Mysterious offensives against Maaf, MMA and GMF mutuals

A hitherto unknown association has filed a series of complaints against the Covéa group following the acquisition of reinsurer Partner Re.

A new war begins against the leading French insurer Covéa. But no one really knows who is attacking him. Since the end of March, an association has multiplied legal proceedings against the group that oversees the mutual insurance companies Maaf, MMA and GMF.

Last Friday, the Association for the Safeguard of Mutualist Principles (ASPM) filed a new complaint against Covéa with the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumers and Anti-Fraud (DGCCRF).

She accuses him of abusing his mutualist model and monopolizing the premiums of its 11.6 million customers and members. The chairman, Dominique Paillé, denounces the fact that each member (shareholders) “joins a mutual insurance company, but their premiums go to a trading company”, in this case Covéa.

He specifically points out that the group is using its surplus capital to buy Partner Re, a Bermuda-based reinsurer, for $9 billion. And demands the cessation of this operation and the restitution of this amount to the members, ie almost 1000 euros each.

Opposition to takeover Partner Re

The ASPM uprising began in late March with a subpoena against Covéa before the Paris Court of Justice for “misleading business practices, fraud and breach of trust”. Again, the contracts of the mutuals of Maaf, MMA and GMF are meant to be “incorrectly presented to members as supported by mutual structures. In reality, most of the guarantees are borne by commercial companies”, Covéa.

The association has also contacted the insurance regulator, the Prudential Supervisory Authority (ACPR), as well as numerous regulators, particularly in the United States, who are required to give the green light to Covéa’s acquisition of Partner Re. Because that’s the real purpose of the ASPM: to make this operation fail.

Revival of the fight against Scor

At Covéa, we are blown away: being attacked by an association that has existed for two months and whose representatives are unknown in the insurance world. Dominique Paillé is a former deputy to Deux-Sèvres, former adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy and deputy secretary-general of the UMP (ex-LR).

The author of ASPM’s indictment is Didier Calmels, a businessman in the 1990s who distinguished himself in acquiring troubled companies through his “Development and Partnership” fund. He notably took over Le Tanneur, Doux before failing to straighten out the Pleyel pianos. Close to Bernard Tapie and Jean-Louis Borloo, he was imprisoned for two years after killing his wife thirty years ago.

A very heavy atmosphere that convinces the leaders of Covéa that these legal attacks are the sign of a “reckoning”, explains a good friend of the group. The insurer assures that these complaints have “no legal basis” and recalls that the European Commission authorized the acquisition of Partner Re last week.

“This new case smacks of the revival of the war against Scor, who without hesitation let go of a close friend of Covéa. His boss originally wanted to buy Partner Re”. Denis Kessler and Thierry Derez fought a fierce battle for three years before making peace last year. The seizure of the DGCCRF also targets the position of Covéa boss Thierry Derez, who is “concentrating powers”, recalling that the regulator (ACPR) has requested “deep architecture reform” of Covéa.

Internal war or competing mutual societies?

The chairman of the ASPM refutes this statement: “our members are all affiliated with mutual insurers and in particular those of Covéa, MMA, GMF and Maaf”. Dominique Paillé has claimed his status as a member of MMA for 30 years, he was born in Deux-Sèvres and was deputy there.

“The acquisition of Partner Re is creating jealousy among competitors,” said a close friend of the group. Members of competing mutual societies, such as Macif, are also members of the association. But she also used her capital surpluses last year to buy Aviva France for 3.2 billion euros.

Is this new war against Covéa and his boss, Thierry Derez, the sign of a brother war between mutual insurers this time? In Niort, the “capital” of many mutual societies such as Macif, Maif or Matmut, “we hear no voices in this file that seems very Parisian”, explains Jérôme Baloge, the mayor of the city.

“The substance of the case is not only commercial, notes a banker who has seen them all for twenty years. The battles between mutualists also mix wars between Freemason networks.” The association claims the defense of “great mutualist principles”. The chairman goes even further, assuming that he is a “philosophical defender of reciprocity…”.

Matthew Pechberty Journalist BFM Business

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