Company Quick10K Filing
Quick10K
Lincoln National
Closing Price ($) Shares Out (MM) Market Cap ($MM)
$66.11 205 $13,520
10-K 2018-12-31 Annual: 2018-12-31
10-Q 2018-09-30 Quarter: 2018-09-30
10-Q 2018-06-30 Quarter: 2018-06-30
10-Q 2018-03-31 Quarter: 2018-03-31
10-K 2017-12-31 Annual: 2017-12-31
10-Q 2017-09-30 Quarter: 2017-09-30
10-Q 2017-06-30 Quarter: 2017-06-30
10-Q 2017-03-31 Quarter: 2017-03-31
10-K 2016-12-31 Annual: 2016-12-31
10-Q 2016-09-30 Quarter: 2016-09-30
10-Q 2016-06-30 Quarter: 2016-06-30
10-Q 2016-03-31 Quarter: 2016-03-31
10-K 2015-12-31 Annual: 2015-12-31
10-Q 2015-09-30 Quarter: 2015-09-30
10-Q 2015-06-30 Quarter: 2015-06-30
10-Q 2015-03-31 Quarter: 2015-03-31
10-K 2014-12-31 Annual: 2014-12-31
10-Q 2014-09-30 Quarter: 2014-09-30
10-Q 2014-06-30 Quarter: 2014-06-30
10-Q 2014-03-31 Quarter: 2014-03-31
10-K 2013-12-31 Annual: 2013-12-31
8-K 2018-12-31 Earnings, Exhibits
8-K 2018-11-07 Amend Bylaw, Exhibits
8-K 2018-07-13 Officers, Exhibits
8-K 2018-06-30 Earnings, Exhibits
8-K 2018-05-25 Shareholder Vote
8-K 2018-03-31 Earnings, Exhibits
8-K 2018-03-20 Amend Bylaw, Exhibits
8-K 2018-02-12 Other Events, Exhibits
8-K 2018-01-18 Enter Agreement, Exhibits
8-K 2017-12-31 Earnings, Exhibits
LBTYA Liberty Global 20,570
VIPS Vipshop Holdings 5,220
INXN Interxion Holding 4,890
ONB Old National Bancorp 3,000
FCEL Fuelcell Energy 32
BORN China New Borun 24
BIOE Bioethics 0
GIGL Giggles N' Hugs 0
SYEV Seychelle Environmental Technologies 0
HRST Harvest Oil Gas 0
LNC 2018-12-31
Part I
Item 1. Business
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Part II
Item 5. Market for Registrant’S Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
Item 7. Management’S Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data
Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure
Item 9A. Controls and Procedures
Item 9B. Other Information
Part III
Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance
Item 11. Executive Compensation
Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence
Item 14. Principal Accounting Fees and Services
Part IV
Item 15. Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules
EX-10.12 lnc-20181231xex10_12.htm
EX-10.13 lnc-20181231xex10_13.htm
EX-10.31 lnc-20181231xex10_31.htm
EX-10.5 lnc-20181231xex10_5.htm
EX-21 lnc-20181231xex21.htm
EX-23 lnc-20181231xex23.htm
EX-31.1 lnc-20181231xex31_1.htm
EX-31.2 lnc-20181231xex31_2.htm
EX-32.1 lnc-20181231xex32_1.htm
EX-32.2 lnc-20181231xex32_2.htm

Lincoln National Earnings 2018-12-31

LNC 10K Annual Report

Balance SheetIncome StatementCash Flow

10-K 1 lnc-20181231x10k.htm 10-K Q4 20181231_Taxonomy2018



UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D. C. 20549   



FORM 10-K  



(Mark One)

     Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934  

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018  

OR









     Transition Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934  

For the transition period from                      to                     .  

 

Commission File Number 1-6028  



LINCOLN NATIONAL CORPORATION

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)  





 



 

Indiana

35-1140070

(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)



 

150 N. Radnor Chester Road, Suite A305, Radnor, Pennsylvania

19087

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)



Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (484) 583-1400  



Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 



 

 



 

 

Title of each class

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock

 

New York

Warrants, each to purchase one share of common stock

 

New York

   

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None



Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes      No   

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).  Yes      No      

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.  

Large accelerated filer  Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer    Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).  Yes      No   

The aggregate market value of the shares of the registrant’s common stock held by non-affiliates (based upon the closing price of these shares on the New York Stock Exchange) as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter was $12.0 billion.  Shares of common stock held by each executive officer and director and each entity that owns 10% or more of the outstanding common stock have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed to be affiliates. The determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.

As of February 14, 2019, 204,293,812 shares of common stock of the registrant were outstanding.

Documents Incorporated by Reference:

Selected portions of the Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting of Shareholders, scheduled for May 24, 2019, have been incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 


 



Lincoln National Corporation

 

Table of Contents





 

 

 

 

 

Item

 

 

 

 

       Page

PART I

 

1.

Business 

 

 

Overview 

 

 

Business Segments and Other Operations



 

 

Annuities



 

 

Retirement Plan Services



 

 

Life Insurance



 

 

Group Protection

 

 

 

Other Operations

 

 

Reinsurance

 

 

Reserves

10 

 

 

Investments

10 

 

 

Financial Strength Ratings

10 

 

 

Regulatory

11 

 

 

Employees

17 

 

 

Available Information

17 



 

 

1A.

Risk Factors

17 



 

 

1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

33 



 

 

2.

Properties

33 



 

 

3.

Legal Proceedings

33 



 

 

4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

33 



 

 

 

Executive Officers of the Registrant

34 



 

PART II

 

5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities 

35 



 

 

6.

Selected Financial Data

36 



 

 

7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

37 

 

 

Forward-Looking Statements – Cautionary Language

37 

 

 

Introduction

38 

 

 

    Executive Summary

38 



 

    Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

42 



 

    Acquisitions and Dispositions

51 

 

 

Results of Consolidated Operations

52 

 

 

Results of Annuities 

54 

 

 

Results of Retirement Plan Services 

60 

 

 

Results of Life Insurance

64 

 

 

Results of Group Protection

69 

 

 

Results of Other Operations

72 



 

Realized Gain (Loss) and Benefit Ratio Unlocking

74 



 

Consolidated Investments 

77 



 

Reinsurance

90 

 

 

Review of Consolidated Financial Condition

91 

 

 

   Liquidity and Capital Resources

91 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 



 

 



 


 

Item

Page



 

 

7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

98 



 

 

8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data 

105 



 

 

9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

185 



 

 

9A.

Controls and Procedures

185 



 

 

9B.

Other Information

185 



 

PART III

 



 

 

10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

185 



 

 

11.

Executive Compensation

186 



 

 

12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

186 



 

 

13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

187 



 

 

14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

187 



 

PART IV

 



 

 

15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

187 



 

 



Index to Exhibits 

188 



 

 

 

Signatures

192 



 

 

 

Index to Financial Statement Schedules 

FS-1



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 



PART I



The “Business” section and other parts of this Form 10-K contain forward-looking statements that involve inherent risks and uncertainties.  Statements that are not historical facts, including statements about our beliefs and expectations, and containing words such as “believes,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” “expects” or similar words are forward-looking statements.  Our actual results may differ materially from the projected results discussed in the forward-looking statements.  Factors that could cause such differences include, but are not limited to, those discussed in “Item 1A. Risk Factors” and in the “Forward-Looking Statements – Cautionary Language” in “Part II – Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” (“MD&A”) of the Form 10-K.  Our consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes to the consolidated financial statements (“Notes”) are presented in “Part II – Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”



Item 1.    Business

 

OVERVIEW



Lincoln National Corporation (“LNC,” which also may be referred to as “Lincoln,” “we,” “our” or “us”) is a holding company, which operates multiple insurance and retirement businesses through subsidiary companies.  Through our business segments, we sell a wide range of wealth protection, accumulation and retirement income products and solutions.  LNC was organized under the laws of the state of Indiana in 1968.  We currently maintain our principal executive offices in Radnor, Pennsylvania.  “Lincoln Financial Group” is the marketing name for LNC and its subsidiary companies.  As of December 31, 2018, LNC had consolidated assets of $298.1 billion and consolidated stockholders’ equity of $14.4 billion.

 

We provide products and services and report results through four segments as follows:







 



 

Business Segments

 

Annuities

 

Retirement Plan Services

 

Life Insurance

 

Group Protection

 



We also have Other Operations, which includes the financial data for operations that are not directly related to the business segments. 



The results of Lincoln Financial Network (“LFN”) and Lincoln Financial Distributors (“LFD”), our retail and wholesale distributors, respectively, are included in the segments for which they distribute products.  LFD distributes our individual products and services, retirement plans and corporate-owned universal life insurance and variable universal life insurance (“COLI”) and bank-owned universal life insurance and variable universal life insurance (“BOLI”) products and services.  The distribution occurs primarily through consultants, brokers, planners, agents, financial advisers, third-party administrators (“TPAs”) and other intermediaries.  Group Protection distributes its products and services primarily through employee benefit brokers, TPAs and other employee benefit firms.  As of December 31, 2018, LFD had approximately 620 internal and external wholesalers (including sales and relationship managers).  As of December 31, 2018, LFN offered LNC and non-proprietary products and advisory services through a national network of approximately 8,640 active producers who placed business with us within the last 12 months. 



Financial information in the tables that follow is presented in accordance with United States of America generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), unless otherwise indicated.  We provide revenues, income (loss) from operations and assets attributable to each of our business segments and Other Operations in Note 21. 



Acquisitions and Dispositions



On May 1, 2018, we completed the acquisition of 100% of the capital stock of Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (“Liberty Life” or “LLACB”), which operates a group benefits business (“Liberty Group Business”) and individual life and individual and group annuity business (the “Liberty Life Business”), from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.  In connection with the acquisition, Liberty Life sold the Liberty Life Business on May 1, 2018, by entering into reinsurance agreements and related ancillary documents with Protective Life Insurance Company and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Protective Life and Annuity Insurance Company (together with Protective Life Insurance Company, “Protective”), providing for the reinsurance and administration of the Liberty Life Business.  Liberty Life’s excess capital of $1.8 billion was paid to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company through an extraordinary dividend at the acquisition date.  We paid $1.5 billion of cash to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company to acquire the Liberty Group Business.



On July 16, 2015, we closed on the sale of Lincoln Financial Media Company with Entercom Communications Corp. (“Entercom Parent”) and Entercom Radio, LLC.  We received $75 million in cash, net of transaction expenses, and $28 million face amount of perpetual cumulative convertible preferred stock of Entercom Parent. 



For further information about acquisitions and divestitures, see Note 3.



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BUSINESS SEGMENTS AND OTHER OPERATIONS



ANNUITIES



Overview



The Annuities segment provides tax-deferred investment growth and lifetime income opportunities for its clients by offering variable annuities, fixed (including indexed) annuities and indexed variable annuities.  The “fixed” and “variable” classifications describe whether we or the contract holders bear the investment risk of the assets supporting the contract. With “indexed variable” annuities, the extent to which we or the contract holders bear the investment risk of the assets is based on the investment allocations.  The annuity classification also determines the manner in which we earn investment margin profits from these products, either as investment spreads for fixed products, as asset-based fees charged to variable products, or as both for indexed variable products.



Annuities have several features that are attractive to customers.  Annuities are unique in that contract holders can select a variety of payout alternatives to provide an income flow for life.  Many annuity contracts also include guarantee features (living and death benefits) that are not found in any other investment vehicle and, we believe, make annuities attractive especially in times of economic uncertainty.  In addition, growth on the underlying principal in certain annuities is granted tax-deferred treatment, thereby deferring the tax consequences of the growth in value until withdrawals are made from the accumulation values, often at lower tax rates occurring during retirement.



Products



In general, an annuity is a contract between an insurance company and an individual in which the insurance company, after receipt of one or more premium payments, agrees to pay an amount of money either in one lump sum or on a periodic basis (i.e., annually, semi-annually, quarterly or monthly), beginning on a certain date and continuing for a period of time as specified in the contract or as requested.  Periodic payments can begin within 12 months after the premium is received (referred to as an immediate annuity) or at a future date in time (referred to as a deferred annuity).  This retirement vehicle helps protect an individual from outliving his or her money.



Variable Annuities



A variable annuity provides the contract holder the ability to direct the investment of premium deposits into one or more variable sub-accounts (“variable funds”) offered through the product (“variable portion”) and, for a specified period, into a fixed account (if available) with a guaranteed return (“fixed portion”).  The value of the variable portion of the contract holder’s account varies with the performance of the underlying variable funds chosen by the contract holder. 



Our variable funds include the Managed Risk Strategies fund options, a series of funds that embed volatility risk management and, with some funds, capital protection strategies, inside the funds themselves.  These funds seek to reduce equity market volatility risk for both the contract holder and us.  As of December 31, 2018 and 2017, the Managed Risk Strategies funds totaled $36.9 billion and $39.2 billion, or 34% and 33%, respectively, of total variable annuity account values, respectively.



We charge mortality and expense assessments and administrative fees on variable annuity accounts to cover insurance and administrative expenses.  These assessments are built into accumulation unit values, which when multiplied by the number of units owned for any variable fund equals the contract holder’s account value for that variable fund.  In addition, for some contracts, we impose surrender charges, which are typically applicable during the early years of the annuity contract, with a declining level of surrender charges over time.

 

We offer guaranteed benefit riders with certain of our variable annuity products, such as a guaranteed death benefit (“GDB”), a guaranteed withdrawal benefit (“GWB”), a guaranteed income benefit (“GIB”) and a combination of such benefits.  In 2018 and 2017, 35% of our variable annuity deposits were on products without guaranteed living benefit (“GLB”) riders, compared to 30% in 2016.



The GDB features offered include those where we contractually guarantee to the contract holder that upon death, depending on the particular product, we will return no less than:  the current contract value; the total deposits made to the contract, adjusted to reflect any partial withdrawals; the highest contract value on a specified anniversary date adjusted to reflect any partial withdrawals following the contract anniversary.



We offer product riders including the Lincoln Lifetime IncomeSM Advantage 2.0 (Managed Risk) and Lincoln Market SelectSM Advantage riders, which are hybrid benefit riders combining aspects of GWB and GIB.  These benefit riders allow the contract holder the ability to take income at a maximum rate of up to 6.00% for Lincoln Lifetime Income Advantage 2.0 (Managed Risk) and 5.75% for Lincoln Market Select Advantage of the guaranteed amount when they are above the lifetime income age or income through i4LIFE® Advantage with the GIB.  Lincoln Lifetime Income Advantage 2.0 (Managed Risk) and Lincoln Market Select Advantage riders provide higher income if the contract holder delays withdrawals.  Lincoln Lifetime Income Advantage 2.0 (Managed Risks) and Lincoln Market Select Advantage include both an enhancement to the guaranteed amount each year a withdrawal is not taken for a specified period of time and an annual step-up of the guaranteed amount to the current contract value. Contract holders under Lincoln Lifetime Income Advantage 2.0 (Managed Risk) are subject to the allocation of their account value to our Managed Risk Strategies fund options and certain fixed-income options.  Contract holders under Lincoln Market Select Advantage are subject to restrictions on the allocation of their account value within the various investment choices.  We also offered Lincoln Max 6 SelectSM Advantage as an optional living benefit rider that provides contract holders with an income base that grows annually at either the greater of 6% simple or account value growth with up to 6.5% income at age 65 and

2


 

3% guaranteed income if the account value falls to zero.  Contract holders under Lincoln Max 6 Select Advantage are subject to restrictions on the allocation of their account value within the various investment choices.



We also offer the i4LIFE® Advantage, i4LIFE Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit (Managed Risk) and i4LIFE® Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit riders.  These riders allow variable annuity contract holders access and control during a portion of the income distribution phase of their contract.  This added flexibility allows the contract holder to access the account value for transfers, additional withdrawals and other service features like portfolio rebalancing.  In general, GIB is an optional feature available with i4LIFE Advantage and a non-optional feature on i4LIFE Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit (Managed Risk) and i4LIFE Advantage Select Guaranteed Income Benefit that guarantees regular income payments will not fall below the greater of a minimum income floor set at benefit issue and 75% of the highest income payment on a specified anniversary date (reduced for any subsequent withdrawals).  Contract holders under i4LIFE Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit (Managed Risk) are subject to the allocation of their account value to our Managed Risk Strategies fund options and certain fixed-income options.  Contract holders under i4LIFE Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit are subject to restrictions on the allocation of their account value within the various investment choices. 



We also offer the 4LATER® Select Advantage rider.  This rider provides a minimum income base used to determine the GIB floor when a client begins income payments under i4LIFE Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit (Managed Risk).  4LATER Select Advantage rider provides growth during the accumulation phase through both an enhancement to the income base each year a withdrawal is not taken for a specified period of time and an annual step-up of the income base to the current contract value.  Contract holders under the 4LATER Select Advantage rider are subject to restrictions on the allocation of their account value within the various investment choices.



We design and actively manage the features and structure of our guaranteed benefit riders to maintain a competitive suite of products consistent with profitability and risk management goals.  To mitigate the increased risks associated with guaranteed benefits, we utilize a dynamic hedging program.  The customized dynamic hedging program uses equity, interest rate and currency futures positions, interest rate and total return swaps and equity-based options depending upon the risks underlying the guarantees.  For more information on our hedging program, see “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Derivatives” and “Realized Gain (Loss) and Benefit Ratio Unlocking” in the MD&A.  For information regarding risks related to guaranteed benefits, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Market Conditions – Changes in the equity markets, interest rates and/or volatility affect the profitability of our products with guaranteed benefits; therefore, such changes may have a material adverse effect on our business and profitability.”



Although we do not have any significant concentration of customers, our American Legacy Variable Annuity (“ALVA”) product is significant to this segment.  The ALVA product accounted for 11%, 14% and 21% of our variable annuity product deposits in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively, and represented 38%, 40% and 41% of the segment’s total variable annuity product account values as of December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In addition, fund choices for certain of our other variable annuity products offered include American Fund Insurance SeriesSM (“AFIS”) funds.  AFIS funds accounted for 16%, 20% and 23% of variable annuity product deposits in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively, and represented 45%, 47% and 47% of the segment’s total variable annuity product account values as of December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively.



Fixed Annuities

 

A fixed annuity preserves the principal value of the contract while guaranteeing a minimum interest rate to be credited to the accumulation value.  Our fixed annuity product offerings consist of traditional fixed-rate and fixed indexed deferred annuities, as well as fixed-rate immediate and deferred income annuities with various payment options, including lifetime incomes.  Fixed annuity contracts are general account obligations.  We bear the investment risk for fixed annuity contracts.  To protect from premature withdrawals, we impose surrender charges.  Surrender charges are typically applicable during the early years of the annuity contract, with a declining level of surrender charges over time.  On some policies, we also have a market value adjustment provision that protects us against disintermediation risk in the case of rapidly rising interest rates.  We expect to earn a spread between what we earn on the underlying general account investments supporting the fixed annuity product line and what we credit to our fixed annuity contract holders’ accounts.



We offer single and flexible premium fixed deferred annuities.  Single premium fixed deferred annuities are contracts that allow only a single premium to be paid.  Flexible premium fixed deferred annuities are contracts that allow multiple premium payments, subject to contractual limits, on either a scheduled or non-scheduled basis. 



Our fixed indexed annuities allow the contract holder to choose between a fixed interest crediting rate and an indexed interest crediting rate, which is based on the performance of the Standard & Poor’s (“S&P”) 500 Index® (“S&P 500”), the S&P 500 Daily Risk Control 5%TM Index, the Balanced Capital Strength 6 Index (using First Trust Methodology), or the BlackRock iBLD Ascenda® Index.  The indexed interest credit is guaranteed never to be less than zero. 



We offer guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit riders on certain fixed indexed annuities, namely Lincoln Lifetime IncomeSM Edge, Lincoln Lifetime Income Edge 2.0, and i4LIFE® Indexed Advantage.  Lincoln Lifetime Income Edge and Lincoln Lifetime Income Edge 2.0 are guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit riders which allow the contract holder the ability to take income based on single life age-bands that increase each year the contract holder delays taking income withdrawals.  Lincoln Lifetime Income Edge includes both a 5% compound enhancement to the guaranteed amount each year an income withdrawal is not taken for a specified period of time and an annual step-up of the guaranteed amount to the current contract value. Lincoln Lifetime Income Edge 2.0 provides guaranteed lifetime income based off an income base that grows annually at the greater of a 7% simple enhancement or the current account value.



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We also offer i4LIFE® Indexed Advantage on certain fixed indexed annuities which provides fixed indexed annuity contract holders with access and control during a portion of the income phase of their contract.  Each i4LIFE Indexed Advantage contract includes a GIB that guarantees regular income payments will not fall below a minimum income floor.  The GIB has the opportunity to increase, should regular income payments increase over the current GIB. 



We use derivatives to hedge the equity market risk associated with our fixed indexed annuity products. For more information on our hedging program, see “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Derivatives” and “Realized Gain (Loss) and Benefit Ratio Unlocking” in the MD&A.



Indexed Variable Annuities



An indexed variable annuity provides the contract holder the ability to direct the investment of premium deposits into one or more variable sub-accounts (“variable funds”) and/or indexed accounts offered through the product.  The value of the variable sub-accounts varies with the performance of the underlying variable funds chosen by the contract holder.  The index interest crediting rate for an indexed account is based, in part, on the performance of an index.



We charge mortality and expense assessments and administrative fees on the variable funds to cover insurance and administrative expenses.  These assessments are built into accumulation unit values, which when multiplied by the number of units owned for any variable fund equals the contract holder’s account value for that variable fund.  In addition, for some contracts, we impose surrender charges, which are typically applicable during the early years of the annuity contract, with a declining level of surrender charges over time.



We offer a guaranteed benefit rider where we contractually guarantee to the contract holder that upon death, depending on the particular product, we will return no less than:  the current contract value or the total deposits made to the contract, adjusted to reflect any partial withdrawals.



