Allianz SE said earnings could be materially hurt by a U.S. Justice Department investigation into its Structured Alpha Funds, which are at the center of lawsuits after they incurred steep losses at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Europe’s largest insurer said on Sunday that it received a “voluntary request for documents and information” from the DOJ and is cooperating with the probe, as well as with the investigation launched last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It has also started its own review of the matter.
The company now sees a “relevant risk that the matters relating to the Structured Alpha Funds could materially impact future financial results of Allianz Group,” the company said in the statement. However, it’s not feasible to estimate the “amount of any possible resolution including potential fines. Therefore, no provision has been recognized at the current stage.”
The company’s asset manager Allianz Global Investors is defending itself from lawsuits by large pension funds and other investors challenging how it invested client money during the COVID-19 market downturn. Allianz told a Manhattan federal judge in February that the plaintiffs are sophisticated investors that chose high-risk private funds with their eyes open.
The potential hit from the lawsuits adds to headwinds as the insurer is recovering from its first annual drop in profits in nine years. Last week, the Munich-based company said potential claims from the deadly German summer floods will likely amount to more than 500 million euros.
In its 2020 annual report, Allianz said plaintiffs in the pending actions have alleged losses of several billion dollars. “Allianz intends to defend vigorously against the allegations contained in the complaints,” it added.
The investors that sued Allianz include a Milwaukee municipal pension fund, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, a Chicago Teamsters pension, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Lehigh University.
AllianzGI last year rejected claims by the Arkansas pension fund that a “reckless strategy” led to $774 million in losses in a matter of weeks. The funds in the Structured Alpha portfolio “did not diverge from their investment strategy,” AllianzGI said in July 2020.
AllianzGI is the sister unit of Pacific Investment Management Co. Both firms are owned by Allianz. The parent company is due to report earnings for the latest period on Aug. 6.
–With assistance from Patrick McHale.