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NC takes over firms owned by political donor who was indicted in alleged bribery scheme

The North Carolina Insurance Department has taken over a group of companies owned by Greg Lindberg, a wealthy political donor who is facing federal charges that he conspired to bribe the state insurance commissioner.

A court order on Thursday directed the department to take control of four life insurance companies, which Lindberg acquired in recent years and then operated as Global Bankers Insurance Group.

Lindberg, former N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes and two of Lindberg’s associates are accused of trying to bribe state insurance commissioner Mike Causey with $2 million in campaign contributions.

The four allegedly tried to get Causey to take actions favorable to one of Lindberg’s companies — including the removal of an insurance department employee responsible for regulating that firm.

Greg Lindberg.jpeg
Greg Lindberg

Lindberg, the state’s largest political donor, has contributed millions of dollars — money that has supported politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Causey, a Republican who was elected in November 2016, began cooperating with the federal probe in 2018. He acknowledged the existence of recorded conversations between him, Lindberg and the other three men who were indicted in April.

Causey said his involvement with Lindberg began in 2017 when the insurance department was conducting a routine financial examination of one of Lindberg’s companies. Ensuring financial solvency of insurance companies is one of the department’s chief responsibilities.

Causey previously told the Observer that department officials began to question the practices and financial health of Lindberg’s companies.

For example, he said, a standard guideline in the industry is for no more than 10 percent of an insurance company’s money to be invested in affiliated companies. But under former commissioner Wayne Goodwin, the insurance department loosened the rules, allowing a larger percentage — close to 40 percent — to be invested in affiliated companies, Causey said.

In a court petition filed Thursday, Causey stated that “based upon the current investment structure,” transactions among affiliates, subsidiaries and “controlling persons” had raised concerns about whether Lindberg’s companies had sufficient liquidity to meet outstanding obligations.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Causey said Thursday’s ruling will allow the insurance department to sell Lindberg’s companies to other firms “and make them viable companies once again.”

Lindberg donated at least $9,500 to Goodwin in 2016, according to state records.

In a statement issued Thursday, an attorney for Lindberg said that he and the directors of his companies “consented to an orderly rehabilitation process.”

“This consensual rehabilitation process is in conjunction with an agreed-upon plan to reduce the percentage of these insurance companies’ investments where Mr. Lindberg maintains an economic interest,” said the attorney, Aaron Tobin.

Lindberg, Hayes and the other two defendants have all pleaded not guilty to the federal criminal charges.

Hayes, a former congressman, is accused of trying to funnel bribe money to Causey’s re-election campaign. Hayes is also charged with three counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Ames Alexander, an investigative reporter for the Observer, has examined corruption in state prisons, the mistreatment of injured poultry workers and many other subjects. His stories have won dozens of state and national awards. He was a key member of two reporting teams that were named Pulitzer finalists.