We also offer the i4LIFE Advantage rider.  This rider allows annuity contract holders access and control during a portion of the income distribution phase of their contract.  This added flexibility allows the contract holder to access the account value for transfers, additional withdrawals and other service features like portfolio rebalancing. 



We use derivatives to hedge the equity market risk associated with our indexed variable annuity products.   For more information on our hedging program, see “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Derivatives” and “Realized Gain (Loss) and Benefit Ratio Unlocking” in the MD&A.



Distribution  



The Annuities segment distributes its individual fixed and variable annuity products through LFD.  LFD’s distribution channels give the Annuities segment access to its target markets.  LFD distributes the segment’s products to a large number of financial intermediaries, including LFN.  The financial intermediaries include wire/regional firms, independent financial planners, financial institutions and managing general agents.



Competition

 

The annuities market is very competitive and consists of many companies, with no one company dominating the market for all products.  The Annuities segment competes with numerous other financial services companies.  The main factors upon which entities in this market compete are distribution channel access and the quality of wholesalers, investment performance, cost, product features, speed to market, brand recognition, financial strength ratings, crediting rates and client service.

 

RETIREMENT PLAN SERVICES



Overview



The Retirement Plan Services segment provides employers with retirement plan products and services, primarily in the defined contribution retirement plan marketplace.  Defined contribution plans are a popular employee benefit offered by employers large and small across a wide spectrum of industries.  While our focus is employer-sponsored defined contribution plans, we also serve the defined benefit plan and individual retirement account (“IRA”) markets on a limited basis.  We provide a variety of plan investment vehicles, including individual and group variable annuities, group fixed annuities and mutual fund-based programs.  We also offer a broad array of plan services including plan recordkeeping, compliance testing, participant education and trust and custodial services through our affiliated trust company, the Lincoln Financial Group Trust Company. 



Products and Services



The Retirement Plan Services segment currently brings three primary offerings to the employer-sponsored market:  LINCOLN DIRECTORSM group variable annuity, LINCOLN ALLIANCE® program and Multi-Fund® variable annuity.  



LINCOLN DIRECTOR group variable annuity is a 401(k) defined contribution retirement plan solution available to small businesses, typically those with plans having less than $10 million in account values.  The LINCOLN DIRECTOR product offers participants a

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broad array of investment options from several fund families and a fixed account.  The Retirement Plan Services segment earns revenue through asset charges and/or separate account charges, which are used to pay our fees for recordkeeping services.  We also receive fees from the underlying mutual fund companies for the services we provide, and we earn investment margins on assets in the fixed account. 



LINCOLN DIRECTOR and Multi-Fund products are variable annuities.  The LINCOLN ALLIANCE program is a mutual fund-based record-keeping platform.  These offerings primarily cover the 403(b), 401(k) and 457 plan marketplace.  The 403(b) plans are available to educational institutions, not-for-profit healthcare organizations and certain other not-for-profit entities; 401(k) plans are generally available to for-profit entities; and 457 plans are available to not-for-profit entities and state and local government entities.  The investment options for our annuities encompass the spectrum of asset classes with varying levels of risk and include both equity and fixed-income. 



The LINCOLN ALLIANCE program is a defined contribution retirement plan solution aimed at small, mid and large market employers, typically those that have defined contribution plans with $10 million or more in account value.  The target market is primarily healthcare providers, public sector employers, corporations and educational institutions.  The program bundles our traditional fixed annuity products with the employer’s choice of mutual funds, along with recordkeeping, plan compliance services and customized employee education services.  The program allows the use of any mutual fund.  We earn fees for our recordkeeping and educational services and other services that we provide to plan sponsors and participants.  We also earn investment margins on fixed annuities.  In 2018, we launched YourPathSM portfolios, a new series of target-date portfolios for employer-sponsored retirement plans.  These target-date portfolios are managed along multiple risk-based paths to support a more personalized investment approach based upon financial circumstances and risk tolerance.



Multi-Fund variable annuity is a defined contribution retirement plan solution with full-bundled administrative services and investment choices for small- to mid-sized healthcare, education, governmental and not-for-profit employers sponsoring 403(b), 457(b) and 401(a)/(k) plans.  The product is available to the employer through the Multi-Fund group variable annuity contract or directly to the individual participant through the Multi-Fund Select variable annuity contract.  We earn mortality and expense charges, investment income on the fixed account and surrender charges from this product.  We also receive fees for services that we provide to funds in the underlying separate accounts.



Additionally, we offer other products and services that complement our primary offerings:



·

The Lincoln Next Step® series of products is a suite of mutual fund-based IRAs available exclusively for participants in Lincoln-serviced retirement plans and their spouses.  The products can accept rollovers and transfers from other providers as well as ongoing contributions.  The Lincoln Next Step IRA product has no annual account charges and offers an array of mutual fund investment options provided by 20 fund families all offered at net asset value.  The Lincoln Next Step Select® IRA has an annual record keeping charge and offers an even wider array of mutual fund investment options from over 20 families, all at net asset value.  We earn 12b-1 and service fees on the mutual funds within the product.

·

The Lincoln Secured Retirement IncomeSM product is a GWB made available through a group variable annuity contract.  This product is intended to fulfill future needs of retirement security.  By offering a GWB inside a retirement plan, we provide plan sponsors a solution that gives participants the ability to participate in the market and receive guaranteed income for life while still maintaining access to their plan account balance.

·

Through a group annuity contract, we offer fixed annuity products to retirement plans where we do not provide plan recordkeeping services.  The fixed annuity is used within small, mid-large and large market employers covering the 403(b), 401(a)/(k) and 457 plan marketplaces.  The annuity provides a conservative investment option for those plan participants seeking stability.  In some cases, we earn investment margins on assets in the fixed account, and in other product versions we earn a fee on assets in the underlying custodial account. 



Distribution



Retirement Plan Services products are primarily distributed in two ways:  through our Institutional Retirement Distribution team and by LFD.  Wholesalers distribute these products through advisers, consultants, banks, wirehouses and individual planners.  We remain focused on wholesaler productivity, increasing relationship management expertise and growing the number of broker-dealer relationships.



The Multi-Fund program is sold primarily by affiliated advisers.  The LINCOLN ALLIANCE program is sold primarily through consultants, registered independent advisers and both affiliated and non-affiliated financial advisers, planners and wirehouses.  LINCOLN DIRECTOR group variable annuity is sold in the small marketplace by intermediaries, including financial advisers and planners.



Competition



The retirement plan marketplace is very competitive and is comprised of many providers with no one company dominating the market for all products.  As stated above, we compete with numerous other financial services corporations in the small, mid and large employer markets.  The main factors upon which entities in this market compete are product strength, technology, service model delivery, participant education models, quality wholesale distribution access to intermediary firms and comprehensive marketing efforts to create brand recognition.  Our key differentiator is our high-touch, high-tech service model, which has been shown to drive positive outcomes for plan sponsors and participants.



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LIFE INSURANCE



Overview



The Life Insurance segment focuses on the creation and protection of wealth for its clients by providing life insurance products, including term insurance, both single (including COLI and BOLI) and survivorship versions of universal life insurance (“UL”), variable universal life insurance (“VUL”) and indexed universal life insurance (“IUL”) products, a linked-benefit product (which is UL with riders providing for long-term care costs) and a critical illness rider, which can be attached to UL, VUL or IUL policies.  Some of our products include secondary guarantees, which are discussed more fully below.  Generally, this segment has higher sales during the second half of the year with the fourth quarter being the strongest.  Mortality margins, morbidity margins, investment margins, expense margins and surrender fees drive life insurance profits.

 

Similar to the annuity product classifications described above, life products can be classified as “fixed” (including indexed) or “variable” contracts.  This classification describes whether we or the contract holders bear the investment risk of the assets supporting the policy.  This also determines the manner in which we earn investment margin profits from these products, either as investment spreads for fixed products or as asset-based fees charged to variable products.



Products



We offer four categories of life insurance products consisting of:



UL



UL insurance products provide life insurance with account values that earn rates of return based on company-declared interest rates.  Contract holder account values are invested in our general account investment portfolio, so we bear the risk of investment performance.  We offer a variety of UL products, such as Lincoln LifeGuarantee® UL, Lincoln LifeCurrent® UL and Lincoln LifeReserve® UL.  We also offer a UL BOLI product.  



In a UL contract, contract holders typically have flexibility in the timing and amount of premium payments and the amount of death benefit, provided there is sufficient account value to cover all policy charges for cost of insurance and expenses for the coming period.  Under certain contract holder options and market conditions, the death benefit amount may increase or decrease.  Premiums received on a UL product, net of expense loads and charges, are added to the contract holder’s account value and accrued with interest.  The client has access to their account value (or a portion thereof), less surrender charges and policy loan payoffs, through contractual liquidity features such as loans, partial withdrawals and full surrenders.  Loans and withdrawals reduce the death benefit amount payable and are limited to certain contractual maximums (some of which are required under state law), and interest is charged on all loans.  Our UL contracts assess surrender charges against the policies’ account values for full or partial surrenders and certain policy changes that occur during the contractual surrender charge period.  Depending on the product selected, surrender charge periods can range from 0 to 25 years.



We also offer fixed IUL products that function similarly to a traditional UL policy, with the added flexibility of allowing contract holders to have portions of their account values earn credits based on the performance of indexes such as the S&P 500.  These products include Lincoln WealthPreserve® IUL, Lincoln WealthAccumulate® IUL,  Lincoln WealthAdvantage® IUL and Lincoln LifeReserve® IUL Accumulator.



As mentioned previously, we offer survivorship versions of our individual UL and IUL products.  These products insure two lives with a single policy and pay death benefits upon the second death.  These products include Lincoln LifeGuarantee® SUL and Lincoln WealthPreserve® Survivorship IUL.



A UL policy with a lifetime secondary guarantee can stay in force, even if the base policy cash value is zero, as long as secondary guarantee requirements have been met.  These products include Lincoln LifeGuarantee UL and Lincoln LifeGuarantee SUL.  The secondary guarantee requirement is based on the payment of a required minimum premium or on the evaluation of a reference value within the policy, calculated in a manner similar to the base policy account value, but using different expense charges, cost of insurance charges and credited interest rates.  The parameters for the secondary guarantee requirement are listed in the contract.  As long as the contract holder pays the minimum premium or funds the policy to a level that keeps this calculated reference value positive, the policy is guaranteed to stay in force.  The reference value has no actual monetary value to the contract holder; it is only a calculated value used to determine whether or not the policy will lapse should the base policy cash value be less than zero. 



VUL



VUL products are UL products that provide a return on account values linked to an underlying investment portfolio of variable funds offered through the product.  The value of the variable portion of the contract holder’s account is driven by the performance of the underlying variable funds chosen by the contract holder.  As the return on the investment portfolio increases or decreases, the account value of the VUL policy will increase or decrease.  In addition, VUL products offer a fixed account option that is managed by us.  As with fixed UL products, contract holders have access, within contractual maximums, to account values through loans, withdrawals and surrenders.  Surrender charges are assessed during the surrender charge period, ranging from 0 to 20 years depending on the product.  Our single life VUL products include Lincoln AssetEdge® VUL and Lincoln VULONE.  Our COLI products are also VUL-type products.



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We also offer survivorship versions of our individual VUL products, Lincoln SVULONE and Lincoln Preservation Edge® SVUL.  These products insure two lives with a single policy and pay death benefits upon the second death. 



We offer lifetime guaranteed benefit riders with certain of our VUL products, Lincoln VULONE and Lincoln SVULONE.  The ONE rider features contractually guarantee to the contract holder that upon death, as long as secondary guarantee requirements have been met, the death benefit will be payable even if the account value equals zero.



Our secondary guarantee benefits maintain the flexibility of a traditional UL or VUL policy, which allow a contract holder to take loans or withdrawals.  Although loans and withdrawals are likely to shorten the time period of the secondary guarantee, the guarantee is not automatically or completely forfeited.  The length of the guarantee may be increased at any time through additional excess premium deposits.  Reserves on UL and VUL products with secondary guarantees represented 35% of total life insurance in-force reserves as of December 31, 2018 and 2017. 



Linked-Benefit Life Products and Products with Critical Illness Riders



Our linked-benefit life product, Lincoln MoneyGuard®, combines UL with long-term care insurance through the use of riders.  One type of rider allows the contract holder to accelerate death benefits on a tax-free basis in the event of a qualified long-term care need, reducing the remaining death benefit.  Another rider extends the long-term care insurance benefits for an additional limited period of time if the death benefit is fully accelerated.  Certain policies also provide a reduced death benefit to the contract holder’s beneficiary if the death benefit has been fully accelerated as long-term care benefits during the contract holder’s life.



Some life products provide for critical illness insurance by the use of riders attached to UL, VUL or IUL policies.  These riders allow the contract holder to accelerate death benefits on a tax-free basis in the event of a qualified critical illness condition.



Term Life Insurance



Term life insurance provides a fixed death benefit for a scheduled period of time.  Some of our term life insurance products give the policyholder the option to reduce the death benefit at a future time.  Scheduled policy premiums are required to be paid at least annually.  These products include Lincoln TermAccel® Level Term and Lincoln LifeElements® Level Term.



Distribution

 

The Life Insurance segment’s products are sold through LFD.  LFD provides the Life Insurance segment with access to financial intermediaries in the following primary distribution channels:  wire/regional firms; independent planner firms (including LFN); financial institutions; and managing general agents/independent marketing organizations.  LFD distributes COLI products and services to small- to mid-sized banks and mid- to large-sized corporations, primarily through intermediaries who specialize in one or both of these markets and who are serviced through a network of internal and external LFD sales professionals.



Competition  



The life insurance market is very competitive and consists of many companies with no one company dominating the market for all products.  Principal competitive factors include product features, price, underwriting and issue process, customer service and insurers’ financial strength.  With our broad distribution network, we compete in the three primary needs of life insurance:  death benefit protection, accumulation and linked benefits (MoneyGuard®).  In addition, we use automated underwriting within a defined criteria as well as LincXpress®, a simplified issue process, both of which are seen as marketplace competitive advantages.



Underwriting

 

In the context of life insurance, underwriting is the process of evaluating medical and non-medical information about an individual and determining the effect these factors statistically have on mortality.  This process of evaluation is often referred to as risk classification.  Of course, no one can accurately predict how long any individual will live, but certain risk factors can affect life expectancy and are evaluated during the underwriting process.



Claims Administration

 

Claims service is handled primarily in-house, and claims examiners are assigned to each claim notification based on coverage amount, type of claim and the experience of the examiner.  Claims meeting certain criteria are referred to senior claims examiners.  A formal quality assurance program is carried out to ensure the consistency and effectiveness of claims examining activities.  A network of in-house legal counsel, compliance officers, medical personnel and an anti-fraud investigative unit also support claims examiners.  A special team of claims examiners, in conjunction with claims management, focus on more complex claims matters such as claims incurred during the contestable period, beneficiary disputes and litigated claims.

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GROUP PROTECTION



Overview



The Group Protection segment offers group non-medical insurance products, including short and long-term disability, statutory disability and paid family medical leave administration and absence management services, term life, dental, vision and accident and critical illness benefits and services to the employer marketplace through various forms of employee-paid and employer-paid plans. 



As discussed above, we completed the acquisition of the Liberty Group Business effective May 1, 2018.  As a result of the acquisition, Group Protection has expanded its target market for sales of its products and services to employer groups of all sizes, from small companies with fewer than 100 employees to large employers with 10,000 or more employees.  In addition to allowing us to expand our expertise across all size employers, the acquisition contributed enhanced disability and absence management competency.



Products



Disability Insurance and Services



We offer short- and long-term employer-sponsored group disability insurance, which protects an employee against loss of wages due to illness or injury.  Short-term disability generally provides weekly benefits for up to 26 weeks following a short waiting period, ranging from 1 to 30 days.  Long-term disability provides benefits following a longer waiting period, usually between 90 and 180 days and provides benefits for a longer period, at least 2 years and typically extending to normal (Social Security) retirement age.  The monthly benefits provided are subject to reduction when Social Security benefits are also paid.  We also provide insured coverage for the Hawaii, New Jersey and New York statutory disability programs, and New York’s statutory paid family leave program, as well as administrative services for employer self-funded statutory programs in specific states. 



Absence Management



We offer a robust portfolio of absence management services to help employers manage their state and federal family medical and company leave programs, in conjunction with our disability coverage.  Our services provide a simple, compliant way to report and manage both leave and disability through a single expert source with integrated intake, coordinated claims management, communications and comprehensive reporting, along with state of the art self-service capabilities for employers and employees via a mobile application and web portal.



Life Insurance



We offer employer-sponsored group term life insurance products including basic, optional and voluntary term life insurance to employees and their dependents.  Additional benefits may be provided in the event of a covered individual’s accidental death or dismemberment. 

Dental and Vision



We offer a variety of employer-sponsored group dental insurance plans, which cover a portion of the cost of eligible dental procedures for employees and their dependents.  Products offered include indemnity coverage, which does not distinguish benefits based on a dental provider’s participation in a network arrangement, a Preferred Provider Organization (“PPO”) product that does reflect the dental provider’s participation in the PPO network arrangement, including an agreement with network fee schedules, and a Dental Health Maintenance Organization product that limits benefit coverage to a closed panel of network providers.



We offer comprehensive employer-sponsored fully-insured vision plans with a wide range of benefits for protecting employees’ and their covered dependents’ sight and vision health.  All plans provide access to a national network of providers, with in and out-of-network benefits. 



Accident and Critical Illness Insurance



We offer employer-sponsored group accident insurance products for employees and their covered dependents.  This product is predominantly purchased on an employee-paid basis.  Accident insurance provides scheduled benefits for over 30 types of benefit triggers related to accidental causes, and it is available for non-occupational accidents exclusively or on a 24-hour coverage basis.



We offer employer-sponsored group critical illness insurance to employees and their covered dependents.  This product is predominantly purchased on an employee-paid basis.  The coverage provides for lump sum payouts upon the occurrence of one of the specified critical illness benefit triggers covered within a critical illness insurance policy.  This product also includes benefits and services that assist employees and their family members in prevention, early detection and treatment of critical illness events.



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Distribution



The segment’s products are marketed primarily through a national distribution system.  The managers and marketing representatives develop business through employee benefit brokers, consultants, TPAs and other employee benefit firms that work with employers to provide access to our products.



Competition



The group protection marketplace is very competitive.  Principal competitive factors include particular product features, price, quality of customer service and claims management, technological capabilities, quality and efficiency of distribution and financial strength ratings.  In this market, the Group Protection segment competes with a number of major companies and regionally with other companies offering all or some of the products within our product set.  In addition, there is competition in attracting brokers to actively market our products and attracting and retaining sales representatives to sell our products.  Key competitive factors in attracting brokers and sales representatives include product offerings and features, financial strength, support services and compensation.  



Underwriting



The Group Protection segment’s underwriters evaluate the risk characteristics of each employer group.  Generally, the relevant characteristics evaluated include employee census information (such as age, gender, income and occupation), employer industry classification, geographic location, benefit design elements and other factors.  The segment employs detailed underwriting policies, guidelines and procedures designed to assist the underwriter to properly assess and quantify risks.  The segment uses technology to efficiently review, price and issue smaller cases, utilizing its underwriting staff on larger, more complex cases.  Individual underwriting techniques (including evaluation of individual medical history information) may be used on certain covered individuals selecting larger benefit amounts.  For voluntary and other forms of employee paid coverages, minimum participation requirements are used to obtain a better spread of risk and minimize the risk of anti-selection.



Claims Administration



Claims for the Group Protection segment are managed by in-house claim specialists and outsourced third-party resources.  Claims are evaluated for eligibility and payment of benefits pursuant to the group insurance contract and in compliance with federal and state regulations.  Disability claims management is especially important to segment results, as results depend on both the incidence and the length of approved disability claims.  The segment employs a variety of clinical experts, including internal and external medical professionals and rehabilitation specialists, to evaluate medically supported functional capabilities, assess employability and develop return to work plans.  The accuracy and speed of life claims are important customer service and risk management factors.  Some life policies provide for the waiver of premium coverage in the event of the insured’s disability where our disability claims management expertise is utilized.  Dental claims management focuses on assisting plan administrators and members with the rising costs of insurance by utilizing tools to optimize dental claims payment accuracy through advanced claims review and validation, improved data analysis, enhanced clinical review of claims and provider utilization monitoring.



OTHER OPERATIONS



Other Operations includes the financial data for operations that are not directly related to the business segments.  Other Operations includes investments related to the excess capital in our insurance subsidiaries; corporate investments; benefit plan net liability; the unamortized deferred gain on indemnity reinsurance related to the sale to Swiss Re Life & Health America, Inc. (“Swiss Re”) in 2001; the results of certain disability income business; our run-off Institutional Pension business in the form of group annuity and insured funding-type of contracts; debt; and strategic digitization expense.  For more information on our strategic digitization initiative, see “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Introduction – Executive Summary – Significant Operational Matters.”



REINSURANCE

   

Our reinsurance strategy is designed to protect our insurance subsidiaries against the severity of losses on individual claims and unusually serious occurrences in which a number of claims produce an aggregate extraordinary loss.  Although reinsurance does not discharge the insurance subsidiaries from their primary liabilities to their contract holders for losses insured under the insurance policies, it does make the assuming reinsurer liable to the insurance subsidiaries for the reinsured portion of the risk.  Because we bear the risk of nonpayment by one or more of our reinsurers, we primarily cede reinsurance to well-capitalized, highly rated unaffiliated reinsurers.  We also utilize inter-company reinsurance agreements to manage our statutory capital position as well as our hedge program for variable annuity guarantees.  These inter-company agreements do not have an effect on our consolidated financial statements.



As of December 31, 2018, the policy for our reinsurance program was to retain up to $20 million on a single insured life.  As the amount we retain varies by policy, we reinsured approximately 25% of the mortality risk on newly issued life insurance contracts in 2018.  As of December 31, 2018, approximately 46% of our total individual life in-force amount was reinsured. 



