The Philippine Star
By Aurea Calica Updated February 11, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Four more pre-need companies are on the verge of collapse, one of which was already paying off plan holders with medicine and cooking gas because it no longer had funds to deliver the promised benefits.
Securities and Exchange Commission chair Fe Barin and Jose Aquino, SEC director of the Non-Traditional Securities and Instruments Department, identified one of the beleaguered firms as Pryce Plans Inc. that could no longer meet its obligations to plan holders and started giving away medicine and cooking gas.
During the resumption of the Senate public hearing on the pre-need industry, Barin and Philip Piccio, president of Parents Enabling Parents Coalition, each said the other should identify the pre-need companies in trouble.
SEC and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials were grilled as to when would be the right time to disclose that a pre-need firm was in trouble to save both the company and the plan holders.
“How come the SEC is not even announcing that there is another pre-need company that will collapse anytime now? The smoke is so strong, every day for the past year we get complaints of them not being paid. Can you imagine they offer to pay in kind and not money anymore. They offer a lot of things. They are fooling the people,” Piccio said during the hearing.
Feb. 7, 2009
MANILA, Philippines –
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has cautioned the new owner of pre-need firm Pacific Plans against treating victims of the old management as “second-class citizens.”SEC chairwoman Fe Barin said Noel Oñate’s Abundance Providers Investments Corp. should give the victims the same treatment as his firm’s new customers.
He (Oñate) should not give the victims who accepted his offer lesser rights than the new customers, she said in an interview on dzXL radio.
Oñate’s firm earlier offered victims of the old Pacific Plans pre-need mess a buy-back offer that included a 15-percent yearly interest.
The Parents Enabling Parents Coalition said its members are still studying the offer.
“If there are any offers from him it is up to the plan holders to accept that,” Barin said.
Meanwhile, Barin said they continue to monitor the trust funds of other troubled pre-need firms and make sure they rehabilitate properly.
She also said they want to make sure the firms set up trust funds to pay the victimized plan holders. – GMANews.TV
Written by Omerta / Butch del Castillo
Friday, 06 February 2009 02:23
The Yuchengco family has supposedly sold its problematic preneed company, Pacific Plans Inc. (PPI), to a little-known businessman named Noel C. Onate for P250 million.
Somehow, I sense something fishy about the whole thing. First of all, why would any businessman—unless he is goofy—pay P250 million for a company that owes billions in settlements to more than 35,000 education-plan holders?
Even the timing of the so-called buyout makes the deal strange and mysterious.
Right now, the entire preneed industry is in the doldrums and seems to be in the twilight of its existence. The federation of preneed companies has already yelled for government help in the face of a ballooning deficit in its collective trust fund caused by an unprecedented slump in interest earnings.
Not only that, the industry has been suffering nose-diving sales. The collapse of several big-time preneed companies (among them College Assurance Plan, Platinum Plans, Pacific Plans, The Professional group and, lately, the Legacy group) has left millions of irate plan holders unpaid and in a lynching mood. Consumer confidence in preneed products has been greatly shaken, if not altogether shattered. (The federation’s confession that it has a huge trust-fund deficit, by the way, can only deepen public distrust in preneed products.)
Against this grim industry backdrop, the question is, what emboldened Noel Onate to venture into the preneed business anyway, despite all the odds? Simply put, what’s in it for him? I’ve been seeking answers to these questions because the whole thing just doesn’t make sense.
According to a source who was privy to the deal, the Yuchengcos unloaded Pacific Plans on the advice of a prominent lawyer. The main objective was to provide Pacific Plan’s unpaid plan holders a new “target” in their quest for damages and restitution.
In short, the Yuchengcos wanted to “buy” peace of mind. Apparently, they assumed that by divesting from PPI, the irate plan holders would be training their guns on the new owners. The Yuchengcos are figuratively black and blue, and have grown quite weary from all kinds of flak they’ve been getting ever since Pacific Plans defaulted on its obligations to its plan holders about three years ago.
