Friday, February 29, 2008

Texas Gov. Perry Renews Disaster Proclamation

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has renewed a disaster proclamation, originally issued Jan. 29, to address the threat of wildfires across the state. In the updated proclamation, 32 additional counties are identified as threatened or impacted by wildfires, making a total of 216 counties at risk. To date, fires have burned more than 500,000 acres and threatened 2,158 homes, destroyed 50 homes and damaged 35 homes. A series of fronts producing high wind and low humidity has moved across the state, creating extremely dry conditions favorable for wildfires, which are expected to continue well into the spring. Gov. Perry expanded the declaration to include Aransas, Austin, Bee, Bowie, Brazos, Calhoun, Cameron, Dallam, Dallas, Donley, Fayette, Freestone, Galveston, Grimes, Hardin, Harrison, Hartley, Henderson, Jasper, Leon, Newton, Ochiltree, Panola, Sabine, San Patricio, Scurry, Shackelford, Sherman, Smith, Titus, Tyler and Upshur counties.

FEMA Looks at Disaster Aftermath Alternatives

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has expanded its effort to identify and evaluate alternatives to FEMA trailers and mobile homes for housing people in the aftermath of a disaster. The project is being conducted by the Joint Housing Solutions Group (JHSG), which was established in June 2006 by the agency's Disaster Assistance Directorate. The members of the JHSG include housing specialists from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); building science experts from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS); and specialists from FEMA housing, policy, Individual Assistance, Long-Term Recovery and Public Assistance divisions. The group is exploring the latest in factory-built contemporary housing, modular homes based on universal design, housing built from recyclable materials, and innovative work by schools of architecture and design at universities across the country. Field teams composed of FEMA, HUD, NIBS and other specialists have been conducting site visits to evaluate models and prototypes for further consideration. To date, they have evaluated 40 different types of units located across the country. They have looked at modular ‘folding houses' that could transition to permanent housing, a steel modular modernist-design unit already in use in some areas, and housing units that basically are converted shipping containers. Costs range from $15,000 to $150,000, with most falling between $20,000 and $50,000. The group also will evaluate Gulf Coast-type cottages with front porches and other types of housing developed through the Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP) for Katrina/Rita households. The inclusion of the AHPP units in the JHSG evaluation process will provide a unique opportunity to assess occupied homes under actual living conditions.

Work Time Off for Injury, Illness in '06 up in Texas

In 2006, the number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in private industry in Texas increased by nearly 5 percent compared to 2005. Although 3,230 more of these types of injuries and illnesses were reported in 2006 compared to 2005, the 2006 total is less than the numbers reported in 2004 and 2003.

In 2006, the rate of injuries and illnesses per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers in Texas was 104.4 compared to a national rate of 128.0. Other Texas results from the 2006 Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness include:

  • Service-providing industries reported 60 percent more nonfatal injuries and illnesses than the goods-producing industries, although the rate per 10,000 full-time workers was 14 percent less.
  • Workers aged 35 to 44 years experienced the largest percentage (27) of the total number of cases involving days away from work.
  • Among the ten occupations reporting the most cases with days away from work, construction workers experienced the highest median days away from work (27) although they experienced the fifth highest number of injuries or illnesses.

N.Y. to Provide Money for Flood Mitigation

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced that New York State, through the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), will provide $650,000 to local governments for flood mitigation projects with strong educational and training components that address watershed management. The announcement was made by Michael Balboni, the administration’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, at the 2008 Flood Summit which convened today in Binghamton. The Summit was proposed by Gov. Spitzer to provide a forum for discussing a variety of issues associated with flooding, such as watershed management, state and local response activities and ways government can better protect our residents and property. Over the last four years, New York has been struck by nine floods so serious that they were all declared major federal disasters. The cost of these events was staggering, with nearly $500 million spent for emergency response and repairs to the public infrastructure alone.

State Farm Says P/C Underwriting Gain Down

State Farm's net income increased by three percent, from $5.32 billion in 2006 to $5.46 billion in 2007. However, the property/casualty (P/C) underwriting gain was down 79 percent, from $3.0 billion in 2006 to $621 million in 2007. Approximately half of the $2.4 billion decline in the underwriting gain resulted from a fourth straight year of auto rate decreases, which also reduced net income.