Some portions of our deferred annuity business have been reinsured on either a coinsurance or a modified coinsurance (“Modco”) basis with other companies to limit our exposure associated with fixed and variable annuities.  In a coinsurance program, the reinsurer shares proportionally in all financial terms of the reinsured policies (i.e., premiums, expenses, claims, etc.) based on their respective percentage of

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the risk.  In a Modco program, we as the ceding company retain the reserves, as well as the assets backing those reserves, and the reinsurer shares proportionally in all financial terms of the reinsured policies based on their respective percentage of the risk.



In addition, we acquire other reinsurance to cover products other than as discussed above with retentions and limits that management believes are appropriate for the circumstances.  For example, we use reinsurance to cover larger life and disability claims in our Group Protection business.



We obtain reinsurance from a diverse group of reinsurers, and we monitor concentration and financial strength ratings of our principal reinsurers.  Protective, Athene Holding Ltd. (“Athene”) and Swiss Re represent our largest reinsurance exposures.  As of December 31, 2018, $12.1 billion was recoverable from Protective related to the Liberty Life acquisition and reflected within reinsurance recoverables on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.  Effective October 1, 2018, we entered into a Modco agreement with Athene to reinsure fixed and fixed indexed annuity products, which resulted in a $7.5 billion deposit asset reflected within other assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets as of December 31, 2018.  As of December 31, 2018 and 2017, $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, was recoverable from Swiss Re related to the sale of our reinsurance business to Swiss Re.



For more information regarding reinsurance, see “Reinsurance” in the MD&A and Note 9.  For risks involving reinsurance, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Operational Matters – We face risks of non-collectability of reinsurance and increased reinsurance rates, which could materially affect our results of operations.”



RESERVES



The applicable insurance laws under which insurance companies operate require that they report, as liabilities, policy reserves to meet future obligations on their outstanding policies.  These reserves are the amounts that, with the additional premiums to be received and interest thereon compounded annually at certain assumed rates, are calculated to be sufficient to meet the various policy and contract obligations as they mature.  These laws specify that the reserves shall not be less than reserves calculated using certain specified mortality and morbidity tables, interest rates and methods of valuation.  For more information on reserves, see “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Derivatives – GLB” and “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Future Contract Benefits and Other Contract Holder Obligations” in the MD&A.



See “Regulatory” below for information on permitted practices and proposed regulations that may impact the amount of statutory reserves necessary to support our current insurance liabilities.



For risks related to reserves, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Market Conditions – Changes in interest rates and sustained low interest rates may cause interest rate spreads to decrease and changes in interest rates may also result in increased contract withdrawals,” “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – Attempts to mitigate the impact of Regulation XXX and Actuarial Guideline 38 may fail in whole or in part resulting in an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations” and “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Operational Matters – We face risks of non-collectability of reinsurance and increased reinsurance rates, which could materially affect our results of operations.”



INVESTMENTS

 

An important component of our financial results is the return on invested assets.  Our investment strategy is to balance the need for current income with prudent risk management, with an emphasis on generating sufficient current income to meet our obligations.  This approach requires the evaluation of risk and expected return of each asset class utilized, while still meeting our income objectives.  This approach also permits us to be more effective in our asset-liability management because decisions can be made based upon both the economic and current investment income considerations affecting assets and liabilities.  Investments by our insurance subsidiaries must comply with the insurance laws and regulations of the states of domicile.



Derivatives are used primarily for hedging purposes and, to a lesser extent, income generation.  Hedging strategies are employed for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, hedging certain portions of our exposure to changes in our GDB, GWB and GIB liabilities, interest rate fluctuations, the widening of bond yield spreads over comparable maturity U.S. government obligations and credit, foreign exchange and equity risks.  Income generation strategies include credit default swaps through replication synthetic asset transactions.  These derivatives synthetically create exposure in the general account to corporate debt, similar to investing in the credit markets. 



For additional information on our investments, including carrying values by category, quality ratings and net investment income, see “Consolidated Investments” in the MD&A, as well as Notes 1 and 5.



FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS

   

The Nationally Recognized Statistical Ratings Organizations rate the financial strength of our principal insurance subsidiaries.



Rating agencies rate insurance companies based on financial strength and the ability to pay claims, factors more relevant to contract holders than investors.  We believe that the ratings assigned by nationally recognized, independent rating agencies are material to our operations.  There may be other rating agencies that also rate our insurance companies, which we do not disclose in our reports.



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Insurer Financial Strength Ratings

 

The insurer financial strength rating scales of A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings (“Fitch”), Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) and S&P are characterized as follows:

 

·

A.M. Best – A++ to S 

·

Fitch – AAA to C 

·

Moody’s – Aaa to C

·

S&P – AAA to D



As of February 14, 2019, the financial strength ratings of our principal insurance subsidiaries, as published by the principal rating agencies that rate us, were as follows:







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



A.M. Best

 

Fitch

 

Moody's

 

S&P

 

Insurer Financial Strength Ratings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company (“LNL”)

A+

 

A+

 

A1

 

AA-

 



(2nd of 16)

 

(5th of 19)

 

(5th of 21)

 

(4th of 21)

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York (“LLANY”)

A+

 

A+

 

A1

 

AA-

 



(2nd of 16)

 

(5th of 19)

 

(5th of 21)

 

(4th of 21)

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (“LLACB”)

A

 

N/A

 

N/A

 

AA-

 



(3rd of 16)

 

 

 

 

 

(4th of 21)

 

First Penn-Pacific Life Insurance Company (“FPP”)

A

 

A+

 

A1

 

A-

 



(3rd of 16)

 

(5th of 19)

 

(5th of 21)

 

(7th of 21)

 

A downgrade of the financial strength rating of one of our principal insurance subsidiaries could affect our competitive position in the insurance industry and make it more difficult for us to market our products, as potential customers may select companies with higher financial strength ratings.  Ratings are not recommendations to buy our securities.



All of our financial strength ratings are on outlook stable, except Fitch ratings, which are on outlook positive.  All of our ratings are subject to revision or withdrawal at any time by the rating agencies, and therefore, no assurance can be given that our principal insurance subsidiaries can maintain these ratings.  Each rating should be evaluated independently of any other rating.  See “Review of Consolidated Financial Condition – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity and Cash Flow” in the MD&A for a discussion of our credit ratings.



REGULATORY



Insurance Regulation

 

Our insurance subsidiaries, like other insurance companies, are subject to regulation and supervision by the states, territories and countries in which they are licensed to do business.  The extent of such regulation varies, but generally has its source in statutes that delegate regulatory, supervisory and administrative authority to supervisory agencies.  In the U.S., this power is vested in state insurance departments.

 

In supervising and regulating insurance companies, state insurance departments, charged primarily with protecting contract holders and the public rather than investors, enjoy broad authority and discretion in applying applicable insurance laws and regulation for that purpose.  Our principal insurance subsidiaries, LNL, LLANY, LLACB and FPP, are domiciled in the states of Indiana, New York, New Hampshire and Indiana, respectively.



The insurance departments of the domiciliary states exercise principal regulatory jurisdiction over our insurance subsidiaries.  The extent of regulation by the states varies, but in general, most jurisdictions have laws and regulations governing standards of solvency, adequacy of reserves, reinsurance, capital adequacy, licensing of companies and agents to transact business, prescribing and approving policy forms, regulating premium rates for some lines of business, prescribing the form and content of financial statements and reports, regulating the type and amount of investments permitted and standards of business conduct.  Insurance company regulation is discussed further in this section under “Insurance Holding Company Regulation.” 



As part of their regulatory oversight process, state insurance departments conduct periodic, generally once every three to five years, examinations of the books, records, accounts and business practices of insurers domiciled in their states.  Examinations are generally carried out in cooperation with the insurance regulators of other states under guidelines promulgated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”).  State and federal insurance and securities regulatory authorities and other state law enforcement

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agencies and Attorneys General also, from time to time, make inquiries and conduct examinations or investigations regarding the compliance by our company, as well as other companies in our industry, with, among other things, insurance laws and securities laws.  Our captive reinsurance and reinsurance subsidiaries are subject to periodic financial examinations by their respective domiciliary state insurance regulators.  We have not received any material adverse findings resulting from state insurance department examinations of our insurance, reinsurance and captive reinsurance subsidiaries conducted during the three-year period ended December 31, 2018.



State insurance laws and regulations require our U.S. insurance companies to file financial statements with state insurance departments everywhere they do business, and the operations of our U.S. insurance companies and accounts are subject to examination by those departments at any time.  Our U.S. insurance companies prepare statutory financial statements in accordance with accounting practices and procedures prescribed or permitted by these departments.  The NAIC has approved a series of statutory accounting principles that have been adopted, in some cases with minor modifications, by virtually all state insurance departments.  Changes in these statutory accounting principles can significantly affect our capital and surplus.  For more information, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – Attempts to mitigate the impact of Regulation XXX and Actuarial Guideline 38 may fail in whole or in part resulting in an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.”



The NAIC’s adoption of the Valuation Manual that defines a principles-based reserving framework for newly issued life insurance policies was effective January 1, 2017.  Principles-based reserving places a greater weight on our past experience and anticipated future experience as well as considers current economic conditions in calculating life insurance product reserves in accordance with statutory accounting principles.  We adopted the framework for our newly issued term business in 2017 and will phase in the framework by January 1, 2020, for all other newly issued life insurance products.  We believe that these changes may reduce our future use of captive reinsurance and reinsurance subsidiaries for reserve financing transactions for our life insurance business.  The NAIC is currently in the process of implementing changes to the statutory reserving, capital and accounting framework for variable annuities that are expected to go into effect as of January 1, 2020.  For more information, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – Changes in accounting standards issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board or other standard-setting bodies may adversely affect our financial statements.



For more information on statutory reserving and our use of captive reinsurance structures, see “Review of Consolidated Financial Condition – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity and Cash Flow – Insurance Subsidiaries’ Statutory Capital and Surplus” in the MD&A.



Insurance Holding Company Regulation

 

LNC and its primary insurance subsidiaries are subject to regulation pursuant to the insurance holding company laws of the states of Indiana, New York and New Hampshire.  These insurance holding company laws generally require an insurance holding company and insurers that are members of such insurance holding company’s system to register with the insurance department authorities, to file with it certain reports disclosing information, including their capital structure, ownership, management, financial condition and certain inter-company transactions, including material transfers of assets and inter-company business agreements and to report material changes in that information.  These laws also require that inter-company transactions be fair and reasonable and, under certain circumstances, prior approval of the insurance departments must be received before entering into an inter-company transaction.  Further, these laws require that an insurer’s contract holders’ surplus following any dividends or distributions to shareholder affiliates is reasonable in relation to the insurer’s outstanding liabilities and adequate for its financial needs.



In general, under state holding company regulations, no person may acquire, directly or indirectly, a controlling interest in our capital stock unless such person, corporation or other entity has obtained prior approval from the applicable insurance commissioner for such acquisition of control.  Pursuant to such laws, in general, any person acquiring, controlling or holding the power to vote, directly or indirectly, 10% or more of the voting securities of an insurance company, is presumed to have “control” of such company.  This presumption may be rebutted by a showing that control does not exist in fact.  The insurance commissioner, however, may find that “control” exists in circumstances in which a person owns or controls a smaller amount of voting securities.  To obtain approval from the insurance commissioner of any acquisition of control of an insurance company, the proposed acquirer must file with the applicable commissioner an application containing information regarding: the identity and background of the acquirer and its affiliates; the nature, source and amount of funds to be used to carry out the acquisition; the financial statements of the acquirer and its affiliates; any potential plans for disposition of the securities or business of the insurer; the number and type of securities to be acquired; any contracts with respect to the securities to be acquired; any agreements with broker-dealers; and other matters. 

 

Other jurisdictions in which our insurance subsidiaries are licensed to transact business may have similar or additional requirements for prior approval of any acquisition of control of an insurance or reinsurance company licensed or authorized to transact business in those jurisdictions.  Additional requirements in those jurisdictions may include re-licensing or subsequent approval for renewal of existing licenses upon an acquisition of control.  In addition, laws that govern the holding company structure also govern payment of dividends to us by our insurance subsidiaries.  See “Review of Consolidated Financial Condition – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity and Cash Flow” in the MD&A for a discussion of restrictions on subsidiaries’ dividends and other payments.



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Risk-Based Capital

 

The NAIC has adopted risk-based capital (“RBC”) requirements for life insurance companies to evaluate the adequacy of statutory capital and surplus in relation to investment and insurance risks.  The requirements provide a means of measuring the minimum amount of statutory surplus appropriate for an insurance company to support its overall business operations based on its size and risk profile.  There are five major risks involved in determining the requirements:







 

 

 

 

Category

 

Name

 

Description

Asset risk affiliates

 

C-0

 

Risk of assets’ default for certain affiliated investments

Asset risk others

 

C-1

 

Risk of assets’ default of principal and interest or fluctuation in fair value

Insurance risk

 

C-2

 

Risk of underestimating liabilities from business already written or inadequately pricing



 

 

 

business to be written in the future

Interest rate risk, health credit

C-3

 

Risk of losses due to changes in interest rate levels, risk that health benefits prepaid to

risk and market risk

 

 

 

providers become the obligation of the health insurer once again and risk of loss due



 

 

 

to changes in market levels associated with variable products with guarantees

Business risk

 

C-4

 

Risk of general business



A company’s risk-based statutory surplus is calculated by applying factors and performing calculations relating to various asset, premium, claim, expense and reserve items.  Regulators can then measure adequacy of a company’s statutory surplus by comparing it to the RBC determined by the formula.  Under RBC requirements, regulatory compliance is determined by the ratio of a company’s total adjusted capital, as defined by the NAIC, to its company action level of RBC (known as the RBC ratio), also as defined by the NAIC. 



Accordingly, factors that have an impact on the total adjusted capital of our insurance subsidiaries, such as the permitted practices discussed above, will also affect their RBC levels.  Four levels of regulatory attention may be triggered if the RBC ratio is insufficient:

 

·

“Company action level” – If the RBC ratio is between 75% and 100%, then the insurer must submit a plan to the regulator detailing corrective action it proposes to undertake; 

·

“Regulatory action level” – If the RBC ratio is between 50% and 75%, then the insurer must submit a plan, but a regulator may also issue a corrective order requiring the insurer to comply within a specified period;

·

“Authorized control level” – If the RBC ratio is between 35% and 50%, then the regulatory response is the same as at the “Regulatory action level,” but in addition, the regulator may take action to rehabilitate or liquidate the insurer; and

·

“Mandatory control level” – If the RBC ratio is less than 35%, then the regulator must rehabilitate or liquidate the insurer.

 

As of December 31, 2018, the RBC ratios of LNL, LLANY, LLACB and FPP reported to their respective states of domicile and the NAIC all exceeded the “company action level.”  We believe that we will be able to maintain the RBC ratios of our insurance subsidiaries in excess of “company action level” through prudent underwriting, claims handling, investing and capital management.  However, no assurances can be given that developments affecting the insurance subsidiaries, many of which could be outside of our control, will not cause the RBC ratios to fall below our targeted levels.  These developments may include, but may not be limited to:  changes to the manner in which the RBC ratio is calculated; new regulatory requirements for calculating reserves, such as principles-based reserving; economic conditions leading to higher levels of impairments of securities in our insurance subsidiaries’ general accounts; and an inability to finance life reserves such as the issuance of letters of credit (“LOCs”) supporting inter-company reinsurance structures.



See “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Liquidity and Capital Position – A decrease in the capital and surplus of our insurance subsidiaries may result in a downgrade to our credit and insurer financial strength ratings” and “Item 1A. Risk Factors  Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – Our businesses are heavily regulated and changes in regulation may affect our insurance subsidiary capital requirements or reduce our profitability.”   



Privacy Regulations



In the course of our business, we collect and maintain personal data from our customers including personally identifiable non-public financial and health information, which subjects us to regulation under global, federal and state privacy laws.  These laws require that we institute certain policies and procedures in our business to safeguard this information from improper use or disclosure.  While we employ a robust and tested information security program, if regulators establish further regulations for addressing customer privacy, we may need to amend our policies and adapt our internal procedures. See “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – State Regulation  – Compliance with existing and emerging privacy regulations could result in increased compliance costs and/or lead to changes in business practices and policies, and any failure to protect the confidentiality of client information could adversely affect our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”  For information regarding cybersecurity risks, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Operational Matters – Our information systems may experience interruptions, breaches in security and/or a failure of disaster recovery systems that could result in a loss or disclosure of confidential information, damage to our reputation and impairment of our ability to conduct business effectively.”



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Federal Initiatives



The U.S. federal government does not directly regulate the insurance industry; however, federal initiatives from time to time can impact the insurance industry.  The marketplace continues to evolve in the changing regulatory environment.  



Financial Reform Legislation



Since it was enacted in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) has imposed considerable reform in the financial services industry.  The ongoing implementation continues to present challenges and uncertainties for financial market participants.  For instance, the Dodd-Frank Act and corresponding global initiatives imposed significant changes to the regulation of derivatives transactions, which we use to mitigate many types of risk in our business. 



Significantly, swap documentation and processing requirements continue to change in light of rules for margining uncleared swaps. As we continue to prepare to comply with requirements to post initial margin beginning in 2020, we will be required to manage our derivatives trading and the attendant liquidity requirements in ways we continue to evaluate.  Although these rules provide some flexibility in the categories of eligible collateral, it is still possible that we may be required to hold more of our assets in cash and other low-yielding investments in order to satisfy margin requirements.  Documentation requirements attendant to the new margining regime are potentially burdensome and costly.  Swaps clearing requirements may reduce the level of risk exposure we have to our derivatives counterparties (currently managed by holding collateral), but have increased our exposure to central clearinghouses and clearing members with which we transact.  Central clearinghouses and regulators alike continue to evaluate the appropriate allocation of risk in the event of the failure of a clearing member or clearinghouse, and the results of these deliberations may change our use of derivatives in ways we cannot yet determine.  The standardization of derivatives products for clearing may make customized products unavailable or uneconomical, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of some of our hedging activities. 



Our trading activities are also affected by the scheduled phaseout of LIBOR by the end of 2021 and the use of alternative reference rates and related adjustments.  We continue to monitor developments regarding these changes in order to reduce potential disruptions.  As financial services regulatory reform continues to evolve in the U.S. and abroad, and the marketplace continues to respond, the extent to which our derivatives costs and strategies may change and the extent to which those changes may affect the range or pricing of our products remains uncertain.

 

In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act directed the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to study the implications resulting from the different standards applicable to broker-dealers and investment advisers and empowered the SEC to adopt a uniform fiduciary standard.  In January 2011, the SEC released its study on the obligations and standards of conduct of financial professionals.  The SEC staff initially recommended establishing a uniform fiduciary standard for investment advisers and broker-dealers when providing investment advice about securities, including guidance for principal trading and definitions of the duties of loyalty and care owed to retail customers that would be consistent with the standard that currently applies to investment advisers.  Then, in April 2018, pursuant to the authority granted by the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC proposed “Regulation Best Interest,” which, if adopted, would establish a higher standard of care and disclosure for broker-dealers when making recommendations to retail customers, but would not create an explicit fiduciary duty.  For more information, see “SEC Proposals and Other Regulations relating to the Standard of Care Applicable to Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers” below.



Additional provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act include, among other things, the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers of certain financial products; and changes to certain corporate governance rules.  The SEC has postponed rule making on a number of these provisions indefinitely.  The Federal Insurance Office established under the Dodd-Frank Act issues annually a wide-ranging report on the state of insurance regulation in the U.S., together with a series of recommendations on ways to monitor and improve the regulatory environment.  The ultimate impact of these recommendations on our business is undeterminable at this time.



SEC Proposals and Other Regulations relating to the Standard of Care Applicable to Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers



In 2016, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) released the DOL Fiduciary Rule, which became effective on June 9, 2017, and substantially expanded the range of activities considered to be fiduciary investment advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) and the Internal Revenue Code. On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “Fifth Circuit”) issued an opinion in the case Chamber of Commerce v. the U.S. Department of Labor vacating the DOL Fiduciary Rule and related applicable exemptions.  The DOL and the Department of Justice did not appeal the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on June 21, 2018, the Fifth Circuit issued a mandate stating that the original definition of “fiduciary,” including the original five-part test, will apply going forward.



On April 18, 2018, the SEC proposed “Regulation Best Interest,” including a new standard of conduct for broker-dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which would require a broker-dealer to act in the best interest of a retail customer when making a recommendation of any securities transaction, without putting its financial interests ahead of the interests of a retail customer.  The proposed rule includes guidance on what constitutes a “recommendation” and a definition of who would be a “retail customer” in addition to provisions setting forth certain required disclosures, policies and procedures to identify conflicts of interest, and customer-specific best interest obligations.



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In addition, the SEC proposed the use of a new disclosure document, the customer or client relationship summary, or Form CRS.  Form CRS is intended to provide retail investors with information about the nature of their relationship with their investment professional and would supplement other more detailed disclosures, including existing Form ADV for advisers and the new disclosures under Regulation Best Interest for broker-dealers.



Finally, the SEC proposed interpretative guidance providing clarity on an investment adviser’s fiduciary obligation under the Advisers Act.  The guidance indicates that investment advisers have a fiduciary duty to their clients that includes both a duty of care and a duty of loyalty and provides additional clarification of an investment adviser’s responsibilities under these fiduciary duties.  Investment advisers and broker-dealers would also need to disclose their registration status with the SEC in certain retail investor communications.  The comment period on the proposals closed on August 7, 2018.



In addition to the SEC proposed rules, the NAIC and several states, including Nevada, New Jersey and New York, have proposed and/or enacted laws and regulations requiring investment advisers, broker-dealers and/or agents to disclose conflicts of interest to clients and/or to meet a higher standard of care when providing advice to their clients.  These recent developments could result in additional requirements related to the sale of our products.



