On June 25, 2018, the Enforcement Section of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Securities Division (“Division”) filed an Administrative Complaint (“Complaint”) against Respondent MetLife, Inc. (“MetLife”) in connection with alleged violations of the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act (the “Act”). Specifically, the Division has alleged that MetLife, through a line of business known as pension risk transfer, “negligently relied on inadequate procedures to contact certain retirees, many of whom may be completely unaware that their former employer has offloaded its pension responsibilities to MetLife.” MetLife purportedly failed to make a good faith attempt to contact certain Massachusetts retirees due group annuity benefits, and as alleged in the Complaint, the insurance company did not take reasonable steps, such as through certified mail, e-mail, or telephone calls, to contact numerous pensioners, including over 400 Massachusetts retirees.
As alleged in the Complaint, MetLife categorized numerous living retirees as “Presumed Dead.” Consequently, the Division has alleged that MetLife stopped making pension payments to certain Massachusetts annuitants (in some cases, dating back 10 years), and further, caused negligent material misstatements to be made in certain MetLife public disclosures as filed with the SEC. According to the Complaint: “MetLife’s negligent administration of its pension risk transfer business caused MetLife to make materially misleading misstatements in its public filings. The Division brings this action pursuant to the antifraud provisions of the Act, to ensure that MetLife identifies and locates those retirees to whom it owes benefits, and immediately effects all retroactive and continuing payments, plus interest, to Massachusetts retirees.”
According to the Division, MetLife only sent “two bureaucratic, perfunctory letters” to Massachusetts retirees, one at age 65 and one at age 70 ½. When retirees failed to respond to these letters, MetLife allegedly released the retiree’s benefit amount from its reserves (thus effectively transferring a liability to an asset on the company’s balance sheet), without confirming that the retiree was actually deceased. As alleged in the Complaint: “After two unsuccessful attempts to contact its annuitants, MetLife released the full liability based on the unreasonable presumption that these annuitants would never respond and had not become entitled to benefits based on certain contractual provisions.”