Stirling Cooke

Two days BEFORE Goldman Sachs-controlled, Bermuda-based insurance broker Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings went public on NASDAQ via a $50 million IPO at $22 per share, OffshoreAlert exposed the firm under the headline "Stirling Cooke - what you won't find in its prospectus", with our story detailing a plethora of red flags. Supported by 'buy recommendations' from Wall Street analysts who appeared to be incompetent or corrupt, Stirling Cooke's share price shot up to over $30 before the inevitable plunge to zero, de-listing, and, in 2003, bankruptcy. Apart from huge losses to investors, reinsurance claims estimated at $1 billion were voided as a result of the broker's fraud. Despite controlling Stirling Cooke throughout its fraud spree and refusing four offers from OffshoreAlert to show it evidence of wrongdoing at the beginning of our investigation, Goldman Sachs described its governance as "textbook" to the New York bankruptcy court and declared itself "blameless". Goldman Sachs later paid just $450,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Stirling Cooke's Bankruptcy Trustee. Remarkably, the Goldman Sachs Managing Director - and Stirling Cooke director - who oversaw the fiasco, Reuben Jeffery III, went on to become Chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission!
Timeline
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30

November

1997

What investors will not find in Stirling Cooke’s share prospectus

Investors contemplating taking part in the $50 million IPO of Bermuda-based insurance broker/risk manager Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings Limited, which is 24 per cent owned by Goldman Sachs, may be interested in a few details they will not find in the company's share prospectus. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the involvement of its subsidiary Raydon Underwriting Management in one of the world's largest insurance frauds. Raydon, which shares offices with Stirling Cooke at Victoria Hall, Hamilton, had the dubious distinction of managing reinsurer North American Fidelity & Guarantee.
31

March

1998

Mystery over Clarendon’s dubious producer

Anyone doing business with the Clarendon Insurance Group should take a close look at further evidence we have obtained which clearly shows that either a senior officer of the group is lying about its relationship with a dubious business producer or the producer is submitting fraudulent documents to the London insurance market. Either way, the Clarendon officer who may have lied to us, Thomas Corteville, vice president/financial operations of Clarendon National Insurance Company, seemed more concerned with attacking this newsletter than analyzing the facts.
30

April

1998

Stirling Cooke accountant Brian Hynes has conviction for fraud

An accountant who participated in one of the world's best-known insurance frauds is currently working for Bermuda-based insurance group Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings as a financial accountant, we can disclose. Brian J. Hynes, former managing director of Carlos Miro-owned Anglo-American International Reinsurance Co., is employed by Stirling Cooke at its London office.
31

May

1998

Stirling Cooke – profit up but what lies around the corner?

Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings, a publicly-listed company over which there are several question marks, has reported a profit of $4 million for the three months ended March 31, 1998 - a 41 per cent increase on the same period a year earlier. The company reported that revenues went up by 39 per cent to $19.9 million, while reporting that expenses also increased by 39 per cent to $15 million.
31

July

1998

Florida businessman indicted, Stirling Cooke ordered to place $500,000 into escrow

Businessman David Sanz was criminally indicted in the US last month to face charges of racketeering, grand theft and fraud in relation to Florida-based Gulf Atlantic Management Group Inc., which he owned. The offences include an allegation that Sanz illegally stripped off millions of dollars from GAMG over several years and, in a final flourish as the regulatory net closed in, sold its entire book of business of GAMG and that of a related company to Stirling Cooke Insurance Services for $1 million.
31

July

1998

Shurely Shome Mishtake! Clarendon Insurance Group’s questionable regulatory disclosures

Annual statements filed with regulators by Clarendon National Insurance Company are becoming increasingly confusing, not to mention inaccurate in places. Take, for example, its 1996 filing with the New Jersey State Insurance Department, the home regulator for this operating arm of a group that has subsidiaries in Bermuda and the US.
31

