Thursday, August 15, 2019
The Wall Street Journal and other news sources are reporting on a financial research report released publicly today by an accounting expert -- the one who blew the whistle on the Bernie Madoff scheme -- and his investigation team, that alleges massive inaccuracies and fraudulent filings by General Electric Company. GE officials are fighting back, alleging market manipulation is the motive behind the report. From a Wall Street Journal article on Thursday, it seems GE's liability for losses on its long-term care insurance products is a key focus:
The Markopolos group includes John McPherson, co-founder of MMS Advisors, forensic accountants specializing in the insurance industry. The group worked for seven months to analyze GE’s accounting.
Mr. Markopolos said he is going public with the report now because the group just finished its work. It had been working on another insurance case when GE’s insurance problems caught its eye, he said.
The group claims GE’s long-term-care insurance holdings are a bigger liability than the company is letting on. The report estimates GE will need to boost its insurance reserves by $18.5 billion in cash and take a $10.5 billion charge because of an accounting change required by 2021.
Those figures are on top of a $15 billion reserve boost already taken by GE over seven years to cover its exposure to long-term-care policies, which cover expenses like nursing homes and assisted living. The policies have proved to be a problem for many insurers. The companies drastically underestimated the number of future claims and how long people would draw on the coverage before dying.
“We believe that our current reserves are well-supported for our portfolio characteristics, and we undertake rigorous reserve adequacy testing every year,” GE said in its press release.
On the one hand, as an occasional observer of LTC industry woes, it seems hard for me to believe that at this point any company would try to hide or downplay the high-profile losses that the LTC industry has encountered for more than 10 years. Nonetheless, the whistleblower team's allegations are pretty bold, especially set against the market instability overall this week.