U.S. SEC Fines Mark Watson $450,000

December 12, 2020

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] has imposed a $450,000 fine on Mark E. Watson III for his role in Bermuda-based insurer Argo Group International’s “failure to disclose” over $5.3 million in “additional perquisites and personal benefits” while he was the company’s CEO.

The document states, “Respondent Mark E. Watson III was the Chief Executive Officer, President and a director of Argo from 2000 until late 2019. His resignation as Argo’s Chief Executive Officer and President became effective on November 5, 2019, and his resignation as a member of Argo’s Board of Directors became effective on December 30, 2019.

“Argo Group International Holdings, Ltd. is organized under the laws of, and headquartered in, Bermuda. Argo is an international underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products in the property and casualty market, with significant operations in the United States

“In definitive proxy statements disclosing executive compensation paid for 2014 through 2018, which were filed in 2015 through 2019, Argo disclosed a total of approximately $1.22 million worth of perquisites and personal benefits provided to Watson, with an annual average of approximately $244,000.

“However, these same definitive proxy statements failed to disclose over $5.3 million worth of additional perquisites and personal benefits provided to Watson, thereby understating the perquisites and personal benefits portion of Watson’s compensation by an annual average of over $1 million, or 400%.

“Items that Argo paid for on Watson’s behalf, but that were not disclosed, include, but are not limited to, expenses associated with use of corporate aircraft, rent and other housing costs, use of corporate automobiles, helicopter trips, other travel costs, use of a car service by family members, club and concierge service memberships, tickets and transportation to sporting, fashion or other entertainment events, services provided by Argo employees, and watercraft-related costs.

“Respondent shall, within 10 days of the entry of this Order, pay a civil money penalty in the amount of $450,000 to the Securities and Exchange Commission for transfer to the general fund of the United States Treasury.”

The full Cease And Desist Proceedings follow below [PDF here]:

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