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What: Shares of financial services company Life Partners Holdings (Nasdaq: LPHI ) were showing a definite lack of life today as they slid as much as 16% in intraday trading on heavier-than-average volume.
So what: Earlier this year, Life Partners revealed that it was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and, based on a filing from the company today, the results don't look good. Specifically, the company said that it had received a Wells notice from the SEC that recommended civil action against CEO Brian Pardo and general counsel Scott Peden related to the company's disclosures about the life expectancies of the settlors of the insurance policies it was brokering.
Now what: Life Partners sells its clients the rights to life-insurance settlements and the longer the insured lives, the lower the return for the clients who purchased the rights. At issue here is whether Life Partners was intentionally understating life expectancies to be able to show higher returns to potential clients and thereby increase sales. In its filing, the company emphasized that the Wells notice is "neither a formal allegation nor a finding of wrongdoing" and said that it will present its side of the story to try to avoid an enforcement action.
But for investors, this whole crackdown may be bad news whether or not an enforcement action is handed down. If the company has to start taking a more conservative view of settlors' life expectancies, it could continue to put the brakes on the company's formerly snappy growth rate.
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