The primary reason net income increased slightly while the P/C underwriting gain decreased sharply is a significant year-to-year difference in auto policyholder dividends. Were it not for the declaration of $1.3 billion more in dividends in 2006 than in 2007, net income in 2007 would be 11 percent lower than that of 2006.
This was the fifth consecutive year of profit for State Farm, following two years of significant losses. The average annual amount of net income for State Farm through the first eight years of this decade is $1.8 billion. State Farm provides insurance and financial services products through nearly 80 million policies and accounts.

Net worth for the State Farm group increased by $5.6 billion to $63.7 billion. The primary reasons for this improvement were the insurance operating results and the $2.5 billion realized and unrealized gain (net of deferred tax) on the P/C companies' unaffiliated stock portfolios. The State Farm group's net worth was also impacted by pension contributions of $1.9 billion. The P/C companies reported a pretax operating profit of $5.1 billion in 2007, including investment and other income of $4.6 billion and the underwriting gain of $621 million, less auto policyholder dividends of $78 million. This compares with a pretax operating profit of $6.0 billion in 2006, which included investment and other income of $4.4 billion, auto policyholder dividends of $1.4 billion and the underwriting gain of $3.0 billion. The State Farm group's net worth also is affected by the results of operations of non-P/C affiliates, which resulted in a gain for the year of $295 million, primarily driven by results for State Farm Life Insurance Company.

Total revenue, which includes premium revenue, earned investment income and realized capital gains (losses), was $61.6 billion for 2007 compared with the 2006 figure of $60.5 billion.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Liberty Mutual Group Expands in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joined Liberty Mutual Group Chairman, President and CEO Edmund Kelly, as the insurance executive announced Thursday at an event in Springfield that the Boston-based company will open a 300-person office in that city in the third quarter this year. The state’s fourth largest auto insurer has signed a 10-year lease for office space on Federal Street in the STCC Park, formerly the Springfield Armory. The new Springfield office will host a variety of business operations, including a customer service call center to support Liberty Mutual’s car and home insurance business in Massachusetts as well as the rest of the country. Other operations will include claims and legal administration. Liberty Mutual will start hiring and training for the office this spring and plans to have over 150 employees in place by year-end. The company’s expectations over time are to have in excess of 300 employees in its Springfield office. In anticipation of the April 1, 2008 start of managed competition, Liberty Mutual will add 30 sales positions across the state by this April, a 50 percent increase over current sales force levels. The insurer has also begun offering car insurance quotes to consumers using its new rates under managed competition. Liberty Mutual’s new prices are on average 10.7 percent lower than their 2007 levels, with some Massachusetts drivers eligible for premium decreases of 35 percent or more. In addition, Peerless Insurance, a Liberty Mutual Group company that sells exclusively through independent agents, in November 2007 became the first insurer to announce plans to enter the Massachusetts auto insurance market under managed competition. Once approved by the department of insurance, Peerless will write both car and home insurance in the state. In 1988, Peerless became the first of many companies to stop issuing new and renewal policies because of the state’s malfunctioning car insurance system.

Final Payment Made for N. Dakota Tornado

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm said that the final payment has been sent to the Northwood School District to finalize the insurance claim made for property and contents damage caused by the Aug. 26 tornado. The amount of the final check was $3,466,663.89. An initial check was sent to the District to cover the initial repairs to the school, as well as an advance payment on the final amount. The total claim amount was $7,971,435. The payment was made through the Insurance Department’s Fire and Tornado Fund. The Fire and Tornado Fund is a state run insurance entity housed at the North Dakota Insurance Department. It insures the building and contents of most of the State’s political subdivisions.

