Guggenheim Partners LLC and Apollo Global Management LLC (APO:US) are among firms subpoenaed by New York’s financial watchdog in a probe of risk tied to investment-company ownership of insurers, said a person familiar with the inquiry.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) and Harbinger Group Inc. (HRG:US) were also sent subpoenas by the New York Department of Financial Services, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the information is private. The subpoenas were sent in the last few days, the person said.
The regulator, led by Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, has expressed concern over whether the firms will be sufficiently careful with investments that back long-term obligations to retirement savers. Guggenheim, Apollo and Harbinger have announced deals to buy units that sell fixed annuities, which provide streams of payments to retirees and other customers.
“The risk that we’re concerned about at DFS is whether these private-equity firms are more short-term focused, when this is a business that’s all about the long haul,” Lawsky said in an April 18 speech. “Their short-term focus may result in an incentive to increase investment risk and leverage in order to boost short-term returns.”
DFS also sent subpoenas to Global Atlantic Financial Group, the insurer that Goldman Sachs recently sold to private investors, and to Tiptree Financial Partners LP, the person said.
Lawsky is seeking e-mails, pitchbooks, memos, and information about investment allocations and return assumptions, the person said. Bloomberg reported last month that Wall Street firms have been acquiring life insurance companies and adding investments such as mortgage-backed securities that have drawn attention from regulators accustomed to simpler portfolios.
The regulator wants to understand the risks the companies are taking on and how they’re presenting the deals to investors, and the information may be used to craft new regulations, the person said. The Wall Street Journal reported on the subpoenas earlier today.
“We welcome this inquiry because the information we provide, we believe, will show the benefits that well-capitalized owners, who are willing to invest significant financial and human capital for the long-term, can bring to insurance companies,” Thomas Mulligan, a spokesman for Guggenheim at Sitrick and Co., said in an e-mail. Guggenheim shareholders have owned and operated insurance companies for decades, he said.
Apollo will provide New York with the information it needs to complete the review, Carolyn Sargent, who represents the company at Rubenstein Associates Inc., wrote in a statement.
Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to comment, as did Global Atlantic Chief Operating Officer Kathleen Redgate and Jamie Tully, a spokesman for Harbinger Group at Sard Verbinnen & Co. Tiptree didn’t respond to a message.
Apollo’s Athene unit agreed to buy four insurers since 2008, including the $1.8 billion deal in December for Aviva Plc’s U.S. life and annuity business. The same month, Guggenheim shareholders agreed to buy an annuity unit from Toronto-based Sun Life Financial Inc. (SLF) for $1.35 billion.
Philip Falcone’s publicly traded Harbinger Group Inc. bought Fidelity & Guaranty, the U.S. life and annuity unit of London-based Old Mutual Plc, for $350 million in 2011.
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