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New York-Troubled reinsurance holding company Equisure Inc. has announced a wholesale reorganization in which
it will spin off most of its business to another insurer and to companies in Panama and elsewhere.
Equisure does not identify the new reinsurer of its business, however, other than to give its name: Polfin Insurance Co. Regulators and rating agencies contacted last week had never heard of Polfin.
Meanwhile, a man Equisure identifies as its former chief executive officer has been jailed in New York pending extradition to Australia to face fraud charges.
Peter Daniels Clarke II-who allegedly used the name Peter d'Orleans-Clarke while acting as Equisure's CEO-was arrested after prosecutors filed a sealed extradition complaint Aug. 28.
According to the complaint, Australian authorities have charged Mr. Clarke with embezzling client funds of Burns Philp Trustee Co. (Canberra) Ltd., a now-defunct Australian trust company he operated. He also is charged with producing a phony Burns Philp financial statement.
While not mentioned in the complaint, documents show that Mr. Clarke also operated a New Zealand company that was a business partner of two insurers barred by California regulators in recent years: OMSTRAK Insurance Co., purportedly a Russian insurer; and Greater Indemnity & Casualty Insurance Co. Ltd. of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Mr. Clarke, who is being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, and David Greenwald, an assistant U.S. attorney handling the case, could not be reached.
Peter G. Uttley, Equisure's chairman and newly appointed CEO, is quoted in company statements blasting Mr. Clarke and blaming Equisure's many troubles on the news media, the American Stock Exchange-where Equisure's stock formerly traded-and Belgian police officials who have said they are investigating the company. "I am proud to champion the fight" for Equisure, Mr. Uttley, a British citizen, is quoted as saying. "It is a part of British culture to face impossible odds when you fight for what you know to be right."
Equisure, a Minneapolis-based holding company for Belgian reinsurer Equihot Herverzekering N.V., last Wednesday announced a reorganization plan under which all of Equihot's assets and liabilities will be transferred to Polfin Insurance Co. The agreement requires that 95% of net profits be remitted to Equisure, the company said.
Equisure provided no information about Polfin, such as where it is based, and the insurer last week remained largely a mystery. A.M. Best Co. and Standard & Poor's Corp. have no information about Polfin; the insurer has no National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners company code and does not appear on an NAIC list of reinsurers that assumed business from U.S. companies last year, an NAIC official said.
After the transfer to Polfin, the shell of Equihot will be sold to Cambrea Inc., a Panama company, for $1, Equisure said. Equisure also is selling its majority interest in a Monaco insurance brokerage unit to an entity identified as Hong Kong & Shanghai Investment Trust. The announcement provides no other information about the trust company.
Equisure officials could not be reached to elaborate.
The statement concludes by noting Equisure is now "a holding company engaged primarily in portfolio management agreements."
The reorganization and Mr. Clarke's arrest are the latest twists in the Equisure fiasco.
Only months after the company was listed on the AMEX, the exchange halted trading in the stock pending an investigation of Equisure's accounting practices and possible manipulation of its shares by insiders.
The exchange acted after being contacted by Belgian police, who are investigating both Equihot and Dai Ichi Kyoto Reinsurance Co. S.A., a fraudulent Belgian reinsurer that collapsed in 1995.
Belgian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Ronald Charles Bridle, an Equihot official, and have questioned a United Kingdom accountant who has acted as bookkeeper for both Equisure and Dai Ichi Kyoto. Both men have denied wrongdoing, and Mr. Bridle has denied any connection to Dai Ichi Kyoto.
Meanwhile, an Austin, Texas, reinsurance producer alleged in a civil fraud lawsuit that Equisure's chief financial officer-identified in Equisure financial filings as David Sachman-was actually Paul Yorke-Wade, who was jailed in France earlier this year on a Belgian warrant related to the Dai Ichi Kyoto investigation. The suit was later settled.
Amid its mounting troubles, Equisure said in August that it had hired a new CEO: Peter d'Orleans-Clarke, a self-described wealthy investment banker and expert in regulatory compliance matters.
Mr. Clarke quickly reached a settlement with the American Exchange, agreeing that Equisure would withdraw rather than face possible delisting.
Within days, though, Equisure announced it had fired Mr. Clarke for agreeing to the delisting without approval from the company's directors. It also leveled a barrage of charges against Mr. Clarke, including that he had lied about his professional background and that his name was actually Peter Daniels Clarke (BI, Sept. 8).
On Aug. 28, the U.S. attorney's office in New York filed a sealed complaint against Peter Daniels Clarke II-the same man, according to Equisure-seeking his arrest and extradition to Australia.
According to the complaint, Australian authorities in Canberra have charged Mr. Clarke with embezzling several hundred thousand dollars from clients of Burns Philp Trustee, which he acquired in 1991 and headed as managing director until 1993.
Australian prosecutors charge, among other things, that Mr. Clarke:
Transferred $1.5 million of Burns Philp client funds out of Australia, purportedly to buy two jet aircraft. He later diverted $300,000 of this money to himself, partly through payments to Clarke Daniels & Co. Ltd., a New Zealand company he controlled.
Defrauded the Australian government by filing false Burns Philp financial statements, including a 1992 statement claiming that Burns Philp had acquired a majority stake in International Casualty & Surety Co. Ltd. of New Zealand.
IC&S has been hit separately with civil charges that its own assets include worthless or grossly overvalued stocks and that it is a successor to First Assurance & Casualty Co. Ltd., an allegedly fraudulent offshore insurer that collapsed under scores of claims from the 1992 Los Angeles riots (BI, Jan. 6, 1997; March 7, 1994).
Samuel B. Love, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based IC&S director, said no such transaction with Burns Philp was ever completed. In previous interviews, he has also defended IC&S' financial strength.
In late 1993, Clarke Daniels & Co. changed its name to America Pacific Insurance Co., and Mr. Clarke and APIC went on to become business partners with two insurers that ran into regulatory trouble in the United States, documents show.
APIC acted as 100% reinsurer of Greater Indemnity, a now-defunct Turks & Caicos insurer barred in California in 1993 after regulators were unable to confirm the value of its assets or the existence of a trust account for U.S. policyholders. The trust account reportedly was maintained at Burns Philp. Two Greater Indemnity officials, Roman Gorodnitsky and Ilya Bond, were also directors of APIC.
APIC was also a founding minority partner of OMSTRAK, a Russian insurer supposedly capitalized with lead and zinc mining rights in southeastern Russia. California regulators barred OMSTRAK in 1994 (BI, Aug. 8, 1994).