Insurers dive on Reid's 'bankrupt' quote
Comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about a 'major insurance company' on the verge of bankruptcy send already hard-hit stocks sharply lower.
By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer
Last Updated: October 2, 2008: 4:19 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Several big life insurance stocks fell sharply Thursday, dragged down by jitters about their role in the credit crisis and fears sparked by a comment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Wednesday about a potential bankruptcy in the industry.
"We don't have a lot of leeway on time. One of the individuals in the caucus today talked about a major insurance company. A major insurance company -- one with a name that everyone knows that's on the verge of going bankrupt. That's what this is all about," Reid said prior to the Senate's approval of the $700 billion bailout bill.
Steven Schwartz, an analyst who covers insurance companies for Raymond James & Associates, said that even before Reid made his bankruptcy comment, investors were growing worried about life insurers' exposure to real estate as well as "secondary exposure" via investments in troubled finance firms like Lehman Bros, Wachovia and Washington Mutual.
But the comment from Reid clearly caused even more fear.
A spokesman for Sen. Reid backtracked a bit Thursday and said that the senator was not aware of any company being in danger of bankruptcy.
"Senator Reid is not personally aware of any particular company being on the verge of bankruptcy. He has no special knowledge about [a bankruptcy] nor has he talked to any insurance company officials," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Sen. Reid, in an email to CNNMoney.com.
"Rather, his comments were meant to refer to the conditions in the financial sector generally. He regrets any confusion his comments may have caused," Manley added.
:mad: Why does Nevada keep electing this nitwit?