No Plans to Shed Troubled Unit, Says Head of Prudential : Securities: Chairman acknowledges that the partnership debacle has hurt the image of the company.
Prudential Insurance Chairman Robert C. Winters said Wednesday that the company has no plans to divest itself of its Prudential Securities subsidiary, despite a relentless wave of unfavorable attention drawn to the brokerage by the investigations and lawsuits stemming from its problems involving limited partnerships.
At a meeting with journalists, Winters sought to focus attention on the parent company’s strong financial performance in 1993, including a boost of its capital by $869 million to $10.7 billion.
But he also apologized for “mistakes” made while he has been in charge that have harmed thousands of small investors and led to a federal criminal investigation of both the insurance company parent and brokerage subsidiary.
“We have hurt too many of our customers,” Winters said. “The public image of Prudential has suffered during my watch, and I feel the weight of that burden.”
But in response to a question, he added, “I have received a lot of assurances from the board that I continue to have their full confidence.” And Prudential’s directors have “every confidence” in the brokerage, as well, he said.
Hardwick Simmons, chief executive of Prudential Securities, confirmed that the partnership debacle is taking a toll on the brokerage, though, like most Wall Street firms, it continues to have strong earnings.
The brokerage has set aside reserves of $430 million because of the legal problems. And Simmons said its mutual fund business and several other product lines grew more slowly than expected in 1993.
He also confirmed that there has been an upsurge in the number of brokers leaving the firm since the beginning of the year--about 80, Simmons said, a number he attributed to the impact of the scandal.
In October, Prudential Securities settled federal Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it failed to supervise brokers, misled investors who bought partnership units and ignored promises it had made in an earlier SEC disciplinary settlement. The brokerage agreed to pay at least $371 million in fines and restitution to customers.
In recent months, several state insurance departments have begun investigations of Prudential, in part for its role in the sale of limited partnership units. Winters said Wednesday that he expects the New York insurance department to fine the company because it illegally sold financial products that regulators had ruled could not be marketed in the state.
Winters said he did not know how large a fine to expect.
Prudential has also drawn criticism for hiring Anthony J. Amaradio, a high-producing Orange County insurance salesman.
Prudential hired Amaradio in 1991, just after he was fired by the Equitable Life Assurance Society, where the National Assn. of Securities Dealers charged that he had made deceptive sales pitches to customers and placed false advertising. No further charges have been filed, but Amaradio is the subject of further investigation by the NASD for his sales practices since joining Prudential.
In answer to a question, Winters said that if the firm had it to do over again, it probably would not have hired Amaradio.
“I think this is an example of one where probably today we wouldn’t hire this individual,” Winters said, because the company is now being watched so closely by regulators and the media.
Amaradio has obeyed all rules during his time with Prudential, Winters said, adding that the company has no plans to sever its ties to him. Amaradio has denied any wrongdoing.