August

1998

Reports implicate Stirling Cooke in fraudulent insurance schemes

Two reports into Stirling Cooke Brown that were compiled two years ago by a London firm of insurance investigators on behalf of a client gives an interesting insight into the history of the Bermuda-based insurance broker, particularly allegations that the company was involved in a reinsurance spiral. The alleged spiral that we have been told has dragged Stirling Cooke and the Clarendon group into arbitrations in London at least partly involves North American Fidelity & Guarantee and Stockholm Re (Bermuda).
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31

August

1998

Stirling Cooke’s share price drops like a stone amid more allegations of murky past

As the share price of Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings Limited continues to plummet for reasons that appear unrelated to the general market slide, Inside Bermuda has uncovered fresh evidence that casts an extraordinarily negative light over the company and its main business partner, the Clarendon insurance group.
30

September

1998

Insider Talking: September 30, 1998

Receivers of the Florida Employers Safety Association Self-Insurers Fund sue David Sanz, share price of Stirling Cooke falls to new low on NASDAQ, Elite International Services offers dubious offshore products, Marc Harris on the move, prison inmate Ronald Williams apparently continues to rip people off during his day-release program, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham puts both feet in his mouth during press conference for murder of foreign national.
30

September

1998

Stirling Cooke share price roller-coaster

The share price of Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings has endured a roller-coaster ride on the NASDAQ stock exchange since our disturbing revelations about the company last month. Following our story, the share price quickly dropped to an all-time low of $11.125, which represented a 63 per cent drop in just five months and a fall of 49 per cent on its IPO price of $22 last November when the company was taken public by Goldman Sachs.
30

September

1998

Arbitrations: What public companies must disclose

Virtually every insurance or reinsurance contract written in Bermuda these days has a clause stating that claims disputes should be arbitrated, rather than litigated. The intention is to save money and time but a massive drawback for insurance and reinsurance buyers is that, unlike lawsuits, arbitrations are held in secret so you never know who the bad payers are or which companies have practices that border on the criminal.
30

September

1998

Bermuda Insurance Index loses 22 per cent of value

The FTSE/BSX Bermuda Insurance Index, which was launched on July 15, 1998 with a value of 1,000 and broadly tracks the performance of the island's insurance market, had lost 22 per cent of its value by September 29, falling to 773.36. Such a large fall could indicate it might be an opportune time to buy into the Bermuda Insurance Index Fund Limited, which received approval this month to list up to 10 million non-voting common shares.
30

November

1998

Carlos Miro: ‘Mark Cooke knew I was a crook but did business with me anyway’

The seemingly never-ending flow of negative information that is passed our way about Bermuda-based Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings Limited continued this month when our attention was drawn to Page 43 of the 1994 'Wishful Thinking' report published by a US congressional sub-committee chaired by John Dingell. The content of this page formed part of a look at the illegal activities of Carlos Miro, who received a lengthy prison sentence in the US for insurance fraud in connection with his Louisiana-based company, Anglo-American Insurance, which also had a UK arm.
29

January

1999

Mutual Risk Management is Bermuda’s top insurance stock for second straight year

For the second consecutive year, the common stock of Mutual Risk Management has outperformed all other Bermuda-based, publicly-listed companies operating in the insurance/reinsurance sector. MRM's stock achieved a total investment return of 31.39 per cent for 1998, way ahead of its nearest rival, EXEL, which returned 20.93 per cent to investors. MRM's stock has now returned 100 per cent in two years.
29

January

1999

Clarendon Insurance-Hannover Re deal may be off

Robert Ferguson, who is the President of the US/Bermuda-based Clarendon insurance group, was in Germany from January 20-23 in a last ditch bid to save the proposed sale of the company to German giant Hannover Re, we have been told. Although the outcome of his visit was not known to us at publication time, Ferguson told acquaintances before the trip that the deal was "99 per cent dead", according to a source.
31

March

1999

Stirling Cooke accused of racketeering and fraud in US lawsuit

Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings and some of its subsidiaries, affiliates and officers have been accused of engaging in widespread fraud to the detriment of mostly US insurers and reinsurers in a lawsuit filed by Odyssey Re (London) on March 29 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. As with lawsuits and arbitration proceedings involving Stirling Cooke in London, the company has been accused of running reinsurance spirals purely to generate brokerage commissions and underwriting management fees for itself regardless of the consequences to insureds and reinsureds.
31

