My favorite Barbara Bush story took place in early December 1987. That month, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev came to DC for a summit with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. Shortly after he left, the Bushes invited staff members, including me, to their home for drinks and jokes. (See photo)1988 Bush holiday party

Midway through, Mrs. Bush turned to the Vice President and said, “Tell them what Raisa [Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet Premier] said to you at the concert.” “No,” replied Mr. Bush, waving her off. “Oh go on!” she prodded and once more, he said no, shaking hs head.

At that point, she told us what happened: Gorbachev had hosted a dinner at the Soviet Embassy for the Reagans, Bushes, and other U.S. officials. The post-dinner entertainment was a Russian opera singer. Vice President Bush seated next to Raisa Gorbachev and as the singer reached for the high notes with visible passion, Mr. Bush said through the interpreter, “I think I’m falling in love.”

“Be careful,” Mrs. Gorbachev replied, “Remember what happened to Gary Hart.”

I don’t recall the look on Vice President Bush’s face when Mrs. Bush told this story but something tells me that he probably wasn’t entirely pleased. Then again, it was so typical of Mrs. Bush to dispense with formalities and share something she thought was funny.

Mrs. Bush, we will miss you. R.I.P.

WSJ: MetLife faces lawsuit over structured settlement problem



It’s always nice to be quoted in The Wall Street Journal, especially when the author is the perennially sharp-eyed editor Leslie Scism. Yesterday, she posted an interesting article on a recent lawsuit against MetLife that involves a problem with the payment streams from one of its structured settlement annuities.

Leslie has covered structured settlements for The Journal for years and it was a pleasure to provide her with background on the structured settlement industry, which issued about $5.6 billion in annuities in 2017.

Here’s Leslie’s article and she was kind enough to quote me midway down:

Lawsuit Alleges MetLife Mistake Helped a Woman Keep Settlement Money From Her Daughter

By Leslie Scism
Feb. 21, 2018 5:30 a.m. ET

When Nicole Herivaux was born at Coney Island Hospital in New York in 1980, doctors made a mistake that left one of her arms useless.

Ms. Herivaux’s family sued and reached a settlement on the infant’s behalf. It provided $2,200-a-month in lifetime income paid out by an insurance firm, and lump sums of as much as $200,000 were sprinkled in to help, say, with college costs.

This money was supposed to be paid into specified banks until….

More: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-childs-deformity-caused-by-medical-malpractice-extends-metlifes-woes-1519209001?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=12

What a long strange trip it’s been….



A remarkable event happened in DC this week: Something was actually accomplished with a minimum of bluster. On Thursday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a permanent ban on state authority to tax Internet access.  The House already passed the bill, titled The Internet Tax Freedom Act. The bill now heads to the President, whose aides have signaled his support.

I’ve been involved with this issue for more than 15 years and since it’s Thursday, perhaps a “TBT” is in order — namely, my first MSNBC appearance. It was back in 2001; Sen Ron Wyden (OR) and I discussed taxes and broadband regulation:

 

Killing O’Reilly

Filed under: Ronald Reagan


(Note: This blog originally appeared on the Dawson & Associates website.)

A storm of controversy has erupted over Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s new book, Killing Reagan. The controversy has engulfed almost every aspect of O’Reilly’s book – the lack of research, dubious use of unnamed sources, and a thesis at odds with extensive eyewitness documentation.

In November, George Will used his syndicated column twice to eviscerate O’Reilly – see here and here.

The book’s theme is that Reagan’s injuries from the March 1981 assassination attempt hastened his mental degradation. Those injuries led to a situation in which, O’Reilly claims, Reagan was increasingly befuddled and detached from reality.

O’Reilly’s thesis about Ronald Reagan simply isn’t supported by the facts and it’s certainly not supported by what I saw firsthand at the White House. From 1986 to 1989, I worked in the White House as a speechwriter to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Peter Robinson, the speechwriter who wrote Reagan’s 1987 Berlin Wall speech (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”) helped me land this position as he was a former Bush speechwriter who had recently been promoted to the President’s team.

My office was in 2013 Eisenhower (at the time, it was simply the OEOB) and during my years at the White House, I often went downstairs to Peter’s first-floor office. Invariably, he would show me examples of Reagan’s edits to the latest speech drafts. These edits were in the President’s distinctive and unmistakeable handwriting style. Some drafts contained mild edits. But usually, the President’s handwritten changes were extensive and detailed.

When I emailed Peter recently, he confirmed the former President’s intent focus on his speeches as a medium through which to wield influence:

Reagan edited his speeches all the time! And he was the best editor I’ve ever had – superb edits. Take a look at Reagan in His Own Hand, the book by Martin and Annelise Anderson…. There are examples of Reagan’s markups on speeches all over the place.