It is uncertain at this point how the original DOL definition of “fiduciary” will work in conjunction with any final rules adopted by the SEC, the NAIC or any individual state.  While we continue to monitor and evaluate the various proposals, we cannot predict what other proposals may be made, or what new legislation or regulation may be introduced or become law.  Therefore, until such time as final rules or laws are in place, the potential impact on our business is uncertain.



Federal Tax Legislation

 

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Tax Act”).  The Tax Act resulted in significant reforms for corporations (in addition to individuals), including the reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21% and the expansion of the tax base through the elimination or reduction of specified deductions and credits and incentives related to growth and development including providing for the immediate write-off of qualifying capital investment.  Specific provisions that affect corporations generally relate to limitations on the deductibility of expenses related to interest, executive compensation and business entertainment.  The Tax Act repealed the ability to carry back tax losses to prior tax years and also repealed the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. The vast majority of the provisions in the Tax Act became effective January 1, 2018.



The Tax Act contains a number of provisions that directly impacted insurance companies.  Specifically, the Tax Act changed the calculation of tax reserves associated with policyholder liabilities, modified the computations of capitalized expenses for tax purposes of amounts incurred to originate or acquire insurance contracts (commonly referred to as the DAC tax), changed the proration formula used to determine the amount of dividends eligible to be included in the dividends-received deduction and added new rules related to reporting life settlement transactions. 



We have done significant work in many areas of our business to understand and incorporate the tax changes required by the Tax Act.  As we expected, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and Treasury have issued a number of items of guidance in order to clarify the new rules, including Notices, Proposed and Final Regulations related to the deductibility of expenses related to interest, executive compensation and other business activities, as well as life settlement reporting and various international tax provisions.  We have actively participated with others in the industry to review and provide comments on the Proposed Regulations and other guidance.



Though the IRS and Treasury have issued guidance on a variety of issues, Congress has not yet passed a technical corrections bill to address certain issues in the original provisions of the Tax Act.  The House Ways and Means Committee circulated a draft technical corrections package in early 2019, but Congress has not yet passed any such legislation.  In addition, Congress reviewed a number of new legislative proposals in 2018 for tax reform related to retirement, innovation and individual income tax provisions. However, none of the proposals have been passed.  As a result, we cannot predict the full impact of the Tax Act until any such proposals have been passed and implemented and until final regulations or final administrative guidance have been issued.



Outside of tax reform, the uncertainty of federal funding and the future of the Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) program can have a substantial impact on the entire group benefit market because SSDI benefits are a direct offset to the benefits paid under group disability policies.  Congress alleviated some of this uncertainty by passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.  As a result, the Social Security Administration’s 2018 Annual Report projects that the SSDI reserves will not be depleted until 2034 (which is unchanged from its 2017 Annual Report).



Health Care Reform Legislation



In March 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was subsequently amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.  This legislation, as well as subsequent state and federal laws and regulations, includes provisions that provide for additional taxes to help finance the cost of these reforms and substantive changes and additions to health care and related laws, which could potentially impact some of our lines of business.  We continue to monitor any efforts by the government to repeal or replace provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and those effects on our businesses.

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Patriot Act



The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 includes anti-money laundering and financial transparency laws as well as various regulations applicable to broker-dealers and other financial services companies, including insurance companies.  Financial institutions are required to collect information regarding the identity of their customers, watch for and report suspicious transactions, respond to requests for information by regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies and share information with other financial institutions.  As a result, we are required to maintain certain internal compliance practices, procedures and controls.



Additional Legislative Trends



We have recently seen, and expect to continue to see, proposed legislation by Congress focused on creating increased access to lifetime income options in retirement plans, facilitating the ability of small employers to offer access to retirement savings vehicles to their employees, and facilitating the use of automatic contributions to increase retirement plan savings.  To the extent such, or similar, proposed legislation is enacted into law, the financial services industry could benefit from continued or increased savings in retirement and annuity solutions, including through the utilization of Lincoln’s suite of offerings.



ERISA Considerations



ERISA is a comprehensive federal statute that applies to U.S. employee benefit plans sponsored by private employers and labor unions.  Plans subject to ERISA include pension and profit sharing plans and welfare plans, including health, life and disability plans.  ERISA provisions include reporting and disclosure rules, standards of conduct that apply to plan fiduciaries and prohibitions on transactions known as “prohibited transactions,” such as conflict-of-interest transactions and certain transactions between a benefit plan and a party in interest.  ERISA also provides for a scheme of civil and criminal penalties and enforcement.  Our insurance, asset management, plan administrative services and other businesses provide services to employee benefit plans subject to ERISA, including services where we may act as an ERISA fiduciary.  In addition to ERISA regulation of businesses providing products and services to ERISA plans, we become subject to ERISA’s prohibited transaction rules for transactions with those plans, which may affect our ability to enter transactions, or the terms on which transactions may be entered, with those plans, even in businesses unrelated to those giving rise to party in interest status.



Broker-Dealer and Securities Regulation



In addition to being registered under the Securities Act of 1933, some of our separate accounts as well as mutual funds that we sponsor are registered as investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940, and the shares of certain of these entities are qualified for sale in some or all states and the District of Columbia.  We also have subsidiaries that are registered as broker-dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) and are subject to federal and state regulation, including, but not limited to, the Financial Industry Regulation Authority’s (“FINRA”) net capital rules.  In addition, we have subsidiaries that are registered investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.  Agents, advisers and employees registered or associated with any of our broker-dealer subsidiaries are subject to the Exchange Act and to examination requirements and regulation by the SEC, FINRA and state securities commissioners.  Regulation also extends to various LNC entities that employ or control those individuals.  The SEC and other governmental agencies and self-regulatory organizations, as well as state securities commissions in the U.S., have the power to conduct administrative proceedings that can result in censure, fines, the issuance of cease-and-desist orders or suspension and termination or limitation of the activities of the regulated entity or its employees.



Environmental Considerations

 

Federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations apply to our ownership and operation of real property.  Inherent in owning and operating real property are the risks of hidden environmental liabilities and the costs of any required clean-up.  Under the laws of certain states, contamination of a property may give rise to a lien on the property to secure recovery of the costs of clean-up, which could adversely affect our commercial mortgage lending.  In several states, this lien has priority over the lien of an existing mortgage against such property.  In addition, in some states and under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”), we may be liable, as an “owner” or “operator,” for costs of cleaning-up releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances at a property mortgaged to us.  We also risk environmental liability when we foreclose on a property mortgaged to us.  Federal legislation provides for a safe harbor from CERCLA liability for secured lenders that foreclose and sell the mortgaged real estate, provided that certain requirements are met.  However, there are circumstances in which actions taken could still expose us to CERCLA liability.  Application of various other federal and state environmental laws could also result in the imposition of liability on us for costs associated with environmental hazards.

 

We routinely conduct environmental assessments for real estate we acquire for investment and before taking title through foreclosure to real property collateralizing mortgages that we hold.  Although unexpected environmental liabilities can always arise, based on these environmental assessments and compliance with our internal procedures, we believe that any costs associated with compliance with environmental laws and regulations or any clean-up of properties would not have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.



16


 

Intellectual Property



We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark, patent and trade secret laws to establish and protect our intellectual property.  We have implemented a patent strategy designed to protect innovative aspects of our products and processes which we believe distinguish us from competitors.  We currently own several issued U.S. patents.



We have an extensive portfolio of trademarks and service marks that we consider important in the marketing of our products and services, including, among others, the trademarks of the Lincoln National and Lincoln Financial names, the Lincoln silhouette logo and the combination of these marks.  Trademark registrations may be renewed indefinitely subject to continued use and registration requirements.  We regard our trademarks as valuable assets in marketing our products and services and intend to protect them against infringement and dilution.



EMPLOYEES



As of December 31, 2018, we had a total of 11,034 employees.  In addition, we had a total of 1,028 planners and agents who had active sales contracts with one of our insurance subsidiaries.  None of our employees are represented by a labor union, and we are not a party to any collective bargaining agreements.  We consider our employee relations to be good.



AVAILABLE INFORMATION



We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other documents with the SEC under the Exchange Act.  The SEC maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers, including LNC, that file electronically with the SEC.  The public can obtain any documents that we file with the SEC at www.sec.gov.

 

We also make available, free of charge, on or through our website, www.lfg.com, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC.



The information contained on our website is not included as part of, or incorporated by reference into, this report.



Item 1A.    Risk Factors



You should carefully consider the risks described below before investing in our securities.  The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones facing our Company.  Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business operations.  If any of these risks actually occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially affected.  In that case, the value of our securities could decline substantially.



Legislative, Regulatory and Tax



Our businesses are heavily regulated and changes in regulation may affect our insurance subsidiary capital requirements or reduce our profitability.



State Regulation



Our insurance subsidiaries are subject to extensive supervision and regulation in the states in which we do business.  The supervision and regulation relate to numerous aspects of our business and financial condition.  The primary purpose of the supervision and regulation is the protection of our insurance contract holders, and not our investors.  The extent of regulation varies, but generally is governed by state statutes.  These statutes delegate regulatory, supervisory and administrative authority to state insurance departments.  This system of supervision and regulation covers, among other things:

 

·

Market conduct standards;

·

Standards of minimum capital requirements and solvency, including RBC measurements;

·

Restrictions on certain transactions, including, but not limited to, reinsurance between our insurance subsidiaries and their affiliates;

·

Restrictions on the nature, quality and concentration of investments;

·

Restrictions on the receipt of reinsurance credit;

·

Restrictions on the types of terms and conditions that we can include in the insurance policies offered by our primary insurance operations;

·

Limitations on the amount of dividends that insurance subsidiaries can pay;

·

Licensing status of the company;

·

Certain required methods of accounting pursuant to statutory accounting principles (“SAP”);

·

Reserves for unearned premiums, losses and other purposes;

·

Payment of policy benefits (claims); and

·

Assignment of residual market business and potential assessments for the provision of funds necessary for the settlement of covered claims under certain policies provided by impaired, insolvent or failed insurance companies.



17


 

State insurance regulators and the NAIC regularly re-examine existing laws and regulations applicable to insurance companies and their products.  Changes in these laws and regulations, or in interpretations thereof, sometimes lead to additional expense, statutory reserves and/or RBC requirements for the insurer and, thus, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.  For example, the NAIC is currently in the process of implementing changes to the accounting, reserve and RBC regulations related to the variable annuity business; however, this effort is still ongoing, and we are still evaluating what impact it could have on our financial condition or results of operations.  The NAIC is also considering modifications to the NAIC RBC C-1 capital charges for bonds, which may impact the level of the C-1 related RBC we are required to hold.



Although we endeavor to maintain all required licenses and approvals, our businesses may not fully comply with the wide variety of applicable laws and regulations or the relevant authority’s interpretation of the laws and regulations, which may change from time to time.  Also, regulatory authorities have relatively broad discretion to grant, renew or revoke licenses and approvals.  If we do not have the requisite licenses and approvals or do not comply with applicable regulatory requirements, the insurance regulatory authorities could preclude or temporarily suspend us from carrying on some or all of our activities or impose substantial fines.  Further, insurance regulatory authorities have relatively broad discretion to issue orders of supervision, which permit such authorities to supervise the business and operations of an insurance company.  As of December 31, 2018, no state insurance regulatory authority had imposed on us any material fines or revoked or suspended any of our licenses to conduct insurance business in any state or issued an order of supervision with respect to our insurance subsidiaries, which would have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.



Attempts to mitigate the impact of Regulation XXX and Actuarial Guideline 38 may fail in whole or in part resulting in an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.



The Valuation of Life Insurance Policies Model Regulation (“XXX”) requires insurers to establish additional statutory reserves for term life insurance policies with long-term premium guarantees and UL policies with secondary guarantees.  In addition, Actuarial Guideline 38 (“AG38”) clarifies the application of XXX with respect to certain UL insurance policies with secondary guarantees.  A portion of our newly issued term and a portion of our newly issued UL insurance products are affected by XXX and AG38; certain term policies issued in 2017 and later are now reserved under principles-based reserves.  The application of both AG38 and XXX involve numerous interpretations.  If state insurance departments do not agree with our interpretations, we may have to increase reserves related to such policies.  The New York State Department of Financial Services did not recognize the NAIC revisions to AG38 in applying the New York law governing the reserves to be held for UL and VUL products containing secondary guarantees.  The change, which was effective as of December 31, 2013, impacted our New York-domiciled insurance subsidiary, LLANY.  Although LLANY discontinued the sale of these products in early 2013, the change affected those policies previously sold.  As a result, we phased in an increase in reserves over five years, from 2013 to 2017, resulting in a total increase of $450 million. 



We have implemented, and plan to continue to implement, reinsurance and capital management transactions to mitigate the capital impact of XXX and AG38, including the use of captive reinsurance subsidiaries.  The NAIC adopted Actuarial Guideline 48 (“AG48”) regulating the terms of these arrangements that are entered into or amended in certain ways after December 31, 2014.  This guideline imposed restrictions on the types of assets that can be used to support the reinsurance in these kinds of transactions.  While we have executed AG48 compliant reserve financing transactions, we cannot provide assurance that in light of AG48 and/or future rules and regulations or changes in interpretations by state insurance departments that we will be able to continue to efficiently implement transactions or take other actions to mitigate the impact of XXX or AG38 on future sales of term and UL insurance products and any required reserves.  If we are unable to continue to efficiently implement such solutions for any reason, we may realize lower than anticipated returns and/or reduced sales on such products. 



Compliance with existing and emerging privacy regulations could result in increased compliance costs and/or lead to changes in business practices and policies, and any failure to protect the confidentiality of client information could adversely affect our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.



The collection and maintenance of personal data from our customers, including personally identifiable non-public financial and health information, subjects us to regulation under global, federal and state privacy laws.  These laws require that we institute certain policies and procedures in our business to safeguard personal data from our customers from improper use or disclosure.  The laws vary by jurisdiction, and it is expected that additional regulations will continue to be enacted.  In March 2017, New York’s cybersecurity regulation for financial services institutions, including banking and insurance entities, became effective, and on October 24, 2017, the NAIC adopted the Insurance Data Security Model Law, and states are adopting versions of the model, establishing new standards for data security and for the investigation of and notification of insurance commissioners of cybersecurity events.  Other states have proposed or adopted broad privacy legislation that applies to all types of businesses, including California, which passed the California Consumer Right to Privacy Act in June 2018, granting new data protections and rights to California consumers.  In addition, the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) adopted by the European Commission became effective in May 2018.  GDPR includes numerous protections for EU data subjects, including but not limited to notification requirements for data breaches, the right to access personal data, and the right to be forgotten.  Complying with these and other existing, emerging and changing privacy requirements could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices and policies.  Non-compliance could result in monetary penalties or significant legal liability.



Many of the associates who conduct our business have access to, and routinely process, personal information of clients through a variety of media, including information technology systems.  We rely on various internal processes and controls to protect the confidentiality of client information that is accessible to, or in the possession of, our company and our associates.  It is possible that an associate could,

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intentionally or unintentionally, disclose or misappropriate confidential client information or our data could be the subject of a cybersecurity attack.  If we fail to maintain adequate internal controls or if our associates fail to comply with our policies and procedures, misappropriation or intentional or unintentional inappropriate disclosure or misuse of client information could occur.  Such internal control inadequacies or non-compliance could materially damage our reputation or lead to regulatory, civil or criminal investigations and penalties, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.



In addition, we analyze customer data to better manage our business.  There has been increased scrutiny, including from U.S. state and federal regulators, regarding the use of “big data” techniques such as price optimization.  We cannot predict what, if any, actions may be taken with regard to “big data,” but any inquiries could cause reputational harm, and any limitations could have a material impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.



Federal Regulation



In addition, our broker-dealer and investment adviser subsidiaries as well as our variable annuities and variable life insurance products, are subject to regulation and supervision by the SEC and FINRA.  These laws and regulations generally grant supervisory agencies and self-regulatory organizations broad administrative powers, including the power to limit or restrict the subsidiaries from carrying on their businesses in the event that they fail to comply with such laws and regulations.  The foregoing regulatory or governmental bodies, as well as the DOL and others, have the authority to review our products and business practices and those of our agents, advisers, registered representatives, associated persons and employees.  In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny of the insurance industry by these bodies, which has included more extensive examinations, regular sweep inquiries and more detailed review of disclosure documents.  These regulatory or governmental bodies may bring regulatory or other legal actions against us if, in their view, our practices, or those of our agents or employees, are improper.  These actions can result in substantial fines, penalties or prohibitions or restrictions on our business activities and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition.



Regulations relating to the standard of care applicable to investment advisers and broker-dealers could result in additional disclosure and other requirements related to the sale and delivery of our products and services.



In 2016, the DOL released the DOL Fiduciary Rule, which became effective on June 9, 2017, and substantially expanded the range of activities considered to be fiduciary investment advice under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code.  On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “Fifth Circuit”) issued an opinion in the case Chamber of Commerce v. the U.S. Department of Labor vacating the DOL Fiduciary Rule and related applicable exemptions.  The DOL and the Department of Justice did not appeal the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on June 21, 2018, the Fifth Circuit issued a mandate stating that the original definition of “fiduciary,” including the original five-part test, will apply going forward.



On April 18, 2018, the SEC proposed “Regulation Best Interest,” including a new standard of conduct for broker-dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which would require a broker-dealer to act in the best interest of a retail customer when making a recommendation of any securities transaction, without putting its financial interests ahead of the interests of a retail customer.  The proposed rule includes guidance on what constitutes a “recommendation” and a definition of who would be a “retail customer” in addition to provisions setting forth certain required disclosures, policies and procedures to identify conflicts of interest, and customer-specific best interest obligations.



In addition, the SEC proposed the use of a new disclosure document, the customer or client relationship summary, or Form CRS.  Form CRS is intended to provide retail investors with information about the nature of their relationship with their investment professional and would supplement other more detailed disclosures, including existing Form ADV for advisers and the new disclosures under Regulation Best Interest for broker-dealers.



Finally, the SEC proposed interpretative guidance providing clarity on an investment adviser’s fiduciary obligation under the Advisers Act.  The guidance indicates that investment advisers have a fiduciary duty to their clients that includes both a duty of care and a duty of loyalty and provides additional clarification of an investment adviser’s responsibilities under these fiduciary duties.  Investment advisers and broker-dealers would also need to disclose their registration status with the SEC in certain retail investor communications.  The comment period on the proposals closed on August 7, 2018.



In addition to the SEC proposed rules, the NAIC and several states, including Nevada, New Jersey and New York have proposed and/or enacted laws and regulations requiring investment advisers, broker-dealers and/or agents to disclose conflicts of interest to clients and/or to meet a higher standard of care when providing advice to their clients.  These recent developments could result in additional requirements related to the sale of our products.



It is uncertain at this point how the original DOL definition of “fiduciary” will work in conjunction with any final rules adopted by the SEC, the NAIC or any individual state.  While we continue to monitor and evaluate the various proposals, we cannot predict what other proposals may be made, or what new legislation or regulation may be introduced or become law.  Therefore, until such time as final rules or laws are in place, the potential impact on our business is uncertain.



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Changes in U.S. federal income tax law could impact our tax costs and the products that we sell.



In late 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Act into law.  The Tax Act included tax rate reductions for both individuals and businesses (corporations and unincorporated entities), with the reduction in the U.S. marginal tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21% being one of the central provisions of the Tax Act.  The Tax Act also expanded the tax base through the elimination or reduction of specified deductions and credits and provided incentives related to growth and development. 

 

The changes made by the Tax Act continue to have numerous impacts on our business.  Notably, the change to the new 21% marginal corporate income tax rate has resulted in a lower overall effective tax rate as applied to our financial earnings as compared to years prior to the change.  The marginal rate change resulted in a reduction in our recorded deferred tax liability for GAAP purposes, a reduction in our admitted deferred tax asset recorded for statutory reporting and, for year-end 2018 reporting, changes to the factors used in determining our required surplus for statutory purposes and related RBC percentage.  Any future change in the marginal corporate tax rate will have an impact on our financial results. 



In addition to the corporate tax rate reduction provided by the Tax Act, there were several provisions that are specific to insurance companies, namely changes to the proration formula used to determine the amount of dividends eligible for the dividends-received deduction, modifications to the calculation of tax reserves associated with policyholder liabilities, changes to the computations of capitalized expenses for tax purposes of amounts incurred to originate or acquire insurance contracts (commonly referred to as the DAC tax) and the imposition of new life settlement reporting rules.  As a result of one of the specific Tax Act changes, the recorded tax benefit for the separate account dividends-received deduction included in our 2018 income tax provision was $78 million as compared to $210 million for 2017.  These provisions as a whole resulted in changes to our overall cash tax obligations beginning in 2018.



The IRS and Treasury have issued guidance in regard to specific provisions contained in the Tax Act.  The released guidance has been in the form of notices, proposed regulations and, in certain instances, final regulations.  We continue to review and analyze the guidance as it is released in order to ensure that our initial interpretations of the law changes were appropriate and that our estimates of the post-enactment impacts were reasonable.  Should final guidance in any form differ from preliminary guidance or from our initial interpretations, it could have an impact on our financial results and other related key financial measures.  Specifically, in the event that final guidance related to the Tax Act differs from our current interpretation of the provisions, or if additional tax legislation is enacted (inclusive or exclusive of a change in the marginal corporate tax rate), there could be an impact on our future earnings, GAAP equity and statutory RBC, free cash flows and the sales, pricing and profitability of our products. 



Legal and regulatory actions are inherent in our businesses and could result in financial losses or harm our businesses.



We are, and in the future may be, subject to legal and regulatory actions in the ordinary course of our insurance and retirement operations.  Pending legal actions include proceedings relating to aspects of our businesses and operations that are specific to us and proceedings that are typical of the businesses in which we operate.  Some of these proceedings have been brought on behalf of various alleged classes of complainants.  In certain of these matters, the plaintiffs are seeking large and/or indeterminate amounts, including punitive or exemplary damages.  Substantial legal liability in these or future legal or regulatory actions could have a material financial effect or cause significant harm to our reputation, which in turn could materially harm our business prospects.  See Note 14 for a description of legal and regulatory proceedings and actions. 



