NSSTA 2019 FALL CONFERENCE

From a traditional perspective, the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA) 2019 Fall Educational Conference, hosted in Chicago October 15-17, 2019, was an unqualified success. The program was well-organized, the topics were timely and complementary, the speakers were impressive and engaging.

Most NSSTA members, however, would likely agree that the “traditionalstructured settlement market has entered an historic period of change and transition. To cite four noteworthy examples from the NSSTA conference itself:

  • While leading an ethics discussion, NSSTA Executive Director Eric Vaughn asked broker attendees how many currently sold only structured settlement annuities. The response: none.
  • During his presentation “Making the Pie Bigger”, Daniel Goodmann described a “structured settlement” as a “process” rather than a “product” – a surprising comment to some who have historically viewed NSSTA as totally “product” driven.
  • One of NSSTA’s featured speakers was Amy Bilton, President of the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP) – an association with whom NSSTA shares common political interests but with which it has heretofore never formally collaborated.
  • Although the focus of NSSTA’s “Care Management” presentation in Chicago was the “settlement and trial process”, this session also represented a valuable introduction (although not described as such) to person-centered planning.

What types of “transformative questions” might future NSSTA educational programs consider to build upon the success of its 2019 Fall Conference, to help its members better understand the transitional market changes impacting structured settlements and to improve and grow their products within that market?

FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS

To begin with: NSSTA might consider (or reconsider) the following fundamental questions. What is a structured settlement? Based on Daniel Goodmann’s comment (above), is it a product? A process? A market? And if all (or most) NSSTA brokers are now selling other products, in addition to structured settlement annuities, what are those products? And what business are NSSTA members engaged in now? Personal injury settlement planning? If not personal injury settlement planning, what? Assuming personal injury settlement planning, what are the relationships between: structured settlements and/or structured settlement annuities, and personal injury settlement planning?

Assuming, as many NSSTA brokers already have, that they sell structured settlement annuities (and other products) and are engaged in the business of personal injury settlement planning - what other types of “transformative questions” might NSSTA consider addressing as part of their future educational programming to help NSSTA members understand and achieve success in this transitional market? 

Note: previous NSSTA educational programs and NSSTA speakers have at least indirectly addressed some of the following questions. The suggestion here is that these questions deserve more detailed and specific focus.

TRANSFORMATIVE QUESTIONS

What role should a structured settlement annuity play in personal injury settlement planning? What benefits and business standards are most important for establishing/maintaining the advantages and identity of structured settlement annuities in this larger market?

How large is the personal injury settlement planning market and what are its most important submarkets for structured settlement annuities?

What is a “settlement plan”? What structured settlement work product is typically part of a settlement plan?

Besides structured settlement consultants, what other professional structured settlement stakeholders are typically involved in personal injury settlement planning? What work product do they provide that impacts or depends upon structured settlement annuities?

What laws, regulations and business standards impact NSSTA members who sell structured settlement annuities (and possibly other products) as part of an integrated “settlement plan” involving other financial products and government benefits incorporated into settlement trusts?

ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS

Scheduling Challenges

Scheduling national conferences poses many conflicts and challenges. For example, NSSTA hosted its Fall Conference two weeks following the NAMSAP Annual Conference allowing NAMSAP President Amy Bilton to speak in Chicago. With Craig Pawley, Amy addressed important and timely “transitional” Medicare issues impacting structured settlements.

Given the increasing importance of government benefits to NSSTA members and NSSTA President Michelle Caine’s educational marketing strategic priority, however, it is unfortunate that NSSTA has scheduled its last three educational events to directly conflict with leading national special needs conferences.

Not only do these conflicts prevent NSSTA members from marketing to leading special needs legal conferences (Stetson; ASNP; NAELA), they also eliminate NSSTA speaker options and cut off sources of NSSTA educational knowledge that is directly relevant to and timely with industry transition.

Legal Committee Expertise

NSSTA’s Legal Committee is one of the association’s most valuable resources. For the past several years, its members (including NSSTA’s General Counsel) have waged an aggressive lobbying and litigation campaign to “protect and preserve” the primary market against continuing bad secondary market business practices.

The secondary market generates significant litigation the most recent of which Legal Committee representatives reported in their “Law and Order” educational program in Chicago.  Although especially important to annuity providers, as an educational presentation a lengthy series of “bad business” secondary market cases can become mind-numbing without any corrective recommendations.

Fortunately, in Chicago, the Legal Committee presenters broke precedent and highlighted Independent Life’s Payee Protection Policy as one proposed primary market antidote for limiting current secondary market bad business practices – and perhaps also some of the excessive secondary market litigation.

Less secondary market litigation (or at least less educational focus thereon) would allow the Legal Committee to re-focus future “Law and Order” programming more on primary market issues where its combined expertise and wealth of current case experience could provide significant value – both as a complement to other NSSTA presentations and in helping NSSTA members better understand the transitioning structured settlement market.

As one example, although briefly mentioned, the Mraz case had direct application to the subsequent NSSTA presentation in Chicago about “Non-Qualified Structured Settlements” and offered several “best practice” lessons for attendees.

Congratulations to NSSTA’s Educational Committee for an exceptional program that exceeded current educational standards.  Achieving future success in the transitional structured settlement market will pose new and continuing challenges.