In short, O’Reilly’s book is flat wrong in his contention. The disengaged, confused President that O’Reilly disparages could not have produced the continuous stream of detailed, handwritten edits and improvements that I saw constantly during my White House years.

Structured settlements in the Garden State



Nelson_JohnsonDavid Gialanella at The New Jersey Law Journal has been writing about structured settlements recently, specifically the recent decision by Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson (at left) in In re T. Keena, Transfer of Structured Settlement Proceeds to Peachtree Settlement Funding, which was approved for publication September 29.

Gianella’s latest, “NJ Opinion Makes Waves in Structured Settlement Industry,” which quotes me multiple times, is an insightful explanation of the complexities surrounding structured settlement transfers.  These transfers, which have been regulated for the past 14 years through Section 5891 of the federal tax code, have become an integral part of the structured settlement industry.

Multiple structured settlement consultants have told me that Section 5891’s rules on transfers are a standard part of their marketing tactics.  In particular, they discuss these rules with plaintiffs who express hesitancy about structuring part of a settlement.

The real issue, which all parties to this legislation understood when it was passed, is that the primary market has a crucial financial interest in ensuring that transfers remain viable for those in need. But everyone also accepted that federal legislation could not possibly micromanage financial decisions by accident victims.

So the agreed-upon solution was to kick the issue to judges and give them vague guidance about what constituted grounds for approval.

Incidentally, it‘s also worth noting that the line between the primary and secondary structured settlement industries has become more porous since approval of the 2001 federal law. Economic realities are driving greater cooperation among companies in the respective marketplaces.

Well done, David Gianella.  Here’s hoping that you keep following this issue.

Understanding structured settlements



It’s always an honor to be quoted in the media, especially when the author is a well-known legal columnist.

Attorney Dennis Beaver writes a legal advice column, “You & the Law.”  This week, he discussed structured settlements’ role in helping accident victims protect their long-term financial security.  His column, “How to keep ‘friends’ away from settlement money,” was an excellent overview about the perils of accepting a large lump-sum cash settlement to resolve a physical injury or wrongful death claim.

As Beaver notes, “In a structured settlement, instead of receiving a single, lump sum payment, part or all of the money is used to obtain an insurance annuity which provides a guaranteed, long-term stream of tax-free income payments tailored to the accident victim’s specific needs….” He adds, “Most people are not good at managing large amounts of money suddenly received.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Start giving in, and Ben moves from target to financial victim,” according to Peter Arnold, a longtime structured settlement consultant and former Deputy Executive Director of the structured settlement industry’s trade association. “It’s like throwing a raw steak into the ocean when you know that sharks are there.”

“Often, the temptation to share this sudden wealth overrides better judgment about saving it for the future. A structured settlement is like putting a German Shepherd in front of your money to make sure efforts to grab and spend it easily fail, and allows you to honestly state, ‘I would love to loan you money, but it is beyond my reach,’ he points out.

You can read the full column on the Hartford Sentinel’s website here. (To Peter Swinehart, my excellent Landon School English teacher from the 1980s, you have my apologies for the mixed dog and shark metaphors.)

Also, it’s great to see Dennis quote my longtime friend, Derek Sells, Managing Partner at The Cochran Firm in New York.  Derek and I were in the same class at Dartmouth and he’s a top-notch, widely respected attorney.

And the “Beats” goes on

Filed under: Music Industry


This is too classic a smackdown to ignore.  This week, the marketing profession saw a textbook example of traditional marketing ideology failing to account for social media fall-out.

Last March, Bose sent the NFL a boatload of money and in return became the NFL’s Official Headphone and Headset Sponsor. But last Sunday, 49er Quarterback Colin Kaepernick wore his pink (read: breast cancer awareness) Beats by Dr. Dre headphones at a post-game press event.

The NFL, never one to let a pesky thing like breast cancer awareness get in the way of a sponsorship, slapped Kaepernick with a $10,000 fine.

So at yesterday’s press conference, Kaepernick once again wore his pink Dr. Dre’s but this time had tape over the Beat’s logo. For Beats, this must have seemed like manna from heaven covered in butterscotch sauce. First, its high-end competitor (Bose) became publicly ensnared with the NFL’s old-school, money-grubbing pettiness.  Second, Beats emerged as the choice of the rebellious types.

Guess which image plays better with the under-30 crowd?

The media coverage swirled like a tornado. USA Today: “The conversation has been stolen by Beats by Dre.”  CNet: “NFL players thumb nose at Beats headphones ban.”  AdAge: “NFL Pact With Bose Means Inadvertent Publicity for Beats.”

You get the idea.  Never mind that Dre has paid Kaepernick for years.  From a marketing perspective, and with the NFL’s unwitting (or perhaps “dim-witting” assistance), this is game, set & match for Dre.