New England Residents Reminded of Flood Insurance

With spring on its way, the threat of flooding once again looms over New England. Last season all six states received a federal disaster declaration following a mid-April event and each of the last three years has brought declarations to the region due to severe storms and flooding. So what can individuals and families do to prepare? One avenue to explore is buying flood insurance. Property owners, renters and business owners are urged to purchase flood insurance. The only requirement is living within one of the more than 20,000 communities in the nation participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The benefits of flood insurance far exceed that of federal disaster assistance. The most prevalent form of assistance comes in the form of a low-interest loan and is only made available within a federal disaster area. In addition, a disaster assistance award averages $4,000 - often well short of the actual damage. There are reportedly many myths surrounding the NFIP and flood insurance policy. For instance, many residents assume that homeowners insurance covers flood damage – it does not. Another misnomer is that a property must be in a Special Flood Hazard Area or a “floodplain” to be eligible for coverage – not true. In fact, 20 to 25 percent of all claims occur outside of a floodplain. The average cost of a $100,000 flood insurance policy in New England is reportedly a little more than $800 per year making it far more affordable than the high costs of reconstruction. It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it's important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise. Find out more about one's risk and flood insurance at www.floodsmart.gov. To purchase flood insurance or find an agent, call 1-800-427-2419.

One Week Left in Missouri to File for Storm Funds

State and local officials in Missouri, county agencies, and certain private non-profit organizations in nine Missouri counties have one week left to submit a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) for federal funds after the severe winter storm in January, disaster recovery officials announced today. The deadline to submit the one-page RPA is Thursday, March 6. The president's disaster declaration, issued on Feb. 5, designated nine counties eligible for federal public assistance: Barry, Dallas, Laclede, Maries, McDonald, Newton, Phelps, Stone and Webster. Representatives from the State of Missouri Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the U. S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held several detailed applicants’ briefings throughout the disaster area for officials of governmental organizations, local officials and private non-profits to explain what costs are eligible and the procedures for requesting reimbursement.

TDI Notes Dec., Jan Enforcement Actions

The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDI-DWC) announced final disciplinary actions taken by Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation Albert Betts in December 2007 and January 2008. The final actions include orders assessing administrative penalties totaling $131,000 for violations of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Commissioner’s orders are subject to appeal to state district court within 30 days after being issued.

DIVISION OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FINAL DISCIPLINARY ORDERS DECEMBER 2007 & JANUARY 2008 (alphabetical order)

Ace American Insurance Company of Philadelphia, PA
Order No.: DWC-08-0011
Date of Order: January 24, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $21,000
Violation(s): Failure to timely pay temporary income benefits; failure to timely take action on a properly completed medical bill (12 instances); failure to take final action on a correctly completed request for reconsideration; failure to pay for the reasonable and necessary medical costs after carrier gave preauthorization; inappropriate denial of a medical bill.

Ace Fire Underwriter's Insurance Company of Philadelphia, PA
Order No.: DWC-08-0013
Date of Order: January 24, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $8,000
Violation(s): Failure to take timely action in response to a medical bill (3 instances); failure to properly deny a medical bill.

American Insurance Company of Novato, CA
Order No.: DWC-08-0006
Date of Order: January 14, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $3,000
Violation(s): Failure to timely comply with a Medical Dispute Resolution Order

American Zurich Insurance Company of Schaumberg, IL
Order No.: DWC-08-0003
Date of Order: January 14, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $5,700
Violation(s): Failure to timely respond to a request for reconsideration; failure to timely comply with an order to pay attorney fees.

Anil T. Bangale, MD of Fort Worth
Order No.: DWC 07-0142
Date of Order: December 7, 2007
Action Taken: Fined $3,000
Violation(s): Failure to timely file a Report of Medical Evaluation with the carrier or carrier's agent.

City of Dallas
Order No: DWC 08-0002
Date of Order: January 9, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $50,000
Violation(s): Numerous violations were found in a medical bill processing audit for failure to timely process and take final action on medical bills; failure to timely and accurately submit information electronically in the form and manner prescribed by the Division; failure to meet the 95 percent compliance standard in some categories.

Indemnity Insurance Company of North America of Philadelphia, PA
Order No.: DWC-08-0014
Date of Order: January 31, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $8,000
Violation(s): Failure to timely take action on a properly completed medical bill (2 instances); failure to take final action on a correctly completed request for reconsideration; late payment on a medical dispute resolution order.