Implementation of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act may subject us to substantial additional federal regulation, and we cannot predict the effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows or financial condition.



Since it was enacted in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act has brought wide-ranging changes to the financial services industry, including changes to the rules governing derivatives; a study by the SEC of the rules governing broker-dealers and investment advisers with respect to individual investors and investment advice, followed by proposed rulemaking; the creation of a Federal Insurance Office within the U.S. Treasury to gather information and make recommendations regarding regulation of the insurance industry; the creation of a resolution authority to unwind failing institutions; the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers of certain financial products; and changes to executive compensation and certain corporate governance rules, among other things.



Significant rulemaking across numerous agencies within the federal government has been implemented since the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act.  Complete implementation has yet to take place, given shifting priorities following the U.S. 2016 election; therefore, the ultimate impact of these provisions on our businesses (including product offerings), results of operations and liquidity and capital resources remains uncertain.



Changes in accounting standards issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board or other standard-setting bodies may adversely affect our financial statements.



Our financial statements are prepared in accordance with GAAP as identified in the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Accounting Standards CodificationTM (“ASC”).  From time to time, we are required to adopt new or revised accounting standards or guidance that are incorporated into the FASB ASC.  It is possible that future accounting standards we are required to adopt could change the current accounting treatment that we apply to our consolidated financial statements and that such changes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.



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Specifically, in August 2018, the FASB released Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) 2018-12, Targeted Improvements to the Accounting for Long-Duration Contracts, that is expected to result in significant changes to how we account for and report our insurance contracts (both in-force and new business), including updating assumptions used to measure the liability for future policy benefits for traditional and limited-payment contracts, measurement of market risk benefits and amortization of deferred acquisition costs (“DAC”).  These changes may impose special demands on companies in the areas of employee training, internal controls, contract fulfillment and disclosure and may affect how we manage our business, including business processes such as design of compensation plans, product design, etc.  The effective date is January 1, 2021, and there are various transition methods by topic that we may elect upon adoption.  We will report results under the new accounting method as of the effective date, as well as for all periods presented.  We are currently evaluating the impact of adopting this ASU on our consolidated financial condition and results of operations.  See Note 2 for more information.   



Our domestic insurance subsidiaries are subject to SAP.  Any changes in the method of calculating reserves for our life insurance and annuity products under SAP may result in increased reserve requirements.



The NAIC adopted an updated framework for the statutory accounting and capital requirements for variable annuities in the summer of 2018.   Changes to implement the framework into detailed regulations are currently underway and are expected to be effective January 1, 2020, with an optional phase-in period and early adoption permitted.  The resulting new variable annuity framework will likely result in changes in reserve and/or capital requirements and statutory surplus and could impact the volatility of those item(s).  Although we are still evaluating the potential impact of the changes on our financial condition and results of operations, we do not currently expect the impact will be material.  The NAIC is also considering modifications to the NAIC RBC C-1 capital charges for bonds, which may impact the level of the C-1 related RBC we are required to hold.



Anti-takeover provisions could delay, deter or prevent our change in control, even if the change in control would be beneficial to LNC shareholders.



We are an Indiana corporation subject to Indiana state law.  Certain provisions of Indiana law could interfere with or restrict takeover bids or other change in control events affecting us.  Under Indiana law, directors may, in considering the best interests of a corporation, consider the effects of any action on shareholders, employees, suppliers and customers of the corporation and the communities in which offices and other facilities are located, and other factors the directors consider pertinent.  One statutory provision prohibits, except under specified circumstances, LNC from engaging in any business combination with any shareholder who owns 10% or more of our common stock (which shareholder, under the statute, would be considered an “interested shareholder”) for a period of five years following the time that such shareholder became an interested shareholder, unless such business combination is approved by the Board of Directors prior to such person becoming an interested shareholder. 



In addition to the anti-takeover provisions of Indiana law, there are other factors that may delay, deter or prevent our change in control. As an insurance holding company, we are regulated as an insurance holding company and are subject to the insurance holding company acts of the states in which our insurance company subsidiaries are domiciled.  The insurance holding company acts and regulations restrict the ability of any person to obtain control of an insurance company without prior regulatory approval.  Under those statutes and regulations, without such approval (or an exemption), no person may acquire any voting security of a domestic insurance company, or an insurance holding company which controls an insurance company, or merge with such a holding company, if as a result of such transaction such person would “control” the insurance holding company or insurance company.  “Control” is generally defined as the direct or indirect power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of a person and is presumed to exist if a person directly or indirectly owns or controls 10% or more of the voting securities of another person. 



Market Conditions



Weak conditions in the global capital markets and the economy generally may materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.



Our results of operations are materially affected by conditions in the global capital markets and the economy generally, both in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.  The unwinding of conventional easing from major central banks, slowing of global growth, continued impact of falling global energy and other commodity prices, and the ability of the U.S. government to proactively address the fiscal imbalance remain key challenges for markets and our business.  These macro-economic conditions may have an adverse effect on us given our credit and equity market exposure.  In the event of extreme prolonged market events, such as the global credit crisis and recession that occurred during 2008 and 2009, we could incur significant losses.  Even in the absence of a market downturn, we are exposed to substantial risk of loss and downgrades due to market volatility.



Factors such as consumer spending, business investment, domestic and foreign government spending, the volatility and strength of the capital markets, the potential for inflation or deflation and uncertainty over domestic and foreign government actions all affect the business and economic environment and, ultimately, the amount and profitability of our business.  In an economic downturn characterized by higher unemployment, lower disposable income, lower corporate earnings, lower business investment and lower consumer spending, the demand for our financial and insurance products could be adversely affected.  In addition, we may experience an elevated incidence of claims and lapses or surrenders of policies.  Our contract holders may choose to defer paying insurance premiums or stop paying insurance premiums altogether.  Adverse changes in the economy could affect earnings negatively and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.



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Changes in interest rates and sustained low interest rates may cause interest rate spreads to decrease and changes in interest rates may also result in increased contract withdrawals.



Interest rate fluctuations and/or a sustained period of low interest rates could negatively affect our profitability.  Some of our products, principally fixed annuities and UL, including IUL and linked-benefit UL, have interest rate guarantees that expose us to the risk that changes in interest rates will reduce our spread, or the difference between the amounts that we are required to pay under the contracts and the amounts we are able to earn on our general account investments intended to support our obligations under the contracts.  Spreads are an important component of our net income.  Declines in our spread or instances where the returns on our general account investments are not enough to support the interest rate guarantees on these products could have a material adverse effect on our businesses or results of operations.  In addition, low rates increase the cost of providing variable annuity living benefit guarantees, which could negatively affect our variable annuity profitability.



In periods when interest rates are declining or remain at low levels, we may have to reinvest the cash we receive as interest or return of principal on our investments in lower yielding instruments reducing our spread.  Moreover, borrowers may prepay fixed-income securities, commercial mortgages and mortgage-backed securities in our general account in order to borrow at lower market rates, which exacerbates this risk.  Lowering interest crediting rates helps to mitigate the effect of spread compression on some of our products.  However, because we are entitled to reset the interest rates on our fixed-rate annuities only at limited, pre-established intervals, and since many of our contracts have guaranteed minimum interest or crediting rates, our spreads could still decrease.  As of December 31, 2018, 41% of our annuities business, 80% of our retirement plan services business and 99% of our life insurance business with guaranteed minimum interest or crediting rates were at their guaranteed minimums.



Our expectation for future spreads is an important component in the amortization of DAC and value of business acquired (“VOBA”) as it affects the future profitability of the business.  Currently, new money rates continue to be near historically low levels, although the Federal Reserve increased the target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points four times during 2018 to a range of 2.25% to 2.50%.  The Federal Reserve will monitor economic data closely to determine its next steps to changes in monetary policy.  For additional information on interest rate risks, see “Part II – Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk – Interest Rate Risk.”



A decline in market interest rates could also reduce our return on investments that do not support particular policy obligations.  During periods of sustained lower interest rates, our recorded policy liabilities may not be sufficient to meet future policy obligations and may need to be strengthened, thereby reducing net income in the affected reporting period.  Accordingly, declining interest rates may materially affect our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows and significantly reduce our profitability.



Increases in market interest rates may also negatively affect our profitability.  In periods of rapidly increasing interest rates, we may not be able to replace the assets in our general account with higher yielding assets needed to fund the higher crediting rates necessary to keep our interest-sensitive products competitive.  We, therefore, may have to accept a lower spread and thus lower profitability or face a decline in sales and greater loss of existing contracts and related assets.  Increases in interest rates may cause increased surrenders and withdrawals of insurance products.  In periods of increasing interest rates, policy loans and surrenders and withdrawals of life insurance policies and annuity contracts may increase as contract holders seek to buy products with perceived higher returns.  This process may lead to a flow of cash out of our businesses.  These outflows may require investment assets to be sold at a time when the prices of those assets are lower because of the increase in market interest rates, which may result in realized investment losses.  A sudden demand among consumers to change product types or withdraw funds could lead us to sell assets at a loss to meet the demand for funds.  Furthermore, unanticipated increases in withdrawals and termination may cause us to unlock our DAC and VOBA assets, which would reduce net income.  An increase in market interest rates could also have a material adverse effect on the value of our investment portfolio, for example, by decreasing the estimated fair values of the fixed-income securities that comprise a substantial portion of our investment portfolio.  An increase in interest rates could also result in decreased fee income associated with a decline in the value of variable annuity account balances invested in fixed-income funds.



Because the equity markets and other factors impact the profitability and expected profitability of many of our products, changes in equity markets and other factors may significantly affect our business and profitability.



The fee income that we earn on variable annuities is based primarily upon account values, and the fee income that we earn on VUL insurance policies is partially based upon account values.  Because strong equity markets result in higher account values, strong equity markets positively affect our net income through increased fee income.  Conversely, a weakening of the equity markets results in lower fee income and may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and capital resources.



The increased fee income resulting from strong equity markets increases the estimated gross profits (“EGPs”) from variable insurance products as do better than expected lapses, mortality rates and expenses.  As a result, higher EGPs may result in lower net amortized costs related to DAC, deferred sales inducements (“DSI”), VOBA, deferred front-end loads (“DFEL”) and changes in future contract benefits.  However, a decrease in the equity markets, as well as worse than expected increases in lapses, mortality rates and expenses, depending upon their significance, may result in higher net amortized costs associated with DAC, DSI, VOBA, DFEL and changes in future contract benefits and may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and capital resources.  If we had unlocked our reversion to the mean (“RTM”) assumption in the corridor as of December 31, 2018, we would have recorded unfavorable unlocking of approximately $25 million, pre-tax, for our Annuities segment and a favorable unlocking of approximately $70 million, pre-tax, for our Life Insurance segment and approximately $10 million, pre-tax, for our Retirement Plan Services segment.  For further information about

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our RTM process, see “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – DAC, VOBA, DSI and DFEL – Reversion to the Mean” in the MD&A.



Changes in the equity markets, interest rates and/or volatility affect the profitability of our products with guaranteed benefits; therefore, such changes may have a material adverse effect on our business and profitability.



Certain of our variable annuity and fixed indexed annuity products include optional guaranteed benefit riders.  These include GDB (variable annuity only), GWB and GIB riders.  Our GWB, GIB and 4LATER® (a form of GIB rider) features have elements of both insurance benefits accounted for under the Financial Services – Insurance – Claim Costs and Liabilities for Future Policy Benefits Subtopic of the FASB ASC (“benefit reserves”) and embedded derivatives accounted for under the Derivatives and Hedging and the Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures Topics of the FASB ASC (“embedded derivative reserves”).  We calculate the value of the embedded derivative reserve and the benefit reserves based on the specific characteristics of each GLB feature.  The amount of reserves related to GDB is related to the difference between the value of the underlying accounts and the GDB, calculated using a benefit ratio approach.  The GDB reserves take into account the present value of total expected GDB payments, the present value of total expected GDB assessments over the life of the contract, claims paid to date and assessments to date.  Reserves for our GIB and certain GWB with lifetime benefits are based on a combination of fair value of the underlying benefit and a benefit ratio approach.  The benefit ratio approach takes into account, among other things, the present value of expected GIB payments, the present value of total expected GIB assessments over the life of the contract, claims paid to date and assessments to date.  For variable annuities, the amount of reserves related to those GWB that do not have lifetime benefits is based on the fair value of the underlying benefit.



Both the level of expected payments and expected total assessments used in calculating the benefit reserves are affected by the equity markets.  The liabilities related to fair value are impacted by changes in equity markets, interest rates, volatility, foreign exchange rates and credit spreads.  Accordingly, strong equity markets, increases in interest rates and decreases in volatility will generally decrease the reserves calculated using fair value.  Conversely, a decrease in the equity markets along with a decrease in interest rates and an increase in volatility will generally result in an increase in the reserves calculated using fair value.



Increases in reserves would result in a charge to our earnings in the quarter in which the increase occurs.  Therefore, we maintain a customized dynamic hedge program that is designed to mitigate the risks associated with income volatility around the change in reserves on guaranteed benefits.  However, the hedge positions may not be effective to exactly offset the changes in the carrying value of the guarantees due to, among other things, the time lag between changes in their values and corresponding changes in the hedge positions, high levels of volatility in the equity markets and derivatives markets, extreme swings in interest rates, contract holder behavior different than expected, a strategic decision to adjust the hedging strategy in reaction to extreme market conditions or inconsistencies between economic and statutory reserving guidelines and divergence between the performance of the underlying funds and hedging indices.

 

In addition, we remain liable for the guaranteed benefits in the event that derivative or reinsurance counterparties are unable or unwilling to pay, and we are also subject to the risk that the cost of hedging these guaranteed benefits increases, resulting in a reduction to net income.  These, individually or collectively, may have a material adverse effect on net income, financial condition or liquidity.



Liquidity and Capital Position



Adverse capital and credit market conditions may affect our ability to meet liquidity needs, access to capital and cost of capital.



We need liquidity to pay our operating expenses, interest on our debt and dividends on our capital stock, to maintain our securities lending activities and to replace certain maturing liabilities.  Without sufficient liquidity, we will be forced to curtail our operations, and our business will suffer.  When considering our liquidity and capital position, it is important to distinguish between the needs of our insurance subsidiaries and the needs of the holding company.  For our insurance and other subsidiaries, the principal sources of liquidity are insurance premiums and fees, annuity considerations and cash flow from our investment portfolio and assets, consisting mainly of cash or assets that are readily convertible into cash.



In the event that current resources do not satisfy our needs, we may have to seek additional financing.  The availability of additional financing will depend on a variety of factors such as market conditions, the general availability of credit, the volume of trading activities, the overall availability of credit to the financial services industry, our credit ratings and credit capacity, as well as the possibility that customers or lenders could develop a negative perception of our long- or short-term financial prospects if we incur large investment losses or if the level of our business activity decreases due to a market downturn.  Similarly, our access to funds may be impaired if regulatory authorities or rating agencies take negative actions against us.  See “Review of Consolidated Financial Condition – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity and Cash Flow” in the MD&A for a description of our credit ratings.  Our internal sources of liquidity may prove to be insufficient, and in such case, we may not be able to successfully obtain additional financing on favorable terms, or at all.



Disruptions, uncertainty or volatility in the capital and credit markets may also limit our access to capital required to operate our business, most significantly our insurance operations.  Such market conditions may limit our ability to replace, in a timely manner, maturing liabilities; satisfy statutory capital requirements; generate fee income and market-related revenue to meet liquidity needs; and access the capital necessary to grow our business.  As such, we may be forced to delay raising capital, issue shorter term securities than we prefer or bear an unattractive cost of capital which could decrease our profitability and significantly reduce our financial flexibility.  Our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows and statutory capital position could be materially adversely affected by disruptions in the financial markets.

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Because we are a holding company with no direct operations, the inability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends to us in sufficient amounts would harm our ability to meet our obligations.



We are a holding company and we have no direct operations.  Our principal asset is the capital stock of our insurance subsidiaries.  Our ability to meet our obligations for payment of interest and principal on outstanding debt obligations and to pay dividends to shareholders, repurchase our securities and pay corporate expenses depends primarily on the ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends or to advance or repay funds to us.  Under Indiana laws and regulations, our Indiana insurance subsidiaries, including our primary insurance subsidiary, LNL, may pay dividends to us without prior approval of the Indiana insurance commissioner (the “Commissioner’’) only from unassigned surplus, or must receive prior approval of the Commissioner to pay a dividend if such dividend, along with all other dividends paid within the preceding 12 consecutive months, would exceed the statutory limitation.  The current statutory limitation is the greater of 10% of the insurer’s contract holders’ surplus, as shown on its last annual statement on file with the Commissioner or the insurer’s statutory net gain from operations for the previous 12 months, but in no event to exceed statutory unassigned surplus.  LNL’s subsidiaries, LLANY and LLACB, are bound by similar restrictions under the laws of New York and New Hampshire, respectively.



In addition, payments of dividends and advances or repayment of funds to us by our insurance subsidiaries are restricted by the applicable laws of their respective jurisdictions requiring that our insurance subsidiaries hold a specified amount of minimum reserves in order to meet future obligations on their outstanding policies.  These regulations specify that the minimum reserves shall be calculated to be sufficient to meet future obligations, after giving consideration to future required premiums to be received, and are based on certain specified mortality and morbidity tables, interest rates and methods of valuation, which are subject to change.  In order to meet their claims-paying obligations, our insurance subsidiaries regularly monitor their reserves to ensure we hold sufficient amounts to cover actual or expected contract and claims payments.  At times, we may determine that reserves in excess of the minimum may be needed to ensure sufficiency.



Changes in, or reinterpretations of, these laws can constrain the ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends or to advance or repay funds to us in sufficient amounts and at times necessary to meet our debt obligations and corporate expenses.  Requiring our insurance subsidiaries to hold additional reserves has the potential to constrain their ability to pay dividends to the holding company.  See “Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – Attempts to mitigate the impact of Regulation XXX and Actuarial Guideline 38 may fail in whole or in part resulting in an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations” above for additional information on potential changes in these laws.



The earnings of our insurance subsidiaries impact contract holders’ surplus.  Lower earnings constrain the growth in our insurance subsidiaries’ capital, and therefore, can constrain the payment of dividends and advances or repayment of funds to us. 



In addition, the amount of surplus that our insurance subsidiaries could pay as dividends is constrained by the amount of surplus they hold to maintain their financial strength ratings, to provide an additional layer of margin for risk protection and for future investment in our businesses.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, we believe that our insurance subsidiaries have sufficient liquidity to meet their contract holder obligations and maintain their operations.



A decrease in the capital and surplus of our insurance subsidiaries may result in a downgrade to our credit and insurer financial strength ratings.



In any particular year, statutory surplus amounts and RBC ratios may increase or decrease depending on a variety of factors, including the amount of statutory income or losses generated by our insurance subsidiaries (which itself is sensitive to equity market and credit market conditions), the amount of additional capital our insurance subsidiaries must hold to support business growth, changes in reserving requirements, such as principles-based reserving, our inability to obtain reserve relief, changes in equity market levels, the value of certain fixed-income and equity securities in our investment portfolio, the value of certain derivative instruments that do not get hedge accounting treatment, changes in interest rates and foreign currency exchange rates, as well as changes to the NAIC RBC formulas.  The RBC ratio is also affected by the product mix of the in-force book of business (i.e., the amount of business without guarantees is not subject to the same level of reserves as the business with guarantees).  Most of these factors are outside of our control.  Our credit and  insurer financial strength ratings are significantly influenced by the statutory surplus amounts and RBC ratios of our insurance company subsidiaries.  The RBC ratio of LNL is an important factor in the determination of the credit and financial strength ratings of LNC and its subsidiaries.  In addition, rating agencies may implement changes to their internal models that have the effect of increasing or decreasing the amount of statutory capital we must hold in order to maintain our current ratings.  In extreme scenarios of equity market declines, the amount of additional statutory reserves that we are required to hold for our variable annuity guarantees may increase at a rate greater than the rate of change of the markets.  Increases in reserves reduce the statutory surplus used in calculating our RBC ratios.  To the extent that our statutory capital resources are deemed to be insufficient to maintain a particular rating by one or more rating agencies, we may seek to raise additional capital through public or private equity or debt financing, which may be on terms not as favorable as in the past. 



Alternatively, if we were not to raise additional capital in such a scenario, either at our discretion or because we were unable to do so, our financial strength and credit ratings might be downgraded by one or more rating agencies.  For more information on risks regarding our ratings, see “Covenants and Ratings – A downgrade in our financial strength or credit ratings could limit our ability to market products, increase the number or value of policies being surrendered and/or hurt our relationships with creditors” below.



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An inability to access our credit facilities could result in a reduction in our liquidity and lead to downgrades in our credit and financial strength ratings.



We have a $2.5 billion unsecured facility, which expires on June 30, 2021.  We also have other facilities that we enter into in the ordinary course of business.  See “Review of Consolidated Financial Condition – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity and Cash Flow – Financing Activities” in the MD&A and Note 13.



We rely on our credit facilities as a potential source of liquidity.  We also use the credit facility as a potential backstop to provide variable annuity statutory reserve credit.  While our variable annuity hedge assets available to provide reserve credit have normally exceeded the statutory reserves, in certain stressed market conditions, it is possible that these assets could be less than the statutory reserve.  Our credit facility is available to provide reserve credit to LNL in such a case.  If we were unable to access our facility in such circumstances, it could materially impact LNL’s capital position.  The availability of these facilities could be critical to our credit and financial strength ratings and our ability to meet our obligations as they come due in a market when alternative sources of credit are tight.  The credit facilities contain certain administrative, reporting, legal and financial covenants.  We must comply with covenants under our credit facilities, including a requirement to maintain a specified minimum consolidated net worth.



