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A week before bailout, a Hawaiian getaway

Lincoln National's scaled-back event.

Lincoln National Corp., of Radnor, flew top insurance agents and company executives to a Hawaiian resort the week before accepting almost $1 billion in U.S. bailout funds, two people with knowledge of the trip said.

Financial firms have drawn public ire by funding conferences and bonuses after posting record losses and tapping Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Congress has passed pay curbs and the government has demanded budget cuts.

"Lincoln is committed to providing continuing education events and rewards" for agents, Laurel O'Brien, a spokeswoman for the insurer, said in an e-mail yesterday. The event in Hawaii allowed Lincoln to fulfill its "obligation to our top distribution partners." She said the event was for independent contractors, not company employees.

The insurer, which has been unprofitable for two straight quarters, held a pair of four-night trips from June 6 to June 14, each attended by more than 100 salespeople, said the two people, who declined to be named because the trips weren't made public. The second conference ended the day before Lincoln announced it would take about $950 million in federal funds. The Grand Wailea resort hotel on Maui advertises rates from $369 a night.

Lincoln offers getaways annually as a reward for top sellers, the two people said. This year's gathering scaled back on recreation activities, entertainment, and meals, they said.

The insurer's executives told agents on the trip that the company had enough capital to survive and that any government aid would provide a buffer if the recession deepened, said the two people.

O'Brien said Lincoln reduced the number of events it's involved with because of "difficult economic times."

Robert Dineen, chief executive officer of Lincoln's advisory business, spoke in a welcome address, and David Berkowitz, senior vice president of Lincoln Financial Advisors, also attended, according to an agenda and one of the people.