Pacific Employer's Insurance Company of Philadelphia, PA
Order No.: DWC-08-0012
Date of Order: January 24, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $18,000
Violation(s): Failure to pay an advance payment of income benefits ordered by the Division; failure to timely take action on a properly completed medical bill.

Universal Underwriter's Insurance Company of Schaumberg, IL
Order No.: DWC-08-0004
Date of Order: January 14, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $1,500
Violation(s): Failure to timely pay or deny a medical bill.

Zurich American Insurance Company of Schaumberg, IL
Order No.: DWC-08-0005
Date of Order: January 14, 2008
Action Taken: Fined $12,800
Violation(s): Failure to timely comply with a Medical Dispute Resolution Order; failure to timely respond to a request for reconsideration (two instances).

Doral Insurance Agency Acquires CitiSeguros

Doral Insurance Agency Inc. announced the acquisition of the CitiSeguros PR Retail Bank insurance portfolio. The transaction with CitiSeguros, a Citigroup subsidiary, will add more than 10,000 new clients with insurance policies in personal and commercial lines, including health, life, disability, auto, property, and casualty.The acquisition is in line with Doral strategy of expanding its insurance product lines, which up until now concentrated on offering insurance products related to residential mortgages, such as title and property. Doral has become a general agency and expanded its product line to include the full line of insurance products. These are health and life insurance, including cancer, whole life, term life and disability; property and casualty including a personal package, commercial package, auto, umbrella and surety bonds, among others.

D&O Liability Ins. Costs for Financial Institutions Rise

Directors' and officers' liability insurance costs for financial institutions significantly increased in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to a D&O pricing index released by Aon Corporation. Authored by Aon Financial Services Group, the index tracks changes in D&O premium costs relative to the base year of 2001. Measured on a price per million basis, D&O insurance costs for banks and securities firms increased 18.66 percent from Q4 2006 to Q4 2007. Comparatively, firms operating in industries outside the financial services sector experienced an 18.99 percent decrease in D&O costs during the same time period. Since 2001, industries across the board have experienced similar decreases in average D&O pricing. Now, pricing for financial institutions is increasing at a time when the rest of the market is experiencing price decreases. The index explains these findings by pointing to the fact that financial institutions were impacted particularly hard by the subprime crisis during the last three months of 2007. In that timeframe, the S&P 500 Financial Sector saw a 21.62 percent drop(1) in the value of a broad index of financial institutions. As a result, D&O underwriters associated larger amounts of risk with the directors and officers of these firms and thus increased D&O costs for the financial services sector.

N.J. Home Improvement Law Reaches Milestone

New Jersey's Home Improvement Contractor law has reached a milestone on its second anniversary, as contractor registration applications at the Division of Consumer Affairs reached 50,000. The HIC law, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2006, requires all home improvement contractors to register annually with the Division of Consumer Affairs. To date, more than 43,000 registrations have been issued for the applications received. The remaining 7,000 applications are pending review or have been found to be missing data.

Among other things, registered home improvement contractors must:

  • maintain commercial general liability insurance in a minimum amount of $500,000 per occurrence;

  • display the state-issued HIC registration number in their place of business, in all advertisements, in all business documents including contracts and on all commercial vehicles;

  • * put home improvement contracts with a purchase price exceeding $500 in writing and list all terms and conditions of the contract including: price; a description of the work to be done; materials to be used; and the dates or time period within which the work will be begun and completed. The contract must be signed by all parties; and

    * provide a copy of the certificate of commercial general liability insurance with the contract

HICs cannot obtain construction permits from municipal construction code offices unless they are registered, under state law.

More than 30 home improvement contractors settled matters involving violations of the HIC law last year, mainly through Consent Orders entered into with the Division of Consumer Affairs. The Office of the Attorney General and the Division also have filed suit against home improvement contractors for alleged HIC violations.