The once-revered Yuchengco name was dragged through the mud even as that family sought a moratorium on payments under a rehabilitation plan.
But, as it turned out, the “strategic” move was ill-advised. It only compounded their headache. The “victims” of Pacific Plans were not to be so easily sidetracked.
When the announcement of the sale came, the Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition, headed by Philip Piccio, was furious. Here was unmistakable proof, Piccio said, that the Yuchengcos were trying to slip away from their obligation to settle the claims of PPI’s 35,000 plan holders.
Piccio announced that the PEP Coalition would file a slew of large-scale estafa cases against Alfonso Yuchengco (patriarch of the Yuchengco group) and Helen Yuchengco-Dee starting next week in different provinces all over the country where its aggrieved members reside. The sale of the company—if there was an actual sale and not a simulated one—would not absolve the Yuchengcos from their liability. In fact, the deal only bolsters the parents’ claim of bad faith on the part of the Yuchengcos, that they intend to turn their backs on their contractual commitments to the plan holders.
PEP Coalition members have expressed the suspicion that the sale to Onate’s group (Abundance Providers and Investments) is merely a simulated transfer of the ownership of Pacific Plans. On paper, however, it is a done deal between GPL Holdings (represented by Samuel V. Torres) and Abundance Providers. No document detailing the assets and liabilities of Pacific Plans has so far been made public. Only the copy of the deed of sale has been made available.
But assuming, without granting, that Onate has stepped into the picture only to serve as “foil” for the Yuchengcos, it would make more sense if the P250-million payment was made to Onate, instead of the other way around.
To the PEP Coalition—which said it was giving Onate’s group the benefit of the doubt—Onate simply doesn’t come across as a businessman with enough assets to make good on the company’s total liabilities. That is why it won’t ever let go of the Yuchengcos in its quest for justice.
By Zinnia B. Dela Peña Updated February 05, 2009 12:00 AM
The new management of Pacific Plans Inc. (PPI), led by investment banker and Asian Spirit Airlines co-founder Noel Oñate, has unveiled a 10-point action plan aimed at steering the cash-strapped pre-need firm to a greener future amid a deepening global financial crisis.
In a dialogue with PPI investors late Tuesday afternoon, Oñate sought the cooperation and participation of planholders to enable the formerly Yuchengco-owned pre-need company to get back on its feet again.
“We are committed to having an open mind not only in this dialogue but in the way we manage the corporation. We can only ask the same from all our planholders. As we take a first step away from acrimony and hate, let us always remember that innovative solutions can only be developed when everyone has an open mind and an attentive ear, “ said Oñate.
Under a 10-point program aimed at restoring PPI’s soundness and viability, new management has committed to honor legal obligations for open-ended or traditional educational plans. Upon the maturity of the securities comprising the trust assets covering these plans presently valued at P2.3 billion next year, PPI, which will be renamed Abundance Providers Investment Corp. (APIC) shall pay off the traditional planholders their proportionate share in the trust assets in dollars which is projected to appreciate in the coming months.
In anticipation of an improving business climate, the new management will re-engineer its offerings , possibly with terms of three to five years that will allow for more effective liability-directed investment management of corporate assets.
“These new offerings will take into account all-weather hurdle rates with prices adjusted given current market conditions. At present, we have already discontinued the sale of products in our inventory that are priced using high hurdle rate assumptions of up to 18 percent and we will just continue servicing them,” Oñate said.
With the expected improvement of the economy, PPI will conduct an aggressive marketing campaign to sell new offerings and push its fixed-value educational,
pension and memorial plans. To support this move, the company will put up new branch offices in the Visayas and Mindanao.
PPI is currently studying ways to further streamline operations and generate savings on operational costs. It is also exploring cross-selling opportunities of other products to optimize the value of the firm’s 10,000-strong nationwide sales force.
The company has likewise committed to infuse professional management into PPI and put a cap on the salaries of corporate officers. It has committed not to distribute any dividends to its shareholders.
Aside from this, PPI’s new management is looking at transferring the trust funds to other trustee banks.
