December 17, 2014 By Joseph P. Farrell

Not long ago I blogged about the sad murder of Melissa Millan, an executive with Mass Mutual, who was found murdered on a jogging track near her home. She has joined a sad and growing list of people in banking or banking related business who have died under quite suspicious circumstances. But now there's more information to add to her story:

Slain MassMutual Executive Held Wall Street “Trade Secrets”

This is one to study closely, folks, for it confirms that at least a part of the pattern we've been seeing is the relationship to BOLI, or Bank-Owned Life Insurance policies on its employees (which I definitely think is part of the pattern, though certainly not all of it). But in order to see the significance of this pattern, and the late Ms. Millan's place within it, I want to draw your attention to certain paragraphs in this article. First, the general context:

"Information has now emerged that Millan had access to highly sensitive data on bank profits resulting from the collection of life insurance proceeds from her insurance company employer on the death of bank workers – data that a Federal regulator of banks has characterized as “trade secrets.”

"Millan was a Senior Vice President with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and a member of its 39-member Senior Management team according to the company’s 2013 annual report. Millan had been with the company since 2001.

"According to Millan’s LinkedIn profile, her work involved the “General management of BOLI” and Executive Group Life, as well as disability insurance businesses and “expansion into worksite and voluntary benefits market.”

"BOLI is shorthand for Bank-Owned Life Insurance, a controversial practice where banks purchase bulk life insurance on the lives of their workers. The death benefit pays to the bank instead of to the family of the deceased. According to industry publications, MassMutual is considered one of the top ten sellers of BOLI in the United States. Its annual reports in recent years have indicated that growth in this area was a significant contributor to its revenue growth."

And now, an important consideration:

"Four of Wall Street’s largest banks are the largest owners of BOLI according to December 31, 2013 data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), holding a combined total of $68.1 billion. The four banks’ individual BOLI assets are as follows as of the end of last year:

"Bank of America    $22.7 billion

"Wells Fargo             18.7 billion

"JPMorgan Chase      17.9 billion

"Citigroup                   8.8 billion

"The BOLI assets, however, support a far greater amount of life insurance coverage in force on the workers’ lives – potentially as much as a ten to one ratio – meaning that just these four banks could be holding $681 billion on the lives of their current and past employees." (Boldface emphasis added)

Now ponder this one for a moment, for what is being implied is that BOLI policies count as assets on the books of the banks, from which they can conceivably be used in derivatives bundles, or even - perhaps surreptitiously - counted as part of the reserve requirements of the bank. If bundled into dreivatives and securities bundles, then the trading value of such policies increases exponentially... as does the danger - if such policies are traded in such securities bundles - that someone might try to "collect." Of course, all that is way-out "wackadoodle" speculation, but it serves my point, that such policies - based directly on "human capital and life" - were used as assets on the books, and hence, most likely formed a huge component of the derivatives bubble that with all the talk of Quantitative Easing has fallen off the radar.

Now with that wild speculation in mind, consider these paragraphs:

"Since details on the number of workers insured and the annual amounts that big Wall Street banks report as profits on the death of their current and former workers are closely guarded secrets, in March of this year Wall Street On Parade wrote to the regulator of national banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), asking for BOLI information under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Because JPMorgan Chase has experienced a number of tragic deaths among young workers in their 30s this year, we asked the OCC for the number of deaths from 2008 through March 21, 2014 on which JPMorgan Chase collected death benefits; the total face amount of BOLI life insurance in force at JPMorgan; the total number of former and current employees of JPMorgan Chase who are insured under these policies; and any peer studies showing the same data comparing JPMorgan Chase with Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.

"The OCC responded to our request on April 18, 2014, advising that they did have documents responsive to our request but that all documents were going to be withheld because they were “privileged or contains trade secrets, or commercial or financial information, furnished in confidence, that relates to the business, personal, or financial affairs of any person,” or  relate to “a record contained in or related to an examination.” (See OCC Response to Wall Street On Parade’s Request for Banker Death Information).

"It is noteworthy that JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup are all publicly traded companies with shareholders. Under securities law, shareholders have a right to material information on how the company is making its profits. An investor who wants to own the shares of a well-run bank whose business model is to make prudent loans to businesses or loans to responsible retail customers, should have a right to know how much of a bank’s profits are coming from the unseemly practice of collecting death benefits on its workers."

Now, as I have indicated before, collecting on insurance policies would seem to me to not add up to very much "bottom line" on the profit-loss statements of the too-big-to-jail banks. So something else would seem to be involved.

Then comes the crucial statements:

"On July 1, 2011, Millan assumed the leadership “of an expanded and centralized services and operations division” that included “business underwriting and operations, as well as claims.”

"There is evidence that Millan did use internal studies to see trends. On September 18, 2013, MassMutual released a 2013Employer Perspectives on Disability Benefits study showing inadequate coverage of some workers in case they became disabled. The press release announcing the study quotes Millan as follows:

“ ‘Not only are many executives at risk, but so are their families,’ said Melissa Millan, senior vice president, worksite insurance, MassMutual. ‘We commissioned this study to help employee benefits executives and benefits managers benchmark their disability insurance plans more effectively, and help lead organizations to fully informed recommendations and decisions.’ ” (Emphasis added)

Now what all of this adds up to in my opinion, is the real bottom line: Information, and trends. Ms. Millan was in a position to see general trends,   So this is not about banks offing their employees to collect on insurance. After all, if that were really the case, who would work for them?

There is a trend, there is information, that someone desperately wants to keep a secret. I suspect the trend is not about "the immanent collapse of the dollar" or even massive market manipulation. Perhaps it's not even about evidence of external market manipulation, but rather, about who, ultimately, is behind it.

Now the question is: did any of these dead bankers ever have any direct contact with each other? Did they ever meet over a glass of wine or cup of coffee, to huddle and mutter under their breath what their suspicions were? Connections, in other words, now seems to be becoming a key part of the puzzle.

See you on the flip side...