Seattle to Host National Quake Conference

This year, Seattle plays host to the 2008 National Earthquake Conference, and although discounts for early registration expire March 2, there's still plenty of time to register for the conference, optional field trips and historical tours. According to Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup (CREW) Executive Director Bob Freitag, the five-day Seattle conference (April 22-26) enjoys one of the most ambitious agendas to date. "This conference builds on CREW's consistent message of pre-disaster mitigation and serves as an emphatic call for pre-disaster action," said Freitag. "Risk communication is a critical element of our preparedness and mitigation efforts, and there will be ample opportunities to discuss future priorities and new courses of action." Western States Seismic Policy Council Executive Director Patti Sutch concurs. "This program contains over 100 nationally and internationally renowned speakers, and features an evening forum webcast on applying the lessons from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami," said Sutch. "At this year's conference we will learn about strategies and actions that have been effective in reducing earthquake risk and facilitate transferring that experience back to local communities." Additional information on WSSPC, its partner agencies and this year's conference is available at: www.earthquakeconference.org.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some Tax Relief for Calif. Fire Victims

California residents whose properties were damaged by October and November wildfires may be eligible for disaster tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and the California State Board of Equalization (BOE). The IRS and the FTB have announced that affected taxpayers in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Diego counties have been granted an extension to file or pay most tax returns, including individual tax returns and employment tax returns. Additionally, the BOE has announced that property tax relief may be available for those with taxable property that has been damaged or destroyed. Applications for reduced assessment are available from and must be filed with the county assessor. In a special provision of the tax codes, taxpayers have the option of claiming disaster-related losses either on this year's (2007) or the preceding year's (2006) federal (IRS) and state (FTB) income tax return. According to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB Pub. 1034A-11), claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year's return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors. For more information about how disaster losses affect taxes, refer to Disaster Loss (FTB Pub. 1034) at www.ftb.ca.gov or 1-800-338-0505, the IRS 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts at www.irs.gov or 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676), or BOE at www.boe.ca.gov or 1-800-400-7115.

Georgia Gov. Testifies on Child Healthcare

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday delivered testimony concerning the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to the Subcommittee on Health of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. In his testimony, Gov. Perdue again called on Congress to uphold its duty to appropriately fund the program and revise SCHIP’s funding formula to provide for a sustainable and stable future for this important program. As of January 2008, Georgia’s SCHIP program, PeachCare for Kids, provided health coverage to 234,720 children. Gov. Perdue also asked Congress to keep the focus of the program on children. “The key principle of SCHIP is that children should always be top priority. Our resources must focus first on children,” said Gov. Perdue. “This is not the case in every state right now. Some states have expanded their programs to include health insurance for other groups, even childless adults. But the goal of this program all along was to provide an answer to an insurance need for our most vulnerable population: low income children."

Couch Braunsdorf to Manage Lawyers Pro Liability

OneBeacon Insurance announced that Couch Braunsdorf Insurance will manage its lawyers professional liability business in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ohio for law firms with 10 attorneys or fewer. The managing general underwriter currently handles OneBeacon business for firms in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania with 20 attorneys or fewer. Couch Braunsdorf represents OneBeacon Professional Partners, which offers lawyers professional liability coverage on both a primary and excess basis. Based in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, Couch Braunsdorf is a full-service brokerage/agency.

Fireman's Fund Offers Strike Expense Coverage

Recognizing that a potential Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike at the start of July is a significant risk of concern to production companies, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company (www.firemansfund.com) has introduced strike expense coverage. This coverage extension is the first offered by an entertainment insurance firm. Fireman’s Fund requires that a completion bond be in place prior to issuance of coverage and that production be scheduled to be completed prior to June 15, 2008.With an over 80-year history of insuring a majority of Hollywood films, Fireman’s Fund entertainment division is dedicated to helping producers and studios achieve the artistic results they are seeking, yet also ensuring they are filmed safely, finished on time and on budget. Its 40-member team includes underwriters and loss control experts with an average of about 20 years of experience in the entertainment field. Fireman’s Fund also owns International Film Guarantors (IFG), a wholly owned subsidiary based in West Los Angeles that offers completion bonds.

Tough Flying for Air Insurance Market

The high level of hull and liability claims, at $1.7 billion, coupled with the lowest amount of lead hull and liability premium since 2000 ($1.5 billion), means that the airline insurance market was broadly unprofitable in 2007. The negotiating process is likely to be tougher in 2008 as a result, according to Aon's Airline Insurance Market Review of 2007 (www.aon.com). This is the key finding of the review that brings together data for the last year and extrapolates its likely effect on the market in 2008 and beyond.