Oñate pointed out that the trust fund assets of PPI are sufficient to service obligations to planholders. “We will ensure that the trust funds with present consolidated value of P12.5 billion are prudently managed with focus on maximizing their proceeds,” he said.
Since acquiring PPI, Oñate’s group has been conducting a series of key meetings to implement a complete management transition.
“Our plan to turn around PPI is a work in progress. This is only the first in a series of dialogues we are having with our planholders. We want them to be our partner in finding ways to turn around this company” added APIC director Rita Linda Jimeno.
Feb. 4, 2009
MANILA, Philippines –
Parents victimized by a pre-need meltdown mess are keeping their options open on a buy-back offer from the new owner of pre-need firm Pacific Plans.
But Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition president Philip Piccio said Wednesday they are still bent on pursuing charges against the Yuchengcos, the company’s previous owners.
“On Mr. Oñate’s side, ayaw namin agad husgahan [We don’t want to judge Noel Oñate at this time], Piccio said in an interview on dzBB radio.
He said his group will hold meetings to see if they will accept an offer from Oñate’s Abundance Providers Investments Corp. to buy back their plans at 15% yearly interest.
But he admitted accepting the offer may weaken their case against the old owners of Pacific Plans.
So far no one from our group has accepted the offer. It is likely they are thinking about it, he said.
Piccio also admitted the hard times will likely lead some members to accept the offer, saying a 15% interest per year appears attractive.
While Piccio said he will not likely accept the offer as he wants to pursue charges against the Yuchengcos, he will not take it against PEP Coalition members who do.
But he said the sale of Pacific Plans to Oñate’s firm does not absolve the Yuchengcos of liability. PEP Coalition members had lodged estafa charges against the Yuchengcos.
He added that in his case, his child who should have benefited from the plan since 2005 is already a graduate.
At least 34,000 out of Pacific Plans’ 300,000 plan holders are victims of the pre-need mess who had been offered a buy-back plan by the new owner. – GMANews.TV
MANILA, Philippines — The new owner of Pacific Plans Inc. (PPI), investment banker Noel Oñate, made on Tuesday a bold offer to redeem all the pre-need plans previously sold by the troubled company, promising to return the money to the planholders plus interest.
Oñate and officials of his Abundance Providers Investments Corp. (APIC) met planholders to discuss the buyback offer, which he said was necessary as the “first step away from acrimony and hate.”
“Our dialogue with the planholders made us realize that there are those who have an urgent need for their hard-earned money in these difficult times,” Oñate said at a meeting with planholders at the Manila Polo Club. “In response, we shall offer to planholders to buy back their plans and return what they have paid to PPI plus interest. In that way, no planholder will lose a dime of their investment paid to PPI.”
The meeting included members of the Parents Empowering Parents Coalition, some of whose members have run after the company’s former owner, the Yuchengco family.
“Our plan to turn around PPI is a work in progress,” APIC director Rita Linda Jimeno said. “This is only the first in a series of dialogues we are having with our planholders. We want them to be our partner in finding ways to turn around this company.”
Oñate said his group was committed to having an open mind not only in their dialogue but in the way the corporation would be managed. He called on the planholders to move away from a confrontational and adversarial engagement and move into a more “constructive” and “collaborative” partnership.
The Yuchengcos sold PPI, lock, stock and barrel, for P250 million in December to Oñate, who had cashed out of Asian Spirit, an airline he had co-founded.
PPI, which with about 300,000 planholders is one of the biggest pre-need companies, was hit hard by surging costs of servicing open-ended educational plans when the government liberalized tuition rates in the 1990s. Before that, the government capped tuition increases at 10 percent a year.
At the meeting Tuesday, Oñate discussed what he called the “core business principles” guiding the rehabilitation of PPI and outlined a “10-point action plan” to turn the company around.
In earlier statements, he projected a financial turnaround in two to three years.
“I am an entrepreneur and I am proud to have had some successful ventures in my career,” he said at the meetingTuesday. “From my early days as an investment banker until I started a small airline that pioneered the business model now being used by other thriving budget airlines in our country, I have always believed in thinking outside the box … I believe in looking toward the future instead of dwelling in the past.”
