Wired: Insurance mogul’s bribery plot short-circuits

Empire implodes when insurance commissioner is wired, records bribery bellyflop

2020 Hall of Shame

Dubious insurance and investment dealings made Greg Lindberg a billionaire. The self-made mogul then tried to bribe North Carolina’s insurance commissioner to cool off regulatory heat on his shaky operations. 

Instead, commissioner Mike Causey went to the FBI, and was wired to record the illegal bribery gambit in a decisive move that convicted Lindberg.

It’s a glowing example of how a public servant defended his office’s integrity against a cynical attempt to subvert honest insurance regulation in North Carolina.

Diverted money from insurers

Here’s how Lindberg’s bribery bellyflop went down:

Lindberg bought more than 100 insurance companies. He diverted $2 billion from his life insurers to prop up other businesses in the form of loans. The profligate self-dealing stretched his life insurers thin, jeopardizing their ability to pay claims. 

Causey imposed strict limits on Lindberg’s loans, yet the insurance magnate often exceeded the limits. Causey also placed several struggling insurers into receivership. 

Lindberg wanted to ease Causey’s regulatory pressure. Lindberg also was one of the largest political donors in North Carolina. So he sought to bribe Causey with $2 million of campaign reelection “contributions” to replace a troublesome deputy who oversaw his Global Bankers Insurance Group. It was a conglomerate of insurers Lindberg had acquired. Lindberg wanted to install his own compliant employee in the deputy’s position. 

Causey went straight to the FBI. He wore an FBI wire to record bribery efforts by Lindberg and several associates. 

Firms placed in receivership

The financial and legal sands quickly shifted beneath Lindberg’s fraud-treadding feet. Lindberg and several associates were convicted of the bribery attempt. He received more than seven years in federal prison in August 2020. Lindberg sought a more-lenient sentence. U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn wouldn’t hear of it.

“What kind of deterrence are we going to have if millionaires are allowed to pay seven-figure bribes?” Cogburn told the courtroom. “We have a serious breach of the law. We’ve got to deter people who think it’s a good idea to bribe officials in North Carolina.”