The reviews findings include:

* Total recorded lead hull and liability premium for 2007 was $1.5 billion, a reduction of 30 percent since 2005;
* Total incurred claims, including hull, liability and an estimate attritional losses, amounted to $1.7 billion;
* North American fleet values, at $192 billion, fell below those of Europe and Asia, both at $193 billion, for the first time in 2007. North American passenger numbers, however, were still higher than the other two major aviation regions;
* The proportion of passengers travelling with flag carriers has fallen from 66 percent in 2005 to 48 percent in 2007.

Having started the year with average premium reductions of around 20 percent, the airline insurance market became gradually less soft as the year progressed with underwriters recognising the probability that the value of hull claims would outweigh the total lead hull and liability premium.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mich. OFIS Acts on Auto Policy Language

Millions of Michigan auto insurance consumers will reportedly benefit from recent actions taken by the Office of Financial and Insurance Services (OFIS) designed to ensure that policy language is reasonable and fair to insurance buyers. The Acting Commissioner has held that auto policies cannot contain language that effectively denies coverage for an accident if a consumer fails to arrange for a vehicle inspection within an arbitrary number of days after an accident. Acting Commissioner Ken Ross issued a Prohibition Order that specifically prohibits Michigan insurers, in new policy forms, from requiring a policyholder to make a vehicle available for inspection within a set number of days after an accident without also including mandatory extension language to permit a policyholder to act as soon as reasonably possible thereafter and language limiting the inspection requirement to a vehicle within the policyholder’s possession. An Order Withdrawing Approval was also entered and it applies to existing policy forms. The orders came in response to a Michigan Supreme Court ruling (Rory v Continental Ins Co (2005)) that confirmed the OFIS Commissioner has the responsibility to evaluate the “reasonableness” of provisions or conditions in an insurance contract. The statute permits, but does not require, the Commissioner to disapprove or withdraw approval of a policy form that the Commissioner determines is unreasonable or deceptive. The decision to approve, disapprove, or withdraw approval of an insurance policy form is within the sound discretion of the Commissioner. Typical provisions in an automobile insurance policy require the policyholder to make the vehicle involved available for inspection by the insurer within 15 days of an accident. A policyholder seriously injured or killed in the accident or his personal representative may not be able to satisfy these time requirements and may not have possession or control of the vehicle involved. In hit and run situations, particularly those involving pedestrians, the insured may not be able to identify the involved vehicle within 15 days of an accident, if ever. Without a time extension to permit a policyholder to act as soon as reasonably possible, a 15-day or day-specific vehicle inspection requirement tied to the date of the accident or a vehicle inspection requirement not limited to vehicles within the policyholder’s possession are conditions that unreasonably affect the risk assumed in the coverage of the policy. A person who has purchased coverage may find coverage denied as a result of circumstances beyond his or her control. The Prohibition Order and Order Withdrawing Approval have been sent to all Michigan private passenger automobile insurance companies.

Aegis Security to Resume Miss. Business

Aegis Security Insurance Company will resume writing new manufactured housing and dwelling policies in Mississippi beginning Saturday, March 1. The company, which had halted writing new business in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina in an effort to reduce its exposure to assessments from the Wind Pool, will also be offering a 20 percent overall rate reduction. The decision to resume writing business came in part due to recent changes in the Mississippi Wind Storm Underwriting Association (MWUA), or Wind Pool, assessment process.

5 Execs Found Guilty in AIG Scandal

A federal jury has found four former General Re Corporation (Gen Re) Executives and one former American International Group Inc. (AIG) executive guilty, following a five-week long trial, the Justice Department announced. The Hartford, Conn., jury returned a verdict of guilty on all charges against all defendants contained in a 16-count superseding indictment stemming from a fraudulent scheme to manipulate AIG’s financial statements.