Oñate said he saw an opportunity when he found out that the Yuchengcos were thinking of selling the company.
“With trust assets amounting to P12.5 billion, a steady stream of corporate earnings, and a highly professional staff, I saw the intrinsic value in the company and believed that the challenges it faces can be overcome in time,” he said. “I saw the more than 300,000 planholders of Pacific Plans and its nationwide sales force of more than 10,000 committed and motivated agents as a source of its strength.”
Oñate said that under his plan of action the new management would stick to the court- approved rehabilitation plan and continue to honor legal obligations under the plan for open-ended educational plans.
“Upon the maturity of the securities comprising the trust assets covering these plans presently valued at P2.3 billion next year, APIC is committed to pay off the traditional plan holders their proportionate share in the trust assets in US dollars which is projected to appreciate in the coming months,” Oñate said.
“Traditional planholders stand to benefit from a more favorable currency exchange rate anticipated by most financial analysts,” he said.
Other components of the action plan according to APIC:
• APIC will ensure that the trust funds with present consolidated value of P12.5 Billion are prudently managed with focus on maximizing their proceeds;
• In anticipation of an improving business climate, the new management will re-engineer offerings, possibly with terms of three to five years that will allow for more effective liability-directed investment management of corporate assets. (At present, it has already discontinued the sale of products in its inventory that were priced using high hurdle rate assumptions of up to 18 percent but continued servicing them)
• In tandem with an improving economy, APIC will conduct an aggressive marketing campaign to sell new offerings and exert greater effort in pushing fixed-value educational, pension and memorial plans. New branches will be set up in the Visayas and Mindanao;
• To signify a “clean break” from the past, PPI will do business under a new name: Abundance Providers Entrepreneurs Corp. (APEC);
• APIC will explore cross-selling opportunities of other products to optimize the value of a 10,000-strong nationwide sales force;
• It will study ways to further streamline operations and generate savings on our operational costs;
• It will evaluate prospective trustees and consider transferring the trust funds (now with the Yuchengco group’s Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.) to other trustee banks;
• It will continue to infuse professional management into the company and mandate a cap on the salaries of corporate officers;
• While working on the early recovery of the company, it has vowed not to distribute any dividends to shareholders; and,
• It will work closely with regulatory agencies and the Philippine Federation of Preneed Companies (PFPCI) to address industry-wide issues and brace against the impact of the global financial crisis. With editing by INQUIRER.net
The Manila Times
Jan. 31, 2009
By William B. Depasupil, Reporter
Syndicated-estafa charges were filed on Friday before the Department of Justice against 21 executives of an ailing pre-need company owned by the Yuchengco Group of Companies.
The Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition, led by Victoria Gomez Jacinto, filed the criminal complaint against Pacific Plans Inc., a member of the Yuchengco group, over Pacific Plans’ failure to comply with its commitment to over 34,000 planholders.
The Yuchengcos recently sold their entire shareholdings in Pacific Plans to Abundance Providers & Investments Corp. for P250 million.
Named as respondents in the PEP Coalition’s 40-page complaint were Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco, Helen Yuchengco Dee, Alfonso S. Yuchengco 3rd and Yvonne S. Yuchengco, among others.
Sydicated estafa is a non-bailable offense that carries a penalty of life imprisonment.
Zenaida Ongkiko-Acorda, the lawyer for the coalition, said Pacific Plans and the respondents “defrauded at least 34,000 planholders,” whom they enticed to purchase open-ended educational plans with the assurance that they have the capability to assume the risks inherent in contracts of such nature.
Pacific Plans filed a petition for corporate rehabilitation in 2005 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the ground that it was suffering from financial distress and should be allowed to suspend payments to its planholders.
But the PEP Coalition said the Yuchengco group’s claim of financial distress was “fraudulently self-engineered” and used as a convenient excuse to enable it to evade its contractual obligations to the planholders with maturing contracts.