Our right to borrow funds under these facilities is subject to the fulfillment of certain important conditions, including our compliance with all covenants, and our ability to borrow under these facilities is also subject to the continued willingness and ability of the lenders that are parties to the facilities to provide funds.  Our failure to comply with the covenants in the credit facilities or fulfill the conditions to borrowings, or the failure of lenders to fund their lending commitments (whether due to insolvency, illiquidity or other reasons) in the amounts provided for under the terms of the facilities, would restrict our ability to access these credit facilities when needed and, consequently, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.



Assumptions and Estimates



As a result of changes in assumptions, estimates and methods in calculating reserves, our reserves for future policy benefits and claims related to our current and future business as well as businesses we may acquire in the future may prove to be inadequate.



We establish and carry, as a liability, reserves based on estimates of how much we will need to pay for future benefits and claims.  For our insurance products, we calculate these reserves based on many assumptions and estimates, including, but not limited to, estimated premiums we will receive over the assumed life of the policies, the timing of the events covered by the insurance policies, the lapse rate of the policies, the amount of benefits or claims to be paid and the investment returns on the assets we purchase with the premiums we receive.



The sensitivity of our statutory reserves and surplus established for our variable annuity base contracts and riders to changes in the equity markets will vary depending on the magnitude of the decline.  The sensitivity will be affected by the level of account values relative to the level of guaranteed amounts, product design and reinsurance.  Statutory reserves for variable annuities depend upon the cumulative equity market impacts on the business in force, and therefore, result in non-linear relationships with respect to the level of equity market performance within any reporting period.



The assumptions and estimates we use in connection with establishing and carrying our reserves are inherently uncertain.  Accordingly, we cannot determine with precision the ultimate amount or the timing of the payment of actual benefits and claims or whether the assets supporting the policy liabilities will grow to the level we assume prior to payment of benefits or claims.  If our actual experience is different from our assumptions or estimates, our reserves may prove to be inadequate in relation to our estimated future benefits and claims.  Increases in reserves have a negative effect on income from operations in the quarter incurred.



If our businesses do not perform well and/or their estimated fair values decline or the price of our common stock does not increase, we may be required to recognize an impairment of our goodwill or to establish a valuation allowance against the deferred income tax asset, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.



Goodwill represents the excess of the acquisition price incurred to acquire subsidiaries and other businesses over the fair value of their net assets as of the date of acquisition.  We test goodwill at least annually for indications of value impairment with consideration given to financial performance, mergers and acquisitions and other relevant factors.  In addition, certain events, including a significant and adverse change in regulations, including tax law changes, legal factors, accounting standards or the business climate, an adverse action or assessment by a regulator or unanticipated competition, would cause us to review the carrying amounts of goodwill for impairment.  Impairment testing is performed based upon estimates of the fair value of the “reporting unit” to which the goodwill relates.  During the fourth quarter of 2017, we recorded goodwill impairment of $905 million related to our Life Insurance segment.  Subsequent reviews of goodwill could result in an impairment of goodwill, and such write-downs could have a material adverse effect on our net income and book value, but will not affect the statutory capital of our insurance subsidiaries.  As of December 31, 2018, we had a total of $1.8 billion of goodwill on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.  For more information on goodwill, see “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets” in the MD&A and Note 10.



Deferred income tax represents the tax effect of the differences between the book and tax basis of assets and liabilities.  Deferred tax assets are assessed periodically by management to determine if they are realizable.  As of December 31, 2018, we had a deferred tax asset of $1.2 billion.  Factors in management’s determination include the performance of the business, including the ability to generate capital gains from a variety of sources and tax planning strategies.  If, based on available information, it is more likely than not that the deferred

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income tax asset will not be realized, then a valuation allowance must be established with a corresponding charge to net income.  Such valuation allowance could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.



The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments taken on our investments is highly subjective and could materially impact our results of operations or financial condition.



The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments varies by investment type and is based upon our periodic evaluation and assessment of known and inherent risks associated with the respective asset class.  Such evaluations and assessments are revised as conditions change and new information becomes available.  Management updates its evaluations regularly and reflects changes in allowances and impairments in operations as such evaluations are revised.  There can be no assurance that our management has accurately assessed the level of impairments taken and allowances reflected in our financial statements.  Furthermore, additional impairments may need to be taken or allowances provided for in the future.  Historical trends may not be indicative of future impairments or allowances.

We regularly review our fixed maturity available-for-sale (“AFS”) securities (also referred to as “debt securities”) for declines in fair value that we determine to be other-than-temporary. 



If we intend to sell a debt security or it is more likely than not we will be required to sell a debt security before recovery of its amortized cost basis and the fair value of the debt security is below amortized cost, we conclude that an other-than-temporary impairment (“OTTI”) has occurred and the amortized cost is written down to current fair value, with a corresponding change to realized gain (loss) on our Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income (Loss).  If we do not intend to sell a debt security or it is not more likely than not we will be required to sell a debt security before recovery of its amortized cost basis but the present value of the cash flows expected to be collected is less than the amortized cost of the debt security (referred to as the credit loss), we conclude that an OTTI has occurred, and the amortized cost is written down to the estimated recovery value with a corresponding change to realized gain (loss) on our Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income (Loss), as this is also deemed the credit portion of the OTTI.  The remainder of the decline to fair value is recorded in other comprehensive income (loss) (“OCI”) to unrealized OTTI on AFS securities on our Consolidated Statements of Stockholders’ Equity, as this is considered a noncredit (i.e., recoverable) impairment. 



In June 2016, the FASB issued amendments to the accounting guidance for measuring credit losses on financial instruments.  For more information regarding the new accounting standard, see “ASU 2016-13, Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments” in Note 2.



Related to our unrealized losses, we establish deferred tax assets for the tax benefit we may receive in the event that losses are realized.  The realization of significant realized losses could result in an inability to recover the tax benefits and may result in the establishment of valuation allowances against our deferred tax assets.  Realized losses or impairments may have a material adverse impact on our results of operations and financial condition.



Our valuation of fixed maturity, trading and equity securities may include methodologies, estimations and assumptions which are subject to differing interpretations and could result in changes to investment valuations that may materially adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition.



Fixed maturity, trading and equity securities and short-term investments, which are reported at fair value on our Consolidated Balance Sheets, represented the majority of our total cash and invested assets.  We have categorized these securities into a three-level hierarchy, based on the priority of the inputs to the respective valuation technique.  The fair value hierarchy gives the highest priority to quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities (Level 1) and the lowest priority to unobservable inputs (Level 3).



The determination of fair values in the absence of quoted market prices is based on valuation methodologies, securities we deem to be comparable and assumptions deemed appropriate given the circumstances.  The fair value estimates are made at a specific point in time, based on available market information and judgments about financial instruments, including estimates of the timing and amounts of expected future cash flows and the credit standing of the issuer or counterparty.  Factors considered in estimating fair value include coupon rate, maturity, estimated duration, call provisions, sinking fund requirements, credit rating, industry sector of the issuer and quoted market prices of comparable securities.  The use of different methodologies and assumptions may have a material effect on the estimated fair value amounts.



During periods of market disruption, including periods of significantly increasing/decreasing or high/low interest rates, rapidly widening credit spreads or illiquidity, it may be difficult to value certain securities if trading becomes less frequent and/or market data becomes less observable.  There may be certain asset classes that were in active markets with significant observable data that become illiquid due to the current financial environment.  In such cases, more securities may fall to Level 3 and thus require more subjectivity and management judgment.  As such, valuations may include inputs and assumptions that are less observable or require greater estimation, as well as valuation methods which are more sophisticated or require greater estimation, thereby resulting in values which may be less than the value at which the investments may be ultimately sold.  Further, rapidly changing and unprecedented credit and equity market conditions could materially impact the valuation of securities as reported within our consolidated financial statements and the period-to-period changes in value could vary significantly.  Decreases in value may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.



Significant adverse mortality experience may result in the loss of, or higher prices for, reinsurance.



We reinsure a significant amount of the mortality risk on fully underwritten, newly issued, individual life insurance contracts.  We regularly review retention limits for continued appropriateness and they may be changed in the future.  If we were to experience adverse mortality or morbidity experience, a significant portion of that would be reimbursed by our reinsurers.  Prolonged or severe adverse

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mortality or morbidity experience could result in increased reinsurance costs, and ultimately, reinsurers being unwilling to offer coverage.  If we are unable to maintain our current level of reinsurance or purchase new reinsurance protection at comparable rates to what we are paying currently, we may have to accept an increase in our net exposures or revise our pricing to reflect higher reinsurance premiums or both.  If this were to occur, we may be exposed to reduced profitability and cash flow strain or we may not be able to price new business at competitive rates.



Catastrophes may adversely impact liabilities for contract holder claims.



Our insurance operations are exposed to the risk of catastrophic mortality, such as a pandemic, an act of terrorism, natural disaster or other event that causes a large number of deaths or injuries.  Significant influenza pandemics have occurred three times in the last century, but the likelihood, timing or severity of a future pandemic cannot be predicted.  Additionally, the impact of climate change could cause changes in weather patterns, resulting in more severe and more frequent natural disasters such as forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, floods and storm surges.  In our group insurance operations, a localized event that affects the workplace of one or more of our group insurance customers could cause a significant loss due to mortality or morbidity claims.  These events could cause a material adverse effect on our results of operations in any period and, depending on their severity, could also materially and adversely affect our financial condition.



The extent of losses from a catastrophe is a function of both the total amount of insured exposure in the area affected by the event and the severity of the event.  Pandemics, natural disasters and man-made catastrophes, including terrorism, may produce significant damage in larger areas, especially those that are heavily populated.  Claims resulting from natural or man-made catastrophic events could cause substantial volatility in our financial results for any fiscal quarter or year and could materially reduce our profitability or harm our financial condition.  Also, catastrophic events could harm the financial condition of our reinsurers and thereby increase the probability of default on reinsurance recoveries.  Accordingly, our ability to write new business could also be affected.



Consistent with industry practice and accounting standards, we establish liabilities for claims arising from a catastrophe only after assessing the probable losses arising from the event.  We cannot be certain that the liabilities we have established or applicable reinsurance will be adequate to cover actual claim liabilities, and a catastrophic event or multiple catastrophic events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.



Operational Matters



Our enterprise risk management policies and procedures may leave us exposed to unidentified or unanticipated risk, which could negatively affect our businesses or result in losses.



We have devoted significant resources to develop our enterprise risk management policies and procedures and expect to continue to do so in the future.  Nonetheless, our policies and procedures to identify, monitor and manage risks may not be fully effective.  Many of our methods of managing risk and exposures are based upon our use of observed historical market behavior or statistics based on historical models.  As a result, these methods may not predict future exposures, which could be significantly greater than the historical measures indicate, such as the risk of pandemics causing a large number of deaths.  Other risk management methods depend upon the evaluation of information regarding markets, clients, catastrophe occurrence or other matters that is publicly available or otherwise accessible to us, which may not always be accurate, complete, up-to-date or properly evaluated.  Management of operational, legal and regulatory risks requires, among other things, policies and procedures to record properly and verify a large number of transactions and events, and these policies and procedures may not be fully effective.



We face risks of non-collectability of reinsurance and increased reinsurance rates, which could materially affect our results of operations.



We follow the insurance practice of reinsuring with other insurance and reinsurance companies a portion of the risks under the policies written by our insurance subsidiaries (known as “ceding”).  As of December 31, 2018, we ceded $667.9 billion of life insurance in force to reinsurers for reinsurance protection.  Although reinsurance does not discharge our subsidiaries from their primary obligation to pay contract holders for losses insured under the policies we issue, reinsurance does make the assuming reinsurer liable to the insurance subsidiaries for the reinsured portion of the risk.  As of December 31, 2018, we had $17.7 billion of reinsurance receivables from reinsurers for paid and unpaid losses, for which they are obligated to reimburse us under our reinsurance contracts.  Of this amount, $12.1 billion related to reinsurance agreements entered into with Protective in May 2018, providing for the reinsurance and administration of the Liberty Life Business sold to Protective in connection with the Liberty acquisition.  To support its obligations under the reinsurance agreements, Protective has established trust accounts for our benefit that fully collateralize the related reinsurance recoverable.  In addition, $1.5 billion related to the sale of our reinsurance business to Swiss Re in 2001 through an indemnity reinsurance agreement.  Swiss Re has funded a trust to support this business.  The balance in the Swiss Re trust changes as a result of ongoing reinsurance activity and was $2.4 billion as of December 31, 2018.  Furthermore, we hold trading securities to support the $177 million of funds withheld liabilities related to the Swiss Re treaties for which we would have the right of offset to the corresponding reinsurance receivables in the event of a default by Swiss Re.  In addition, our Modco agreement with Athene resulted in a $7.5 billion deposit asset as of December 31, 2018, which is fully collateralized.  For more information regarding reinsurance, see “Reinsurance” in the MD&A and Note 9.



The balance of the reinsurance is due from a diverse group of reinsurers.  The collectability of reinsurance is largely a function of the solvency of the individual reinsurers.  We perform annual credit reviews on our reinsurers, focusing on, among other things, financial capacity, stability, trends and commitment to the reinsurance business.  We also require assets in trust, LOCs or other acceptable collateral to support balances due from reinsurers not authorized to transact business in the applicable jurisdictions.  Despite these

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measures, a reinsurer’s insolvency, inability or unwillingness to make payments under the terms of a reinsurance contract could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.



Reinsurers also may attempt to increase rates with respect to our existing reinsurance arrangements.  The ability of our reinsurers to increase rates depends upon the terms of each reinsurance contract.  Some of our reinsurance contracts contain provisions that limit the reinsurer’s ability to increase rates on in-force business; however, some do not.  An increase in reinsurance rates may affect the profitability of our insurance business.  Additionally, such a rate increase could result in our recapture of the business, which may result in a need for additional reserves and increase our exposure to claims.  While in recent years, we have faced a number of rate increase actions on in-force business, our management of those actions has not had a material effect on our results of operations or financial condition.  However, there can be no assurance that the outcome of future rate increase actions would similarly result in no material effect.  See Note 14 for a description of reinsurance related actions.



Competition for our employees is intense, and we may not be able to attract and retain the highly skilled people we need to support our business.



Our success depends, in large part, on our ability to attract and retain key people.  Intense competition exists for the key employees with demonstrated ability, and we may be unable to hire or retain such employees.  The unexpected loss of services of one or more of our key personnel could have a material adverse effect on our operations due to their skills, knowledge of our business, their years of industry experience and the potential difficulty of promptly finding qualified replacement employees.  We compete with other financial institutions primarily on the basis of our products, compensation, support services and financial condition.  Sales in our businesses and our results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected if we are unsuccessful in attracting and retaining key employees, including financial advisers, wholesalers and other employees, as well as independent distributors of our products.



We may not be able to protect our intellectual property and may be subject to infringement claims.



We rely on a combination of contractual rights and copyright, trademark, patent and trade secret laws to establish and protect our intellectual property.  Although we use a broad range of measures to protect our intellectual property rights, third parties may infringe or misappropriate our intellectual property.  We may have to litigate to enforce and protect our copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets and know-how or to determine their scope, validity or enforceability, which represents a diversion of resources that may be significant in amount and may not prove successful.  Additionally, complex legal and factual determinations and evolving laws and court interpretations make the scope of protection afforded our intellectual property uncertain, particularly in relation to our patents.  The loss of intellectual property protection or the inability to secure or enforce the protection of our intellectual property assets could have a material adverse effect on our business and our ability to compete.



We also may be subject to costly litigation in the event that another party alleges our operations or activities infringe upon another party’s intellectual property rights.  We may be subject to claims by third parties for breach of patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret or license usage rights. Any such claims and any resulting litigation could result in significant liability for damages.  If we were found to have infringed a third-party patent or other intellectual property rights, we could incur substantial liability, and in some circumstances could be enjoined from providing certain products or services to our customers or utilizing and benefiting from certain copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets or licenses, or alternatively could be required to enter into costly licensing arrangements with third parties, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.



Our information systems may experience interruptions, breaches in security and/or a failure of disaster recovery systems that could result in a loss or disclosure of confidential information, damage to our reputation and impairment of our ability to conduct business effectively.



Our information systems are critical to the operation of our business.  We collect, process, maintain, retain and distribute large amounts of personal financial and health information and other confidential and sensitive data about our customers in the ordinary course of our business.  Our business therefore depends on our customers’ willingness to entrust us with their personal information.  Any failure, interruption or breach in security could result in disruptions to our critical systems and adversely affect our customer relationships.



Publicly reported cyber-security threats and incidents have increased over recent periods.  Although hackers have attempted and will likely continue to try to infiltrate our computer systems, to date, we have not had a material security breach.  While we employ a robust and tested information security program, the preventative actions we take to reduce cyber incidents and protect our information technology may be insufficient to prevent physical and electronic break-ins, cyberattacks, compromised credentials, fraud, other security breaches or other unauthorized access to our computer systems, and, given the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks, in some cases, such incidents could occur and persist for an extended period of time without detection.  As a result, there can be no assurance that any such failure, interruption or security breach will not occur or, if any does occur, that it will be detected in a timely manner or that it can be sufficiently remediated.  Such an occurrence may impede or interrupt our business operations and could adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.



In the event of a disaster such as a natural catastrophe, epidemic, industrial accident, blackout, computer virus, terrorist attack, cyberattack or war, unanticipated problems with our disaster recovery systems could have a material adverse impact on our ability to conduct business and on our results of operations and financial condition, particularly if those problems affect our computer-based data processing, transmission, storage and retrieval systems and destroy valuable data.  In addition, in the event that a significant number of our managers were unavailable following a disaster, our ability to effectively conduct business could be severely compromised.  These interruptions also may interfere with our suppliers’ ability to provide goods and services and our employees’ ability to perform their job responsibilities.

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The failure of our computer systems and/or our disaster recovery plans for any reason could cause significant interruptions in our operations and result in a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data, including personal information relating to our customers.  The occurrence of any such failure, interruption or security breach of our systems could damage our reputation, result in a loss of customer business, subject us to additional regulatory scrutiny, or expose us to civil litigation and financial liability.  Depending on the nature of the information compromised, in the event of a data breach or other unauthorized access to our customer data, we may also have obligations to notify customers about the incident, and we may need to provide some form of remedy, such as a subscription to a credit monitoring service, for the individuals affected by the incident.  For more information, see “Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – State Regulation – Compliance with existing and emerging privacy regulations could result in increased compliance costs and/or lead to changes in business practices and policies, and any failure to protect the confidentiality of client information could adversely affect our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”



Although we conduct due diligence, negotiate contractual provisions and, in many cases, conduct periodic reviews of our vendors, distributors, and other third parties that provide operational or information technology services to us to confirm compliance with our information security standards, the failure of such third parties’ computer systems and/or their disaster recovery plans for any reason might cause significant interruptions in our operations and result in a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data, including personal information relating to our customers.  Such a failure could harm our reputation, subject us to regulatory sanctions and legal claims, lead to a loss of customers and revenues and otherwise adversely affect our business and financial results.  While we maintain cyber liability insurance that provides both third-party liability and first party liability coverages, our insurance may not be sufficient to protect us against all losses.



Acquisitions of businesses, including our recent acquisition of LLACB, may not produce anticipated benefits resulting in operating difficulties, unforeseen liabilities or asset impairments, which may adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.



Our acquisition of LLACB was completed in May 2018, and our integration efforts are underway.  Once completed however, an acquired business may not perform as projected, expense and revenue synergies may not materialize as expected and costs associated with the integration may be greater than anticipated.  Our financial results could be adversely affected by unanticipated performance issues, unforeseen liabilities, transaction-related charges, diversion of management time and resources to acquisition integration challenges or growth strategies, loss of key employees or customers, amortization of expenses related to intangibles, charges for impairment of long-term assets or goodwill and indemnifications.  Factors such as receiving the required governmental or regulatory approvals to merge the acquired entity, delays in implementation or completion of transition activities or a disruption to our or the acquired entity’s business could impact our results. 



Covenants and Ratings



A downgrade in our financial strength or credit ratings could limit our ability to market products, increase the number or value of policies being surrendered and/or hurt our relationships with creditors.



Nationally recognized rating agencies rate the financial strength of our principal insurance subsidiaries and rate our debt.  Ratings are not recommendations to buy our securities.  Each of the rating agencies reviews its ratings periodically, and our current ratings may not be maintained in the future.



Our financial strength ratings, which are intended to measure our ability to meet contract holder obligations, are an important factor affecting public confidence in most of our products and, as a result, our competitiveness.  A downgrade of the financial strength rating of one of our principal insurance subsidiaries could affect our competitive position in the insurance industry by making it more difficult for us to market our products, as potential customers may select companies with higher financial strength ratings, and by leading to increased withdrawals by current customers seeking companies with higher financial strength ratings.  This could lead to a decrease in fees as net outflows of assets increase, and therefore, result in lower fee income.  Furthermore, sales of assets to meet customer withdrawal demands could also result in losses, depending on market conditions.  The interest rates we pay on our borrowings are largely dependent on our credit ratings.  A downgrade of our debt ratings could affect our ability to raise additional debt, including bank lines of credit, with terms and conditions similar to our current debt, and accordingly, likely increase our cost of capital.



All of our ratings and ratings of our principal insurance subsidiaries are subject to revision or withdrawal at any time by the rating agencies, and therefore, no assurance can be given that our principal insurance subsidiaries or we can maintain these ratings.  See “Item 1. Business – Financial Strength Ratings” and “Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity and Cash Flow” in the MD&A for a description of our ratings.



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We will be required to pay interest on our capital securities with proceeds from the issuance of qualifying securities if we fail to achieve specified capital adequacy or net income and stockholders’ equity levels.



