The Future of Life Settlements

Gerson Lehrman Group

September 28


By Lance Wallach

Many insurance professionals now think that the life settlement market is ending. Agents assisting their clients in the sale of their unneeded life insurance policies have no doubt been frustrated by the lack of bids in the current life settlement market. It doesn't help much either when the few bids that are made are often much less than what they would have been in years past. So the future of the life settlement market is dim.


 And what about the lawsuits that have started? The life settlement market saw double-digit annual growth for a decade until 2008. When the financial crisis hit, global markets and credit evaporated, and the life settlement markets came to a standstill. How did this happen to a market that was supposedly not correlated to other markets?
The life settlement market has long been touted as a non-corollary asset class. Even today many promoters looking to raise funds from investors still highlight this investment benefit. I have always doubted everything about the market and have urged people to stay away. How would you know if Tony Soprano is buying your mother’s life insurance policy? I am a member of the Sons of Italy. I was awarded membership even though I am Jewish. Why? Because I am a friend of the President.
Interest rates and stock market prices impact the portfolios of life insurance carriers. The solvency of a life insurance company directly impacts its ability to meet death claims. Why would life settlements be immune? If carriers like AIG teeter on the edge of financial ruin, then credit risk becomes a primary concern for life settlement investors. You may have heard that an ‘A’-rated carrier has never failed to pay a death claim. This is a great lie. The insurance company is usually no longer rated ‘A’ by the time they fail to pay.

I think that the life settlement market will not have any future source of funds within two years.

Life insurance companies have been attacking the market for years. Their vast experience in underwriting has already proven victorious as table changes in 2008 damaged the Net Asset Value of all life settlement funds. Their lobbying against life settlements has also been successful. Overly burdensome and poorly written life settlement regulation in various states has simultaneously increased the operating expenses for life settlement firms and decreased the opportunity for the consumer. 

Life insurance companies are adjusting their COI rates higher and blaming life settlements for the change. They will sell insurance to preserve and protect wealth, yet the very products they sell are backed by investments mired in mountains of debt, equities with high P/E ratios, and issued in a currency that is deeply flawed. Even though many carriers survived the Great Depression, our financial markets are considerably more complex today than they were then and this may cause many carriers to soon find themselves with big problems in the future.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, financial, international tax, and estate planning.  He writes about 412(i), 419, Section79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, or visit

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

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