March

1999

Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings in crisis

Serious questions about the future of Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings are being raised following the filing of a lawsuit in New York accusing the firm of racketeering and fraud and the collapse of its share price to an all-time low on NASDAQ. The company has also disclosed for the first time in its SEC filings that it is involved in several arbitrations in the UK and is also a defendant in seven different lawsuits that were filed last year by reinsurers and reinsureds claiming to have been defrauded.
31

March

1999

Stirling Cooke discloses London arbitrations and lawsuits

Although readers of this newsletter have known for several months about the arbitrations that Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings has been involved with in London, the company only declared the hearings to the SEC this month in its 10 K filing. The company also disclosed that it is a defendant in seven different lawsuits filed in 1998 by reinsurers and reinsureds alleging fraud.
31

March

1999

Anne Kast’s Insurance Fund: Time to buy or sell?

Anne Kast, the Bermuda-based investment advisor who runs the Bermuda Insurance Index Fund, may have been ruing the timing of a recent full-page advertisement in The Royal Gazette newspaper. In an effort to drum up business for the fund, which was launched last year at $10 and is now at $9.40, readers were treated to massively optimistic buy recommendations of Bermuda's insurance stocks from analysts such as Morgan Stanley, Prudential, Merrill Lynch and Warburg Dillon.
31

March

1999

Hannover Re completes Clarendon Insurance acquisition

Hannover Re's decision to finally go ahead with its purchase of the Clarendon insurance group after six months of deliberation has surprised several people in the industry who view the acquisition as a 'Beauty and the Beast' arrangement. But it appears that the deal, which finally closed at the end of February, may have substantially altered since it was first announced last August.
30

April

1999

Stirling Cooke might be up for sale

April was yet another disastrous month for Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings as its share price fell by 60 per cent and KPMG Peat Marwick resigned as its auditor after just two years. The company also announced it planned to hire a financial adviser to "explore ways to boost shareholder value", a move which often signals that a company is considering putting itself up for sale.
31

May

1999

Stirling Cooke latest: Director resigns, new unpaid claim goes to arbitration

May was another bad month for Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings, which suffered the resignation of a director, announced that it had become involved in yet another arbitration in London and reported that quarterly earnings were down by 11 per cent and that projected annual net income for fiscal 1999 is 25 per cent less than in 1998. The resignation of director Warren Cabral, effective May 13, came a month after the company's auditor, KPMG Peat Marwick, resigned.
30

June

1999

Stirling Cooke Brown lays off Bermuda staff

Beleaguered Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings Ltd. is laying off staff in Bermuda and is in the process of moving its Bermuda-based broking activities to London, Inside Bermuda has been told. The move comes after Goldman Sachs, which is the biggest single shareholder in Stirling Cooke, told management that it was taking more control of the company, said a source.
30

June

1999

Brian O’Hara tops Bermuda shareholders’ list with $65 million of XL Capital stock

XL Capital President and CEO Brian O'Hara has topped a list that measures the value of shares that officers of Bermuda-based, publicly-listed insurers own in their own company. O'Hara is the beneficial owner of shares worth approximately $64.6 million in XL Capital, according to a review conducted by Miami-based Offshore Business News & Research, Inc., which publishes this newsletter.
30

June

1999

Insider Talking: June 30, 1999

As I flew out of Bermuda on June 10 after narrowly surviving an attempt by Donald Lines' attorney, Robin Potts, to have me put in prison for contempt of court for refusing to reveal my sources in relation to articles I wrote about Bermuda Fire & Marine Insurance, who should I bump into on the flight to Atlanta but one of Donald's sons, Brian Lines, who is the President of Lines Overseas Management, which has been on the receiving end of several unflattering articles in this newsletter; Some of the UK's leading attorneys have made Bermuda their home for the next several months as they work on two of the biggest civil trials in the island's history: The Bermuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company case and a trust dispute involving the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, which has a $2.7 billion fortune; What was it like sitting in front of Britain's finest while they debated for two days whether to lock me up for seven days for contempt of court? Not much fun, I can tell you; The lengths that crooks will go to in order to lend credibility to their scams knows no shame; and Beleaguered Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings Ltd. is laying off staff in Bermuda and is in the process of moving its Bermuda-based broking activities to London, we have been told.
30