“It provided a convenient escape from Pacific Plans’ guarantee to pay the tuitions of the planholders irrespective of the cost at the time of the availment,” the complainants said.
To prove its point, the group cited the SEC and the Pacific Plans’ own audited financial statement that both confirmed that the pre-need company was liquid and solvent but that it reneged on its contractual obligations and filed a petition for corporate rehabilitation in 2005.
After its investigation, the SEC stated that Pacific Plans is a “financially stable corporation” and thus “resort to corporate rehabilitation is not necessary.”
The coalition also cited a ruling by the Court of Appeals, dated October 10, 2006, which states: “With these opinions laid down by SEC in its pleadings, it would seem that Pacific Plans is not suffering from any liquidity problems, thus making the petition for rehabilitation completely bereft of merit.”
A Pacific Plans trust fund statement released in 2004 also stated that it was capable of meeting its projected obligations until 2014.
“This [claim of financial distress] only shows that Pacific Plans and its directors and officers have no intention whatsoever to honor their contractual obligations even if they have the means to do so. The 34,000 planholders were, therefore, deceived into buying these open-ended plans by a corporation which had no intention to honor its contractual promise,” the PEP Coalition said.
A member of the coalition, Cornelio Zafra, said that he would be filing a separate criminal complaint for swindling against the directors and officers of Pacific Plans before the office of the city prosecutor of Manila.
The Manila Times
Jan. 28, 2009
AFTER acquiring Yuchengco group’s ailing Pacific Plans Inc., businessman Noel Oñate was elected into the board of the Philippine Federation of Pre-need Plan Companies on Tuesday.
Oñate, whose Abundance Providers and Investments Corp. recently bought Pacific Plans, was elected during the federation’s board elections and replaced Maribel Obidos.
In a statement, Oñate vowed to do whatever he can to help the industry get back on its feet in these trying times as the preneed industry undergoes a crisis.
The preneed industry is currently reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis that led to massive reductions in preneed firms’ capital and trust funds, leaving some firms on the brink of collapse.
Despite the crisis, Oñate said the industry remains resilient and a potential lucrative business if given the opportunity to re-engineer its offerings and operations.
In a related development, Oñate appointed Ronaldo Geron, as a new legal counsel to represent Pacific Plans in the rehabilitation court.
The new owner said Pacific Plans can recover with a good business plan, an improvement of the global financial market over time and good conservative management of the trust fund assets.
In addition, the company will bounce back with proactive planholder management, which invites and encourages dialogue and participation in company initiatives that would redound to the health of both the company and the stakeholders it serves.
— Chino S. Leyco
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 01/27/2009 12:10 AM
|Philip Piccio, PEP coalition president
A coalition of Pacific Plan clients is suing the former management of the troubled pre-need firm this week for syndicated estafa.
Philip Piccio, president of the Parents Enabling Parents Coalition (PEP), whose members purchased open-ended traditional education plans from Yuchengco-led Pacific Plans Inc., said the estafa case shows their dismay over the sale of troubled pre-need firm.
Pacific Plans is under corporate rehabilitation, the details of which PEP is still contesting at the Supreme Court.
The Yuchengcos recently sold Pacific Plans to a group of businessmen led by former airline owner, Noel Onate, for P250 million.
PEP has been critical of the sale since they feared it would put their legal battle to collect their claims against the firm to naught.
The Yuchengco group, however, said in a statement that the estafa case is not likely to prosper since the requisite elements of fraud and damage are absent when PPI was sold.
“The accusation that the sale was equivalent to the former owner running away from its obligations is empty since PPI and its new owner are committed to pay the plan holders,” it said.
It added that there is no legal restriction to the sale of a company undergoing rehabilitation and the changing of hands will not affect the court-approved rehabilitation plan with respect to the traditional plan holders.
It also said that the sale of Pacific Plans to Onate did not result in any diminution in the firm’s corporate or trust assets, which are intact at P12.5 billion.
