JG Wentworth, the “cash now” advertiser and financial services company that buys structured settlements, is expected to be purchased via auction this month at a price that could go as high as $1 billion.
According to the New York Post, JLL Partners, the private equity owner of the company, which formally changed its name to JGWPT in July 2011 when it acquired competitor Peachtree Financial, has enlisted Deutsche Bank AG and Moelis & Co. to help with the auction. Reports say that eight private equity firms including The Blackstone Group LP, Apollo Global Management, LLC and TPG Capital, L.P. are seeking to acquire JGWPT the company.
The first two questions asked by most familiar with the industry are, why is the company being sold, and how will it affect the secondary market industry? Reports say that the company’s private equity owners are ready to sell after owning the company for more than ten years. One could speculate also that the move is prodded by the fact that JG Wentworth has suffered from recent setbacks and lawsuits filed against it. The company was sued earlier this year, accused of engaging in deceptive trade practices. The lawsuit alleges that JG Wentworth and its sister company Peachtree deceive consumers into believing they are competing with one other, when in fact they share call data which are used to support high rates imposed on consumers. Together, Peachtree and JG Wentworth control about 65%-70% of the market.
JG Wentworth has also been blasted for its alleged bait and switch tactics, whereby its sales reps and a client agree to a deal, only for the terms to be changed by JGWPT later on when it’s too late for the client to easily back out.
If JG Wentworth is sold to one of the private equity firms bidding for it, only time will tell if the company will change its ways. Things could remain status quo, or a shake-up could occur under new ownership and leadership. Consumers may have a shot at coming out on top if the marketshare giant changes hands.
The industry itself is growing as the down economy stretches on and former plaintiffs find themselves in critical need of money to avoid a financial crisis. Other companies that purchase structured settlements and annuities know that deceptive tactics are not necessary and that they bring the entire industry down as a whole. Vantage Capital Consultants and a few others put clients first and, in fact, promote multiple bids by its clients, as it only serves to educate the client and keep the industry competitive and fair.
The bait and switch tactic JGWPT is accused of using is the worst of the worst. A seller needs to be able to trust that a deal will not only be consummated, but will be concluded at the original agreed upon terms. In short, sellers need to be dealing with honest folks that do what they say that they will do, when they say they will do it for the deal that is agreed upon in the first place. This industry is here to help clients in critical need, and to kick them when they are down is simply unacceptable. Let’s hope the good apples in the industry, along with lawyers, structured settlement consultants and others involved, continue to educate consumers about their options, provide open and honest advice, and treat clients with the respect they deserve.
Jay Fisher is co-founder of Vantage Capital Consultants, a purchaser of structured settlements and annuities founded by plaintiffs attorneys to help former plaintiffs.