June

1999

Fidelity fund group biggest investor in Bermuda insurance market

The Boston-based Fidelity Management and Research group is the broadest investor in the Bermuda insurance market, XL Capital has the oldest directors and the directors of Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings are not only the youngest - with an average of just 40 - but also the fewest in number. Directors and officers of Stirling Cooke also own more of their company than for any other firm. These are some of the results of a comprehensive survey of the ownership and governance of Bermuda-based, publicly-listed insurance entities by Miami-based Offshore Business News & Research Inc., which publishes this newsletter.
31

July

1999

New Unicover lawsuits

US and Canadian insurers this month started three new legal actions that will help to determine who will pay for the huge losses associated with the Unicover workers' compensation insurance pool. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada announced it had started arbitration to void Unicover-related reinsurance contracts, Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co. filed a lawsuit in the United Kingdom in an attempt to force a broker, Rattner Mackenzie, to reveal more information about Unicover and it is also believed that Lincoln National Life has filed a suit.
31

July

1999

New Stirling Cooke boss, Len Quick, is former defendant in RICO action

Mark Cooke this month stepped down as CEO of Goldman Sachs-controlled Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings following the company's disastrous performance since going public in November, 1997. But the man promoted to temporarily replace him and steady the firm in the face of widespread fraud allegations was himself accused of impropriety with his previous employer, we can reveal. Len Quick, 57, who was previously the head of Stirling Cooke's North American operations, was elevated to Chief Operating Officer of the group and interim CEO until a permanent replacement for Cooke is found.
31

August

1999

Insider Talking: August 31, 1999

In February, Offshore Alert reported about stock manipulation allegations involving Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed Mezzanine Capital; Viktor Kozeny, the 'Pirate of Prague' who allegedly defrauded his countrymen in the former Czechoslovakia of tens of millions of dollars before fleeing, buying an Irish passport and going to live in the Bahamas, has apparently fallen out with the Grenada government, according to Grenada Today newspaper; A letter to the editor that was published in the Caymanian Compass newspaper on August 20, 1999 caused rum amusement in knowledgeable law enforcement circles; and In the ten days after we posted the Harris Organization/OBNR libel judgment on our web-site, 638 people had downloaded the entire 17 pages, making it the most popular document on the 'Free Documents' section of our web-site.
31

August

1999

Transamerica wins arbitration to rescind Stirling Cooke-brokered spiral business

Stirling Cooke Brown Holdings has suffered a major setback in an arbitration held recently in London. The arbitration panel decided by three votes to nil to rescind reinsurance contracts for 1993 and 1994 that the San Francisco-based Transamerica insurance/financial services group had with Duncanson & Holt, Chubb Insurance Group and Chubb-subsidiary Federal Insurance Company.
30

November

1999

Q&A with Don Schuster, Stirling Cooke’s PR spokesman

Don Schuster, of The Torrenzano Group, of New York, was hired by Stirling Cooke earlier this year to improve its public relations, which, until that point, included a policy of not taking Inside Bermuda's telephone calls. However, as you should gather from a question and answer session below, the main change from the 'No Comment' days of Mark Cooke and Nicholas Brown, who have both been fired as officers in recent months, is that the company now takes more words to say not very much at all.
31

December

1999

OffshoreAlert Awards For 1999

Annual OffshoreAlert Awards for: Worst Regulator, Worst Regulated Jurisdictions, Lie of the Year, Coward of the Year, Crooks of the Year, Jurisdiction in Most Need of a PR Make-Over, Most Small-Minded Decision, Most Arrogant Jurisdiction, Most Stupid Comments, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Award, and Most Responsible Regulators.