As of December 31, 2018, we had approximately $1.2 billion in principal amount of capital securities outstanding.  All of the capital securities contain covenants that require us to make interest payments in accordance with an alternative coupon satisfaction mechanism (“ACSM”) if we determine that one of the following triggers exists as of the 30th day prior to an interest payment date, or the “determination date”:



1.    LNL’s RBC ratio is less than 175% (based on the most recent annual financial statement filed with the State of Indiana); or



2.    (i) The sum of our consolidated net income for the four trailing fiscal quarters ending on the quarter that is two quarters prior to the most recently completed quarter prior to the determination date is zero or negative, and (ii) our consolidated stockholders’ equity (excluding accumulated OCI and any increase in stockholders’ equity resulting from the issuance of preferred stock during a quarter), or “adjusted stockholders’ equity,” as of (x) the most recently completed quarter and (y) the end of the quarter that is two quarters before the most recently completed quarter, has declined by 10% or more as compared to the quarter that is ten fiscal quarters prior to the last completed quarter, or the “benchmark quarter.”



The ACSM would generally require us to use commercially reasonable efforts to satisfy our obligation to pay interest in full on the capital securities with the net proceeds from sales of our common stock and warrants to purchase our common stock with an exercise price greater than the market price.  We would have to utilize the ACSM until the trigger events above no longer existed, and, in the case of test 2 above, until our adjusted stockholders’ equity amount increased or declined by less than 10% as compared to the adjusted stockholders’ equity at the end of the benchmark quarter for each interest payment date as to which interest payment restrictions were imposed by test 2 above.



If we were required to utilize the ACSM and were successful in selling sufficient shares of common stock or warrants to satisfy the interest payment, we would dilute the current holders of our common stock.  Furthermore, while a trigger event is occurring and if we do not pay accrued interest in full, we may not, among other things, pay dividends on or repurchase our capital stock.  Our failure to pay interest pursuant to the ACSM will not result in an event of default with respect to the capital securities, nor will a nonpayment of interest, unless it lasts for ten consecutive years, although such breaches may result in monetary damages to the holders of the capital securities.



The calculations of RBC, net income (loss) and adjusted stockholders’ equity are subject to adjustments and the capital securities are subject to additional terms and conditions as further described in supplemental indentures filed as exhibits to our Forms 8-K filed on March 13, 2007, and May 17, 2006.



Certain blocks of our insurance business purchased from third-party insurers under indemnity reinsurance agreements may require us to place assets in trust, secure letters of credit or return the business, if the financial strength ratings and/or capital ratios of certain insurance subsidiaries are not maintained at specified levels.



Under certain indemnity reinsurance agreements, two of our insurance subsidiaries, LNL and LLANY, provide 100% indemnity reinsurance for the business assumed; however, the third-party insurer, or the “cedent,” remains primarily liable on the underlying insurance business.  Under these types of agreements, as of December 31, 2018, we held statutory reserves of $5.3 billion.  These indemnity reinsurance arrangements require that our subsidiary, as the reinsurer, maintain certain insurer financial strength ratings and capital ratios.  If these ratings or capital ratios are not maintained, depending upon the reinsurance agreement, the cedent may recapture the business, or require us to place assets in trust or provide LOCs at least equal to the relevant statutory reserves.  Under the LNL reinsurance arrangement, we held approximately $3.2 billion of statutory reserves.  LNL must maintain an A.M. Best financial strength rating of at least B++, an S&P financial strength rating of at least BBB- and a Moody’s financial strength rating of at least Baa3.  This arrangement may require LNL to place assets in trust equal to the relevant statutory reserves.  Under LLANY’s largest indemnity reinsurance arrangement, we held approximately $1.4 billion of statutory reserves as of December 31, 2018.  LLANY must maintain an A.M. Best financial strength rating of at least B+, an S&P financial strength rating of at least BB+ and a Moody’s financial strength rating of at least Ba1, as well as maintain an RBC ratio of at least 160% or an S&P capital adequacy ratio of 100%, or the cedent may recapture the business.  Under two other LLANY arrangements, by which we established $715 million of statutory reserves, LLANY must maintain an A.M. Best financial strength rating of at least B++, an S&P financial strength rating of at least BBB- and a Moody’s financial strength rating of at least Baa3.  One of these arrangements also requires LLANY to maintain an RBC ratio of at least 185% or an S&P capital adequacy ratio of 115%.  Each of these arrangements may require LLANY to place assets in trust equal to the relevant statutory reserves.  As of December 31, 2018, LNL’s and LLANY’s RBC ratios exceeded the required ratio.  See “Item 1. Business – Financial Strength Ratings” for a description of our financial strength ratings.



If the cedent recaptured the business, LNL and LLANY would be required to release reserves and transfer assets to the cedent.  Such a recapture could adversely impact our future profits.  Alternatively, if LNL and LLANY established a security trust for the cedent, the ability to transfer assets out of the trust could be severely restricted, thus negatively impacting our liquidity.



30


 

Investments



Some of our investments are relatively illiquid and are in asset classes that have been experiencing significant market valuation fluctuations.



We hold certain investments that may lack liquidity, such as privately placed securities, mortgage loans, real estate, policy loans, limited partnership interests and other investments.  These asset classes represented 28% of the carrying value of our total cash and invested assets as of December 31, 2018.



If we require significant amounts of cash on short notice in excess of normal cash requirements or are required to post or return collateral in connection with our investment portfolio, derivatives transactions or securities lending activities, we may have difficulty selling these investments in a timely manner, be forced to sell them for less than we otherwise would have been able to realize, or both.



The reported value of our relatively illiquid types of investments, our investments in the asset classes described in the paragraph above and, at times, our high quality, generally liquid asset classes, do not necessarily reflect the lowest current market price for the asset.  If we were forced to sell certain of our assets in the current market, there can be no assurance that we would be able to sell them for the prices at which we have recorded them, and we might be forced to sell them at significantly lower prices.



We invest a portion of our invested assets in investment funds, many of which make private equity investments.  The amount and timing of income from such investment funds tends to be uneven as a result of the performance of the underlying investments, including private equity investments.  The timing of distributions from the funds, which depends on particular events relating to the underlying investments, as well as the funds’ schedules for making distributions and their needs for cash, can be difficult to predict.  As a result, the amount of income that we record from these investments can vary substantially from quarter to quarter. 



Defaults on our mortgage loans and write-downs of mortgage equity may adversely affect our profitability.



Our mortgage loans face default risk and are principally collateralized by commercial properties.  The performance of our mortgage loan investments may fluctuate in the future.  In addition, some of our mortgage loan investments have balloon payment maturities.  An increase in the default rate of our mortgage loan investments could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.  Further, any geographic or sector exposure in our mortgage loans may have adverse effects on our investment portfolios and consequently on our consolidated results of operations or financial condition.  While we seek to mitigate this risk by having a broadly diversified portfolio, events or developments that have a negative effect on any particular geographic region or sector may have a greater adverse effect on the investment portfolios to the extent that the portfolios are exposed.



The difficulties faced by other financial institutions could adversely affect us.



We have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including brokers and dealers, commercial banks, investment banks and other institutions.  Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event of default of our counterparty.  In addition, with respect to secured transactions, our credit risk may be exacerbated when the collateral held by us cannot be realized or is liquidated at prices not sufficient to recover the full amount of the related loan or derivative exposure.  We also may have exposure to these financial institutions in the form of unsecured debt instruments, derivative transactions and/or equity investments.  These parties may default on their obligations to us due to bankruptcy, lack of liquidity, downturns in the economy or real estate values, operational failure, corporate governance issues or other reasons.  A downturn in the U.S. or other economies could result in increased impairments.  There can be no assurance that any such losses or impairments to the carrying value of these assets would not materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.



Our requirements to post collateral or make payments related to declines in market value of specified assets may adversely affect our liquidity and expose us to counterparty credit risk.



Many of our transactions with financial and other institutions, including settling futures positions, specify the circumstances under which the parties are required to post collateral.  The amount of collateral we may be required to post under these agreements may increase under certain circumstances, which could adversely affect our liquidity.  In addition, under the terms of some of our transactions, we may be required to make payments to our counterparties related to any decline in the market value of the specified assets.



Our investments are reflected within our consolidated financial statements utilizing different accounting bases, and, accordingly, there may be significant differences between cost and fair value that are not recorded in our consolidated financial statements.



Our principal investments are in fixed maturity and equity securities, mortgage loans on real estate, policy loans, short-term investments, derivative instruments, limited partnerships and other invested assets.  The carrying value of such investments is as follows:

 

·

Fixed maturity securities are classified as AFS, except for those designated as trading securities, and are reported at their estimated fair value.  The difference between the estimated fair value and amortized cost of such securities (i.e., unrealized investment gains and losses) is recorded as a separate component of OCI, net of adjustments to DAC, contract holder related amounts and deferred income taxes;

·

Fixed maturity securities designated as trading securities and equity securities are recorded at fair value with subsequent changes in fair value recognized in realized gain (loss).  However, in certain cases, the trading and equity securities support reinsurance arrangements.  In those cases, offsetting the changes to fair value of the trading and equity securities are corresponding changes in

31


 

the fair value of the embedded derivative liability associated with the underlying reinsurance arrangement.  In other words, the investment results for the trading and equity securities, including gains and losses from sales, are passed directly to the reinsurers through the contractual terms of the reinsurance arrangements.  These types of securities represent 48% of our trading and equity securities;

·

Short-term investments include investments with remaining maturities of one year or less, but greater than three months, at the time of acquisition and are stated at amortized cost, which approximates fair value;

·

Also, mortgage loans on real estate are carried at unpaid principal balances, adjusted for any unamortized premiums or discounts and deferred fees or expenses, net of valuation allowances;

·

Policy loans are carried at unpaid principal balances;

·

Real estate joint ventures and other limited partnership interests are carried using the equity method of accounting; and

·

Other invested assets consist principally of derivatives with positive fair values.  Derivatives are carried at fair value with changes in fair value reflected in income from non-qualifying derivatives and derivatives in fair value hedging relationships.  Derivatives in cash flow hedging relationships are reflected as a separate component of OCI.



Investments not carried at fair value on our consolidated financial statements, principally, mortgage loans, policy loans and real estate, may have fair values that are substantially higher or lower than the carrying value reflected on our consolidated financial statements.  In addition, unrealized losses are not reflected in net income unless we realize the losses by either selling the security at below amortized cost or determine that the decline in fair value is deemed to be other-than-temporary (i.e., impaired).  Each of such asset classes is regularly evaluated for impairment under the accounting guidance appropriate to the respective asset class.



Competition



Intense competition could negatively affect our ability to maintain or increase our profitability.



Our businesses are intensely competitive.  We compete based on a number of factors, including name recognition, service, the quality of investment advice, investment performance, product features, price, perceived financial strength and claims-paying and credit ratings.  Our competitors include insurers, broker-dealers, investment advisers, asset managers, hedge funds and other financial institutions.  A number of our business units face competitors that have greater market share, offer a broader range of products or have higher financial strength or credit ratings than we do.



In recent years, there has been consolidation and convergence among companies in the financial services industry resulting in increased competition from large, well-capitalized financial services firms.  Many of these firms also have been able to increase their distribution systems through mergers or contractual arrangements.  Furthermore, larger competitors may have lower operating costs and an ability to absorb greater risk while maintaining their financial strength ratings, thereby allowing them to price their products more competitively. 



Our sales representatives are not captive and may sell products of our competitors.



We sell our annuity and life insurance products through independent sales representatives.  These representatives are not captive, which means they may also sell our competitors’ products.  If our competitors offer products that are more attractive than ours, or pay higher commission rates to the sales representatives than we do, these representatives may concentrate their efforts in selling our competitors’ products instead of ours.



32


 

Item 1B.  Unresolved Staff Comments



None.



Item 2.  Properties



As of December 31, 2018, LNC and our subsidiaries owned or leased approximately 2.8 million square feet of office and other space.  We leased 0.1 million square feet of office space in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which includes space for LFN.  We leased 0.2 million square feet of office space in Radnor, Pennsylvania, for our corporate center and for LFD.  We owned or leased 0.8 million square feet of office space in Fort Wayne, Indiana, primarily for our Annuities and Retirement Plan Services segments.  We owned or leased 0.8 million square feet of office space in Greensboro, North Carolina, primarily for our Life Insurance segment.  We owned or leased 0.3 million square feet of office space in Omaha, Nebraska, and 0.2 million square feet of office space in Atlanta, Georgia, primarily for our Group Protection segment.   An additional 0.4 million square feet of office space is owned or leased in other U.S. cities for branch offices.  In addition, we licensed 0.1 million square feet of office space in Dover, New Hampshire, for our Group Protection segment pursuant to a transition services agreement with Liberty.  This discussion regarding properties does not include information on field offices and investment properties.



Item 3.  Legal Proceedings



For information regarding legal proceedings, see “Regulatory and Litigation Matters” in Note 14, which is incorporated herein by reference.



Item 4.   Mine Safety Disclosures



Not applicable.



33


 

Executive Officers of the Registrant



Executive Officers of the Registrant as of February 14, 2019, were as follows:







 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

Name

 

Age (1)

 

Position with LNC and Business Experience During the Past Five Years



 

 

 

 

Dennis R. Glass

 

69

 

President, Chief Executive Officer and Director (since July 2007).  President, Chief Operating Officer and Director (April 2006 - July 2007).



 

 

 

 

Lisa M. Buckingham

 

53

 

Executive Vice President and Chief People, Place and Brand Officer (since August 2018).  Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (March 2011 - August 2018).  Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (December 2008 - March 2011).



 

 

 

 

Ellen Cooper

 

54

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer (since August 2012).



 

 

 

 

Randal J. Freitag

 

56

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (since January 2011) and Head of Individual Life (since June 2017).  Senior Vice President, Chief Risk Officer (2007 - December 2010).  Senior Vice President, Chief Risk Officer and Treasurer (2007 - October 2009).



 

 

 

 

Wilford H. Fuller

 

48

 

Executive Vice President (since March 2011) and President, Annuity Solutions (since March 2015).  President, Lincoln Financial Network (2) (since October 2012).  President and CEO, Lincoln Financial Distributors (2) (since February 2009). 



 

 

 

 

Richard L. Mucci

 

68

 

Executive Vice President (since July 2018) and President, Group Protection (since July 2014).  Principal and Founder, Brant Point Consulting, LLC, a senior management advisory firm for the insurance industry (April 2012 - June 2014).



 

 

 

 

Jamie B. Ohl

 

53

 

Executive Vice President (since July 2018), President, Retirement Plan Services (since August 2015), and Head of Life and Annuity Operations (since July 2018).  General Partner, Edward Jones, a financial services firm (October 2014 - August 2015).   President, Tax Exempt Services, Voya, a provider of retirement, investment, and insurance products and services (October 2012 - September 2014).



 

 

 

 

Leon E. Roday

 

64

 

Executive Vice President and General Counsel (since December 2018).  Executive Vice President (December 2013 - February 2015), and General Counsel and Secretary (May 2004 - February 2015), Genworth Financial, an insurance company.



 

 

 

 

Kenneth S. Solon

 

58

 

Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Head of Digital (since July 2018).  Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Head of Administrative Services (January 2016 - July 2018).  Senior Vice President, Head of Technology (March 2015 - December 2015).  Senior Vice President, Head of Shared Services and Technology (January 2010 - March 2015).



(1)Age shown is based on the officer’s age as of February 14, 2019.

(2)Denotes an affiliate of LNC.







34


 

PART II



Item 5.  Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

(a)    Stock Market and Dividend Information

 

Our common stock is traded on the New York stock exchange under the symbol LNC.  As of February 14, 2019, the number of shareholders of record of our common stock was 6,404.  The dividend on our common stock is declared each quarter by our Board of Directors if we are eligible to pay dividends and the Board determines that we will pay dividends.  In determining dividends, the Board takes into consideration items such as our financial condition, including current and expected earnings, projected cash flows and anticipated financing needs.  For potential restrictions on our ability to pay dividends, see “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Liquidity and Capital Resources” and Note 19 in the accompanying notes to the consolidated financial statements presented in “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”



For information on securities authorized for issuance under equity compensation plans, see “Part III – Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters,” which is incorporated herein by reference. 



(b)    Not Applicable

 

(c)    Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

The following summarizes purchases of equity securities by the issuer during the quarter ended December 31, 2018 (dollars in millions, except per share data):







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Total Number

 

(d) Approximate Dollar

 



 

(a) Total

 

 

 

of Shares

 

Value of Shares

 



 

Number

 

(b) Average

 

Purchased as Part of

 

that May Yet Be

 



 

of Shares

 

Price Paid

 

Publicly Announced

 

Purchased Under the

 

Period

 

Purchased (1)

 

per Share

 

Plans or Programs (2)

 

Plans or Programs (2)

 

10/1/18 – 10/31/18

 

 

1,182,383 

 

$

63.91 

 

 

1,182,383 

 

$

587 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/1/18 – 11/30/18

 

 

776,334 

 

 

64.48 

 

 

776,334 

 

 

1,236 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/1/18 – 12/31/18

 

 

7,172,774 

 

 

57.08 

 

 

7,172,774 

 

 

737 

 



(1)

Of the total number of shares purchased, no shares were received in connection with the exercise of stock options and related taxes.  For the quarter ended December 31, 2018, there were 9,131,491 shares purchased as part of publicly announced plans or programs.  This amount includes shares repurchased in the quarter pursuant to an accelerated share repurchase agreement (“ASR”) entered into on December 10, 2018.  The ASR provided for the up front delivery of 6,382,978 shares.  The transaction is scheduled to terminate during the first quarter of 2019, at which time the parties will settle the transaction in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

(2)

On November 8, 2018, our Board of Directors authorized an increase in our securities repurchase authorization, bringing the total aggregate repurchase authorization to $1.25 billion.  Prior to this increase, our remaining security repurchase authorization was $575 million.  As of December 31, 2018, our remaining security repurchase authorization was $737 million.  The security repurchase authorization does not have an expiration date.  The amount and timing of share repurchase depends on key capital ratios, rating agency expectations, the generation of free cash flow and an evaluation of the costs and benefits associated with alternative uses of capital.  Our stock repurchases may be effected from time to time through open market purchases or in privately negotiated transactions and may be made pursuant to a Rule 10b5-1 plan.



35


 

Item 6.  Selected Financial Data



The following selected financial data (in millions, except per share data) should be read in conjunction with “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the accompanying notes to the consolidated financial statements presented in “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”













 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



For the Years Ended December 31,

 



2018

 

2017

 

2016

 

2015

 

2014

 

Total revenues

$

16,424 

 

$

14,257 

 

$

13,330 

 

$

13,572 

 

$

13,554 

 

Income (loss) from continuing operations

 

1,641 

 

 

2,079 

 

 

1,192 

 

 

1,154 

 

 

1,514 

 

Net income (loss)

 

1,641 

 

 

2,079 

 

 

1,192 

 

 

1,154 

 

 

1,515 

 

Per share data: (1)(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Income (loss) from continuing operations – basic

 

7.60 

 

 

9.36 

 

 

5.09 

 

 

4.60 

 

 

5.81 

 

Income (loss) from continuing operations – diluted

 

7.40 

 

 

9.22 

 

 

5.03 

 

 

4.51 

 

 

5.67 

 

Net income (loss) – basic

 

7.60 

 

 

9.36 

 

 

5.09 

 

 

4.60 

 

 

5.81 

 

Net income (loss) – diluted

 

7.40 

 

 

9.22 

 

 

5.03 

 

 

4.51 

 

 

5.67 

 

Common stock dividends

 

1.36 

 

 

1.20 

 

 

1.04 

 

 

0.85 

 

 

0.68 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As of December 31,

 



2018

 

2017

 

2016

 

2015

 

2014

 

Assets

$

298,147 

 

$

281,763 

 

$

261,627 

 

$

251,908 

 

$

253,348 

 

Long-term debt:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principal

 

5,686 

 

 

4,673 

 

 

5,123 

 

 

5,323 

 

 

5,023 

 

Unamortized premiums (discounts), unamortized

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

debt issuance costs and fair value hedge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on interest rate swap agreements

 

153 

 

 

221 

 

 

222 

 

 

230 

 

 

218 

 

Stockholders’ equity

 

14,350 

 

 

17,322 

 

 

14,478 

 

 

13,617 

 

 

15,740 

 

Per common share data: (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stockholders’ equity, including

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)

 

69.71 

 

 

79.43 

 

 

63.97 

 

 

55.84 

 

 

61.35 

 

Stockholders’ equity, excluding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)

 

67.73 

 

 

64.62 

 

 

57.05 

 

 

52.38 

 

 

49.29 

 

Market value of common stock

 

51.31 

 

 

76.87 

 

 

66.27 

 

 

50.26 

 

 

57.67 

 



(1)

Per share amounts were affected by the retirement of 13.2 million, 10.4 million, 19.3 million, 16.0 million and 12.5 million shares of common stock during the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.

(2)

To arrive at diluted earnings per share, if the effect of equity classification would result in a more dilutive earnings per share, we adjust the numerator used in the calculation of our diluted earnings per share to remove the mark-to-market adjustment for deferred units of LNC stock in our deferred compensation plans, which amounted to $18 million, $(7) million, $4 million and $(4) million for the years ending December 31, 2018, 2017, 2015 and 2014, respectively.  There was no such adjustment for the year ended December 31, 2016.



36


 

Item 7.  Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations



The following Management’s Discussion and Analysis (“MD&A”) is intended to help the reader understand the financial condition as of December 31, 2018, compared with December 31, 2017, and the results of operations in 2018 and 2017, compared with the immediately preceding year of Lincoln National Corporation and its consolidated subsidiaries.  Unless otherwise stated or the context otherwise requires, “LNC,” “Company,” “we,” “our” or “us” refers to Lincoln National Corporation and its consolidated subsidiaries.  On May 1, 2018, we completed our acquisition of Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (“Liberty Life” or “LLACB”).  Beginning on May 1, 2018, the results of operations and financial condition of Liberty Life were consolidated with LNC.  Accordingly, all financial information presented herein for the year ended December 31, 2018, includes the accounts of LNC and the accounts of Liberty Life since May 1, 2018. 



The MD&A is provided as a supplement to, and should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes to the consolidated financial statements (“Notes”) presented in “Part II – Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data,” as well as “Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors” above.  



