Federal judge OKs Prudential settlement
If you're a Prudential customer who was cheated out of money by the company's agents, and you're waiting for restitution - you're getting closer to payback time.
On March 7, the proposed settlement was finally approved by Judge Alfred M. Wolin of U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J.
If you are a customer who opted to participate in the settlement, the settlement will allow the company to proceed with the rest of the process.
Recently, all of the states that had disagreed with the settlement have reached agreements with Prudential. In exchange for increased fines and some additional consumer communications efforts, officials in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia have agreed not to oppose the settlement terms adopted in the federal-court process.
Florida socked Prudential with a hefty $15 million fine, and said its agreement includes easing the conditions under which Prudential policyholders in Florida can get refunds from the company, particularly those past the age of 60. It said it would spend some of the fine money and hire staffers to help Florida policyholders get appropriate treatment from Prudential.
California will also collect more than $15 million from the company, with a third being a fine and the rest used to provide consumer assistance, repay the state's expenses in investigating Prudential and provide funds to the state's program to increase insurance-industry investment in low-income areas.
Also, between 10,000 and 12,000 individuals also opted out, signaling they wanted no part of the settlement and that they intend to go after a bigger payback. The federal judge levied an additional $1 million fine and ordered Pru to improve its compliance measures, after the company admitted to more cases of document destruction.
Fraud investigators from New York state's insurance department in mid-January swept through Prudential offices in six cities. Armed with subpeonas, they gathered up documents to ensure that no more would be destroyed.
In the meantime, reports across the nation in newspapers and on television have revealed shocking details of vulnerable consumers cheated out of money that otherwise would have been used to pay for college educations and household bills. Some people say they have had to come out of retirement and work because they don't have the money they expected from their Prudential accounts. Instead, the money went to unscrupulous agents to pump up their commissions and the company's profits.
On the plus side for Prudential is that, while 10,000 to 12,000 customers may have opted out, the vast majority of customers who own the more than 10 million policies affected are still in. And, the federal judge has not indicated that he plans to throw the settlement out.
The end is in sight
Prudential officials are hoping the settlement will put to rest a scandal relating to its sales practices, which the company has admitted were in some cases dishonest and misleading. The settlement will provide affected customers, those who bought a permanent life policy sometime between Jan. 1, 1982 and Dec. 31, 1995, with a variety of options.
There would be at least $410 million to more than $1 billion paid out to those who make successful claims. In addition, there would be other relief available, such as loans and the ability to get new policies.
Help, in the form of information and guidance, also is offered. If you'd like to take advantage of that information and guidance, or if you have questions, or if you didn't receive an informational packet (they went out at the beginning of November) call 1-800-736-8913. For the deaf, the number is 1-800-782-1863.
Prudential is anxious to put this behind them because it has been embarrassing and costly. So far the company's credit rating hasn't been harmed. But at least one major rating firm has put the company on notice that it must put the mess to rest if it doesn't want to see its rating drop.
And the lead lawyers have a lot at stake as well. They'll get up to $90 million when the deal is finalized.