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A Short History of Tontines

Kent McKeever

Columbia Law School

February 9, 2009

Fordham Corporate and Financial Law Review, Vol. 15, pp. 491-521, 2010

The tontine, with its underlying premise that the living participants benefit from the death of their fellows, does not deserve its shadowy reputation. It had some success in its original purpose, as a means of government fund raising. It was most successful as a means of private development and investment from around 1780 through the 1850's. However, it was used as a gimmick in the selling of life insurance and as a cover for outright fraud in the latter part of the 19th Century. It was also subject to attack from writers who found the notion of gambling on other people's deaths unseemly. The tontine developed an aura of shadiness, and was eventually abandoned. If re-developed as a form of insurance for the long-lived, it may be worth rehabilitation as an investment tool.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

Keywords: Tontine

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Date posted: February 10, 2009 ; Last revised: May 6, 2010

Suggested Citation

McKeever, Kent, A Short History of Tontines (February 9, 2009). Fordham Corporate and Financial Law Review, Vol. 15, pp. 491-521, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1340062

Contact Information

Kent McKeever (Contact Author)
Columbia Law School ( email )
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States
212 854 4228 (Phone)
212 854 2978 (Fax)

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