In this report, in addition to providing consolidated revenues and net income (loss), we also provide segment operating revenues and income (loss) from operations because we believe they are meaningful measures of revenues and the profitability of our operating segments.  Financial information that follows is presented in accordance with United States of America generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), unless otherwise indicated.  See Note 1 for a discussion of GAAP.



Operating revenues and income (loss) from operations are the financial performance measures we use to evaluate and assess the results of our segments.  Accordingly, we define and report operating revenues and income (loss) from operations by segment in Note 21.  Our management believes that operating revenues and income (loss) from operations explain the results of our ongoing businesses in a manner that allows for a better understanding of the underlying trends in our current businesses because the excluded items are unpredictable and not necessarily indicative of current operating fundamentals or future performance of the business segments, and, in many instances, decisions regarding these items do not necessarily relate to the operations of the individual segments.  In addition, we believe that our definitions of operating revenues and income (loss) from operations will provide investors with a more valuable measure of our performance because it better reveals trends in our business.



FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS –  CAUTIONARY LANGUAGE



Certain statements made in this report and in other written or oral statements made by us or on our behalf are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”).  A forward-looking statement is a statement that is not a historical fact and, without limitation, includes any statement that may predict, forecast, indicate or imply future results, performance or achievements, and may contain words like: “believe,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “estimate,” “project,” “will,” “shall” and other words or phrases with similar meaning in connection with a discussion of future operating or financial performance.  In particular, these include statements relating to future actions, trends in our businesses, prospective services or products, future performance or financial results and the outcome of contingencies, such as legal proceedings.  We claim the protection afforded by the safe harbor for forward-looking statements provided by the PSLRA.



Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from the results contained in the forward-looking statements.  Risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to vary materially, some of which are described within the forward-looking statements, include, among others: 



·

Deterioration in general economic and business conditions that may affect account values, investment results, guaranteed benefit liabilities, premium levels, claims experience and the level of pension benefit costs, funding and investment results;

·

Adverse global capital and credit market conditions could affect our ability to raise capital, if necessary, and may cause us to realize impairments on investments and certain intangible assets, including goodwill and the valuation allowance against deferred tax assets, which may reduce future earnings and/or affect our financial condition and ability to raise additional capital or refinance existing debt as it matures;

·

Because of our holding company structure, the inability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends to the holding company in sufficient amounts could harm the holding company’s ability to meet its obligations;

·

Legislative, regulatory or tax changes, both domestic and foreign, that affect: the cost of, or demand for, our subsidiaries’ products; the required amount of reserves and/or surplus; our ability to conduct business and our captive reinsurance arrangements as well as restrictions on the payment of revenue sharing and 12b-1 distribution fees; the impact of U.S. federal tax reform legislation on our business, earnings and capital; and the impact of any “best interest” standards of care adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) or other regulations adopted by federal or state regulators or self-regulatory organizations relating to the standard of care owed by investment advisers and/or broker-dealers; 

·

Actions taken by reinsurers to raise rates on in-force business;

·

Declines in or sustained low interest rates causing a reduction in investment income, the interest margins of our businesses, estimated gross profits (“EGPs”) and demand for our products;

·

Rapidly increasing interest rates causing contract holders to surrender life insurance and annuity policies, thereby causing realized investment losses, and reduced hedge performance related to variable annuities;

·

Uncertainty about the effect of continuing promulgation and implementation of rules and regulations under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on us, the economy and the financial services sector in particular;

37


 

·

The initiation of legal or regulatory proceedings against us, and the outcome of any legal or regulatory proceedings, such as:  adverse actions related to present or past business practices common in businesses in which we compete; adverse decisions in significant actions including, but not limited to, actions brought by federal and state authorities and class action cases; new decisions that result in changes in law; and unexpected trial court rulings;

·

A decline in the equity markets causing a reduction in the sales of our subsidiaries’ products; a reduction of asset-based fees that our subsidiaries charge on various investment and insurance products; an acceleration of the net amortization of deferred acquisition costs (“DAC”), value of business acquired (“VOBA”), deferred sales inducements (“DSI”) and deferred front-end loads (“DFEL”); and an increase in liabilities related to guaranteed benefit features of our subsidiaries’ variable annuity products;

·

Ineffectiveness of our risk management policies and procedures, including various hedging strategies used to offset the effect of changes in the value of liabilities due to changes in the level and volatility of the equity markets and interest rates;

·

A deviation in actual experience regarding future persistency, mortality, morbidity, interest rates or equity market returns from the assumptions used in pricing our subsidiaries’ products, in establishing related insurance reserves and in the net amortization of DAC, VOBA, DSI and DFEL, which may reduce future earnings;

·

Changes in GAAP that may result in unanticipated changes to our net income;

·

Lowering of one or more of our debt ratings issued by nationally recognized statistical rating organizations and the adverse effect such action may have on our ability to raise capital and on our liquidity and financial condition;

·

Lowering of one or more of the insurer financial strength ratings of our insurance subsidiaries and the adverse effect such action may have on the premium writings, policy retention, profitability of our insurance subsidiaries and liquidity;

·

Significant credit, accounting, fraud, corporate governance or other issues that may adversely affect the value of certain investments in our portfolios, as well as counterparties to which we are exposed to credit risk, requiring that we realize losses on investments;

·

Inability to protect our intellectual property rights or claims of infringement of the intellectual property rights of others;

·

Interruption in telecommunication, information technology or other operational systems or failure to safeguard the confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data on such systems from cyberattacks or other breaches of our data security systems;

·

The effect of acquisitions and divestitures, restructurings, product withdrawals and other unusual items, including the successful implementation of integration strategies or the achievement of anticipated synergies and operational efficiencies related to an acquisition;

·

The adequacy and collectability of reinsurance that we have purchased;

·

Acts of terrorism, a pandemic, war or other man-made and natural catastrophes that may adversely affect our businesses and the cost and availability of reinsurance;

·

Competitive conditions, including pricing pressures, new product offerings and the emergence of new competitors, that may affect the level of premiums and fees that our subsidiaries can charge for their products;

·

The unknown effect on our subsidiaries’ businesses resulting from evolving market preferences and the changing demographics of our client base; and

·

The unanticipated loss of key management, financial planners or wholesalers.



The risks included here are not exhaustive.  Other sections of this report, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and other documents filed with the SEC include additional factors that could affect our businesses and financial performance, including “Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors” and “Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk,” which are incorporated herein by reference.  Moreover, we operate in a rapidly changing and competitive environment.  New risk factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all such risk factors.



Further, it is not possible to assess the effect of all risk factors on our businesses or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.  Given these risks and uncertainties, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as a prediction of actual results.  In addition, we disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that occur after the date of this report. 



INTRODUCTION



Executive Summary



We are a holding company that operates multiple insurance and retirement businesses through subsidiary companies.  Through our business segments, we sell a wide range of wealth protection, accumulation and retirement income products and solutions.  These products primarily include fixed and indexed annuities, variable annuities, universal life insurance (“UL”), variable universal life insurance (“VUL”), linked-benefit UL, indexed universal life insurance (“IUL”), term life insurance, employer-sponsored retirement plans and services, and group life, disability and dental.



We provide products and services and report results through our Annuities, Retirement Plan Services, Life Insurance and Group Protection segments.  We also have Other Operations.  These segments and Other Operations are described in “Part I – Item 1. Business” above.  As discussed in Note 3, on May 1, 2018, we completed our acquisition of 100% of the capital stock of Liberty Life, which operates a group benefits business and individual life and individual and group annuity business, in a transaction accounted for under the acquisition method of accounting.  We ceded insurance policies relating to the individual life and individual and group annuity business to third-party reinsurers.  The operating results of Liberty Life are included in our Group Protection segment beginning on May 1, 2018.  The acquisition enables us to increase our market share within the group protection marketplace. 

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We provide information about our segments’ and Other Operations’ operating revenue and expense line items and realized gain (loss), key drivers of changes and historical details underlying the line items below.  For factors that could cause actual results to differ materially, see “Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors” and “Forward-Looking Statements – Cautionary Language” above. 



Industry Trends



We continue to be influenced by a variety of trends that affect the industry.



Financial and Economic Environment



The level of long-term interest rates and the shape of the yield curve can have a negative effect on the demand for and the profitability of spread-based products such as fixed annuities and UL.  Low long-term rates can also increase the cost of providing variable annuity living benefit guarantees.  A flat or inverted yield curve and low long-term interest rates are affecting new money rates on corporate bonds.  Equity market performance can also affect the profitability of life insurers, as product demand and fee income from variable annuities and fee income from pension products tied to separate account balances often reflect equity market performance.  Insurance premium growth, with respect to group life and disability products, for example, is closely tied to employers’ total payroll growth.  Additionally, the potential market for these products is expanded by new business creation. 



The Federal Reserve’s forecast for 2019, as reported in December of 2018, indicated that economic activity will grow at an approximate rate of 2.3% over the next year, labor market indicators will remain strong and inflation will be near its target of 2%.  Driven by continued improvements in the labor market and inflation market conditions, the Federal Reserve increased the target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points four times during 2018 to a range of 2.25% to 2.50%.  The Federal Reserve will monitor economic data closely to determine its next steps to changes in monetary policy. 

  

Regulatory Environment



U.S.-domiciled insurance entities are regulated at the state level, while certain products and services are also subject to federal regulation. Regulators may refine capital requirements and introduce new reserving standards for the life insurance industry.  Regulations recently adopted or currently under review can potentially affect the capital requirements and profitability of the industry and result in increased regulation and oversight for the industry.  For example, on April 18, 2018, the SEC proposed “Regulation Best Interest,” including a new standard of conduct for broker-dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which would require a broker-dealer to act in the best interest of a retail customer when making a recommendation of any securities transaction, without putting its financial interests ahead of the interests of a retail customer.  See “Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors – Legislative, Regulatory and Tax – Federal Regulation – Regulations relating to the standard of care applicable to investment advisers and broker-dealers could result in additional disclosure and other requirements related to the sale and delivery of our products and services” and “Part I – Item 1. Business – Regulatory” for a discussion of the potential effects of regulatory changes on our industry.



Demographics



Escalation of income protection and wealth accumulation goals for baby-boomers nearing retirement is a key driver shaping the actions of the insurance industry.  As a result of increasing longevity, retirees will need to accumulate sufficient savings to finance retirements that may span 30 or more years.  Helping the baby-boomers to accumulate assets for retirement and subsequently to convert these assets into retirement income represents an opportunity for the insurance industry.  Another opportunity for the insurance industry is the need for long-term care services as retirees are living longer and will need these services at some point in their lifetime. 



Millennials entering the insurance market is another key driver shaping the actions of the insurance industry.  This demographic group could end up having different consumer preferences than our in-force business.  These shifts may be tied to the type of products they purchase and how they choose to purchase these products.



The insurance industry’s products, and the needs they are designed to address, are complex.  We believe that individuals approaching retirement age will need to seek information to plan for and manage their retirements.  In the workplace, as employees take greater responsibility for their benefit options and retirement planning, they will need information about their possible individual needs.  One of the challenges for the insurance industry will be the delivery of this information in a cost effective manner.



Competitive Environment



See the “Competition” sections for each of our segments in “Part 1 – Business – Business Segments and Other Operations” for discussion of the competitive environment in which we operate.



39


 

Significant Operational Matters 



Strategic Digitization Initiative



We continue to make strategic investments in our businesses to grow revenues, further spur productivity and improve our efficiency and service to our customers.  These efforts include an enterprise-wide digitization initiative that intends to significantly enhance our customer experience and provide operational efficiencies over time to meet evolving consumer preferences and marketplace shifts.  We expect such efforts to have a net neutral impact during 2019 and ultimately see annual benefits beyond 2020 of approximately $90 million to $150 million, pre-tax, as a result of this initiative.



Targeted Annual Operating Earnings Per Share Growth



Growth in operating earnings per share (“EPS”) is a key driver of our long-term performance.  We believe that the key drivers to growing our operating EPS over time include:



·

Generating positive net flows through our product development and distribution;

·

Capital markets performing in-line with our expectations;

·

Expense discipline, our strategic digitization initiative and expense synergies of acquired businesses driving improvement in operating margins; and

·

Capital generation and active capital deployment, consisting of returning capital to common stockholders.



Sources of Earnings



We monitor our sources of earnings as a factor in managing our businesses.  This information may be useful in assessing our risk profile and cost of capital.  We continue to focus on achieving our long-term goal of increasing mortality and morbidity margins.  Growth in this source of earnings component could be driven by a number of factors, including, but not limited to, pricing actions on our life and group products and acquiring blocks of mortality/morbidity business.  The following table presents the sources of earnings components of income (loss) from operations, before income taxes, excluding Other Operations:





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

For the Years Ended December 31,

 



 

2018

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

Investment spread (1)

 

26.4% 

 

 

31.0% 

 

 

32.0% 

 

Mortality/morbidity (2)

 

26.7% 

 

 

24.3% 

 

 

23.0% 

 

Fees on AUM (3)

 

41.4% 

 

 

40.1% 

 

 

38.8% 

 

VA riders (4)

 

5.5% 

 

 

4.6% 

 

 

6.2% 

 

Total

 

100.0% 

 

 

100.0% 

 

 

100.0% 

 



(1)

Investment spread earnings consist primarily of net investment income, net of interest credited, earned on the underlying general account investments supporting our fixed products less related expenses.

(2)

Mortality/morbidity earnings result from mortality margins, morbidity margins, and certain expense assessments and related fees that are a function of the rates priced into the product and level of business in force.

(3)

Fees on assets under management (“AUM”) earnings consist primarily of asset-based fees charged on variable account values less associated benefits and related expenses.

(4)

Variable annuity (“VA”) riders’ earnings consist of fees charged to the contract holder related to guaranteed benefit rider features, less the net valuation premium and associated change in benefit reserves and related expenses.



See Note 21 for additional information on income (loss) from operations by segment.



Interest Rate Risk



Because the profitability of our business depends in part on interest rate spreads, interest rate fluctuations could negatively affect our profitability.  Changes in interest rates may impact both our profitability from spread businesses and our return on invested capital.  Thus, low interest rates negatively impact margins while rapidly rising interest rates can result in increased surrenders.  Gradually rising interest rates are likely to be beneficial to our profitability.  Some of our products, principally our fixed annuities and UL, including IUL and linked-benefit UL, have interest rate guarantees that expose us to the risk that changes in interest rates or prolonged low interest rates will reduce our spread, or the difference between the interest that we are required to credit to contracts and the yields that we are able to earn on our general account investments supporting our obligations under the contracts. 



Although we have been proactive in our investment strategies, product designs, crediting rate strategies and overall asset-liability practices to mitigate the risk of unfavorable consequences in this type of environment, declines in our spread, or instances where the returns on our general account investments are not enough to support the interest rate guarantees on these products, could have an adverse effect on some of our businesses or results of operations.  We have provided disclosures around interest rate spreads and interest rate risk in “Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors – Market Conditions – Changes in interest rates and sustained low interest rates may cause interest rate spreads

40


 

to decrease and changes in interest rates may also result in increased contract withdrawals” and “Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk – Interest Rate Risk.”



Variable Annuity Hedge Program Performance



We offer variable annuity products with living benefit guarantees.  As described below in “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Derivatives – GLB,” we use derivative instruments to hedge our exposure to the risks and earnings volatility that result from the guaranteed living benefit (“GLB”) embedded derivatives and benefit ratio unlocking in certain of our variable annuity products.  The income statement effect due to the change in fair value of these instruments tends to move in the opposite direction of the change in embedded derivative reserves and benefit ratio unlocking.  We also use derivative instruments to hedge the income statement effect in the opposite direction of the GLB benefit ratio unlocking for movements in equity markets.  These results are excluded from the Annuities and Retirement Plan Services segments’ operating revenues and income (loss) from operations (see Note 21).  See “Realized Gain (Loss) and Benefit Ratio Unlocking – Variable Annuity Net Derivatives Results” below for information on our methodology for calculating the non-performance risk (“NPR”), which affects the discount rate used in the calculation of the GLB embedded derivative reserves.



We also offer variable annuity products with death benefit guarantees.  As described below in “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates – Future Contract Benefits and Other Contract Holder Obligations – GDB,” we use derivative instruments to hedge the income statement effect of the guaranteed death benefit (“GDB”) benefit ratio unlocking for movements in equity markets.  These results are excluded from income (loss) from operations (see Note 21).



The costs of derivative instruments that we use to hedge these variable annuity products may increase as a result of a low interest rate environment.



Earnings from Account Values



The Annuities and Retirement Plan Services segments are the most sensitive to the equity markets, as well as, to a lesser extent, our Life Insurance segment.  We discuss the earnings effect of the equity markets on account values and the related asset-based earnings below in “Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk – Equity Market Risk – Effect of Equity Market Sensitivity.” 



Effective Tax Rates Resulting from the Tax Act



As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Tax Act”), we remeasured our existing deferred tax balances using the 21% marginal corporate income tax rate and recognized a $1.3 billion benefit in federal income tax expense (benefit) on our Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income (Loss) in 2017, as we were in a net deferred tax liability position.  For the year ended December 31, 2018, our net income benefited from the lower corporate income tax rate, and we estimate the following effective tax rates over the near term:  15%-17% for our consolidated operations, 14%-16% for Annuities, 15%-17% for Retirement Plan Services, 19%-21% for Life Insurance and 21% for Group Protection.



Issues and Outlook



Going into 2019, significant issues include:

 

·

Ongoing actions by government and regulatory authorities to introduce regulations or change existing regulations or guidance and any implementation of such actions, in a manner that could have a significant effect on our capital, earnings and/or business models;

·

Evolving market trends that have impacted sales of our various products;

·

Volatility in the capital markets that could include changes in equity markets and interest rates and/or adverse credit market conditions; and

·

Successful integration of any acquired businesses, including driving expense synergies.



In the face of these issues, we expect to focus on the following:



·

Continuing to make investments in our businesses, primarily in technology/digitization (including integrating and consolidating systems and processes), product innovation and distribution, to grow revenues, drive margin expansion and reduce costs;

·

Utilizing our product development and distribution resources to help us respond to evolving trends and regulatory changes and to shift our new business mix to focus on products in line with our long-term growth strategies;

·

Closely monitoring ongoing activities in the legal and regulatory environment and taking an active role in the legislative and/or regulatory process;

·

Closely monitoring our capital and liquidity positions taking into account changing economic conditions and monetary policy, ongoing regulatory activities regarding statutory reserves, including the continued adoption of principles-based reserving, and captive structures, and our capital deployment strategy;

·

Continuing to explore additional financing strategies addressing the statutory reserve strain related to our term products and UL products containing secondary guarantees in order to manage our capital position effectively;

·

Maintaining the flexibility to adjust the risk profile of assets within our investment portfolio; and

·

Managing our expenses aggressively through our strategic digitization initiative and expense synergies of acquired businesses

41


 

combined with continued financial discipline and execution excellence throughout our operations.



Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates



We have identified the accounting policies below as critical to the understanding of our results of operations and our financial condition.  In applying these critical accounting policies in preparing our financial statements, management must use critical assumptions, estimates and judgments concerning future results or other developments, including the likelihood, timing or amount of one or more future events.  Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.  On an ongoing basis, we evaluate our assumptions, estimates and judgments based upon historical experience and various other information that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances.  For a detailed discussion of other significant accounting policies, see Note 1.



DAC, VOBA, DSI and DFEL



Accounting for intangible assets requires numerous assumptions, such as estimates of expected future profitability for our operations and our ability to retain existing blocks of life and annuity business in force.  Our accounting policies for DAC, VOBA, DSI and DFEL affect the Annuities, Retirement Plan Services, Life Insurance and Group Protection segments. 



Deferrals



Qualifying deferrable acquisition expenses are recorded as an asset on our Consolidated Balance Sheets as DAC for products we sold during a period or VOBA for books of business we acquired during a period.  In addition, we defer costs associated with DSI and revenues associated with DFEL.  DSI increases interest credited and reduces income when amortized.  DFEL is a liability included within other contract holder funds on our Consolidated Balance Sheets, and when amortized, increases fee income on our Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income (Loss). 



We incur certain costs that can be capitalized in the acquisition of insurance contracts.  Only those costs incurred that result directly from and are essential to the successful acquisition of new or renewal insurance contracts may be capitalized as deferrable acquisition costs.  This determination of deferability must be made on a contract-level basis.  Some examples of acquisition costs that are subject to deferral include the following:



·

Employee, agent or broker commissions;

·

Wholesaler production bonuses;

·

Renewal commissions and bonuses to agents or brokers;

·

Medical and inspection fees;

·

Premium-related taxes and assessments; and

·

A portion of the salaries and benefits of certain employees involved in the underwriting, contract issuance and processing, medical and inspection and sales force contract selling functions.



All other acquisition-related costs, including costs incurred by the insurer for soliciting potential customers, market research, training, administration, management of distribution and underwriting functions, unsuccessful acquisition or renewal efforts and product development, are considered non-deferrable acquisition costs and must be expensed in the period incurred. 



In addition, the following indirect costs are considered non-deferrable acquisition costs and must be charged to expense in the period incurred: 



·

Administrative costs;

·

Rent;

·

Depreciation;

·

Occupancy costs;

·

Equipment costs (including data processing equipment dedicated to acquiring insurance contracts);

·

Trail commissions; and

·

Other general overhead.



42


 

Our DAC, VOBA, DSI and DFEL balances (in millions) by business segment as of December 31, 2018, were as follows:









 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

Retirement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

Plan

 

Life

 

Group

 

 

 

 



Annuities

 

Services

 

Insurance

 

Protection

 

Total

 

DAC and VOBA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gross

$

3,643

 

 

$

244

 

 

$

7,054

 

$

210

 

$

11,151

 

Unrealized gain (loss)

 

17

 

 

 

(1

)

 

 

(903

)

 

 -

 

 

(887

)

Carrying value

$

3,660

 

 

$

243

 

 

$

6,151

 

$

210

 

$

10,264