Two courts to investigate Vesttoo-related issues
Fresh concerns are emerging about the troubled insurtech Vesttoo after new reporting that its chief executives, earlier put on paid leave, have been fired.
They have responded with explosive allegations of their own, while seeking to distance themselves from any culpability in Vesttoo’s troubles.
At the same time, one aggrieved party, Aon’s White Rock Insurance (SAC) Ltd, has sought help from the Bermuda Supreme Court, with millions of dollars in assets tied up.
Those close to the matter said Aon was purely focused on the recovery of its clients assets as the future of Vesttoo is determined by the bankruptcy courts.
Charles Thresh and Michael Morrison of Teneo (Bermuda) Ltd have been appointed joint provisional liquidators for the White Rock segregated accounts that are connected to the Vesttoo scandal.
In a filing with the Bermuda Stock Exchange, White Rock stated that the note programmes (the ILS Programme and the Randolph Re Programme) and the related notes are not linked to the affected cells and White Rock otherwise continues to operate in the ordinary course of business.
Reinsurance News has reported that Vesttoo’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US came after White Rock demanded the return of $136.7 million in collateral that it had distributed to Vesttoo.
The Bermuda Monetary Authority and White Rock had already jointly agreed to a course of action.
A few weeks ago, the BMA went to court seeking JPLs with respect to Vesttoo Alpha P&C Ltd, the Bermuda Vesttoo company. Mr Thresh and Mr Morrison were appointed.
Vesttoo immediately said they were exiting Bermuda.
The Bermuda office had originally been on the list of retained operations after the company reacted to the scandal by shuttering a number of offices and laying off 150 of its 200 global staff.
White Rock and the BMA are using winding-up proceedings in an effort at maximum recovery for insureds affected by the alleged fraud.
But Vesttoo has cried foul, arguing before a US court that such action would violate the automatic stay in US bankruptcy proceedings that temporarily shields them from being pursued by debtors.
It all comes with the backdrop of a weeks-long investigation into what went wrong at the company, which is apparently still under way.
On August 16, Vesttoo said the investigation into the fraudulent Letters of Credit used as collateral in the company’s transactions was in advanced stages and the company hoped to “publish results in the near future”.
But on Wednesday, they told The Royal Gazette through a spokesman: “The investigation is still ongoing and we will not comment further until it is concluded.”
Questions also still remain about Vesttoo’s earlier confidence about its continuing future.
A statement two weeks ago said: “What we can already confirm is that the source of the fraud is external to Vesttoo, and no employees of Vesttoo UK, US, Bermuda, Japan, or other jurisdictions outside of Israel are under any suspicion of being involved in the fraudulent activities.”
CTech by Calcalist is reporting that CEO Yaniv Bertele and chief financial engineer Alon Lifshitz, two of the founders of the company who were placed on paid leave earlier this summer, have now been fired by the Vesttoo board.
CTech reported that the pair “have been sacked with the board hinting they were involved in the alleged fraud at the company”.
Further, CTech quoted a statement from the executives claiming they were targeted from the beginning, and even now, in the absence of any evidence.
The statement from the two executives said: “Unfortunately, opportunistic parties exploited the temporary crisis the company was facing to advance aggressive and unilateral actions aimed at taking control of the company.
“In our view, the auditing body is in a significant conflict of interest, given the personal involvement of those who appointed it in the events being audited.
“This investigative body singled out the founders from the outset. Despite an extensive investigation, no evidence has been found against them, let alone presented.
“Consequently, in the absence of any substantial findings, baseless and deceitful allegations against the founders began to be leaked to the media in an attempt to tarnish their reputation, without affording them a basic opportunity to address these claims.
“It's crucial to note that such leaks significantly undermine the company's business endeavours, including with established and reputable entities that have faith in the company and seek to support its growth. Needless to say, the founders retain all their claims and rights in this matter.”
Vesttoo was an Israeli start-up, a fintech bringing new sources of capital into the insurance market.
After raising $80 million, the company soared to a billion-dollar valuation, but things began unravelling when allegations surfaced that fraudulent letters of credit had been used on its platform.
Mr Bertele and Mr Lifshitz were sidelined, an investigation was mounted and Vesttoo eventually sought Chapter 11 protection, with a vow to be made whole again.