Rita Linda Jimeno, the lawyer of the buyer of Pacific Plans, which would be renamed Abundance Providers and Investments Corp., earlier said they plan to meet with the existing planholders to assure them of their commitment to honor the plans and that there would be no disruption in servicing of planholders.
PEP is also filing this week a petition with the Bangko Sentral against Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), the group’s financial unit, for allegedly mismanaging PPI’s trust funds.
The Yuchengco group, however, remains confident that it will be vindicated once the facts are presented.
“A similar complaint was filed with and resolved by the BSP years ago. We believe that a similar filing will not prosper,” it said.
as of 01/27/2009 12:18 AM
Jan. 27, 2009
A GROUP of Pacific Plans, Inc. education plan holders will again sue the former owners of the pre-need firm for syndicated estafa, saying its recent sale was proof that the company had intended to defraud them.
PEP Coalition President Philip H. Piccio — JONATHAN L. CELLONA
The Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition told a briefing yesterday at least four cases of syndicated estafa, a nonbailable offense, would be filed on Thursday against the Yuchengcos, who used to own Pacific Plans.
To be sued are Alfonso Yuchengco, former Yuchengco group and Pacific Plans chairman and president, and daughter Helen Yuchengco-Dee, who took over from him, said Philip H. Piccio, president of the coalition.
“They sold [Pacific Plans] and even profited from it. This is an exit plan. This is the final nail in the coffin proving that estafa had been commited,” Mr. Piccio argued.
The coalition, which consists of parents seeking claims against troubled pre-need firms, was still studying who among the former members of the management would be sued, he added.
Last month, businessman Emmanuel Noel C. Oñate’s Abundance Providers and Investment Corp. bought Pacific Plans for P250 million.
The PEP Coalition sued Pacific Plans officials three years ago after the company failed in 2004 to pay clients who had bought traditional educational plans. The suits, however, were dismissed by prosecutors for lack of sufficient evidence.
Mr. Piccio said members of their group would file the cases before the Prosecutors’ Office in Makati, Pasay, Antipolo and Muntinlupa. Nonmembers outside Metro Manila may also file their own suits.
“When you are fighting Goliath, you don’t just fire one shot,” he told reporters. “It’s about time we stand up to corporate giants connected to government officials,” he added.
In a statement, Grepalife Holdings Inc., the former parent of Pacific Plans, refuted the PEP Coalition’s charge that the sale was a ground for syndicated estafa.
“There is no legal restriction to the sale of a company undergoing rehabilitation,” the Yuchengco company said.
Grepalife said Pacific Plans was not running away from its obligations, adding that its new owners have committed to pay the plan holders.
It added that the sale had not shrunk the corporate or trust assets of Pacific Plans, which remained at P12.5 billion.
It also said the sale would not affect the court-approved rehabilitation plan as far as traditional plan holders were concerned.
“The sale, therefore, caused no damage or injury to the plan holders,” it said. Grepalife denied having profited from the sale, noting that Pacific Plans was worth P450 million as of 2007.
Mr. Piccio said the PEP Coalition would sue before the central bank today Yuchengco-owned Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., whose trust unit handled the trust fund of Pacific Plans, for mismanagement.
But Grepalife denied that it had mismanaged the trust fund. “It is common knowledge that the present financial meltdown has battered trust funds here and abroad,” it said. It added that the fund, while earning less now, was intact.
Mr. Piccio said the coalition was consulting its lawyers about suing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for having failed to prevent Pacific Plans’ alleged mismanagement.
He said it was media that exposed the woes being experienced by pre-need firms, which warned the corporate regulator as early as August about their impending collapse.
This, the coalition said, showed that the failure of several pre-need companies in the past might not have been isolated incidents, but due to the regulator’s failure to do its job. SEC officials were not immediately available for comment.
Mr. Piccio said it would listen to the proposal of Pacific Plans’ new owners, whom the coalition had with met at least three times.
“We can’t have a hardline stance. I don’t want to derail talks because they may have good intentions,” he said, noting that the new owners had come when the industry was warning of its collapse. — Don Gil K. Carreon