* Ronald E. Ferguson, 63, of Fairfield, Conn., Gen Re’s chief executive officer from about 1987 through September 2001, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

* Elizabeth Monrad, 51, of New Canaan, Conn., Gen Re’s chief financial officer from about June 2000 through July 2003, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

* Robert Graham, 58, of Westport, Conn., a Gen Re senior vice president and assistant general counsel employed by Gen Re from about 1986 through October 2005, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

* Christopher P. Garand, 59, of Upper Saddle River, N.J., a Gen Re senior vice president and the head and chief underwriter of Gen Re’s finite reinsurance operations in the United States from about 1994 until August 2005 and also a member of the Board of Directors of Cologne Re Dublin, a Gen Re entity, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

* Christian Milton, 58, of Winnewood, Pa., AIG’s vice president of reinsurance from about April 1982 until March 2005, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

At trial, the government presented evidence that the defendants reportedly engaged in a scheme to falsely inflate AIG’s reported loss reserves, a key indicator of financial health to insurance industry analysts and investors. This fraud was effectuated through the use of two sham reinsurance transactions between subsidiaries of AIG and Gen Re in response to analysts’ criticism of a $59 million decrease in AIG’s loss reserves for the third quarter of 2000. The two sham transactions increased AIG’s loss reserves by $250 million in the fourth quarter of 2000 and $250 million in the first quarter of 2001, masking a declining trend in loss reserves in the face of premium growth. AIG restated the transactions at issue in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May of 2005. Evidence presented at trial established that when the investigation was disclosed to investors by AIG and through various media outlets between Feb. 14 and March 14, 2005, shares of AIG stock dropped from $73.12 to $61.92.

The government presented evidence at trial that reportedly showed that each of the defendants knew that the true purpose of the transactions was to permit AIG to falsely report increasing loss reserves in its statements to analysts and investors and its filings with the SEC. The defendants structured a sham reinsurance transaction and created a phony paper trail to make it appear as though Gen Re had solicited reinsurance from AIG when the evidence demonstrated that the parties knew AIG wanted the transaction to manipulate its financial statements. Additionally, the defendants entered into a secret side deal whereby AIG would never have to pay any losses under the contracts; AIG would return to Gen Re the $10 million in premiums Gen Re paid to AIG and AIG paid Gen Re a $5 million fee for entering into the transaction. Ferguson, Monrad, Milton and Graham each face a maximum term of imprisonment of 210 years in prison based upon their conviction on all counts and a fine of up to $46 million. Garand faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 150 years and a fine of up to $29.5 million.

The sentencing date for all defendants has been set for May 15. All defendants remain free on bond pending sentencing.

Farmers Group Reaches Wash. Milestone

Farmers Group, Inc. has reached a milestone in providing commercial insurance policies to citizens in the State of Washington —it is No.1, according to A.M. Best Company. “Farmers has doubled its written premium in Commercial Multi-Peril policies since 2001, “noted Mhayse Samalya, president of Farmers Business Insurance. “Since 2001 our market share has also grown 3.3 points to 11.3, putting Farmers in the No.1 commercial insurance sales spot, ahead of all other insurance companies in the state. That says a lot about the quality of service provided by Farmers' agents and the insurance coverages provided to each business in this great state. ”

Kentucky Woman Charged in Comp Case

A Floyd County, Kentucky woman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor insurance fraud charge after reportedly lying about her husband’s employment history during a workers’ compensation hearing. During the August 2006 hearing, Ronda Hall, 34, of Prestonsburg, falsely testified that her husband, Rocky Hall, had not worked since Jan. 22, 2006. Court documents reportedly show that he was employed by a sign company during that time. This testimony would have resulted in her husband receiving an additional $995 in benefits to which he was reportedly not entitled. Ronda Hall was sentenced to 12 months in jail, probated under supervision, and was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 ($500 suspended) to the Kentucky Office of Insurance (KOI) Fraud Investigation Division for expenses. In November 2007, Rocky Hall pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor insurance fraud charge in the same case. He received a 12-month probated sentence and was ordered to pay the KOI Fraud Division $1,000 ($500 suspended) for investigative expenses.

Illinois AG Notes Car Seat Recall

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is alerting consumers to a Feb. 1 recall of one million Evenflo Discovery infant car seats. Recent test results show the car seat could separate from its base in high-impact side collisions making them unreliable in protecting children riding in cars. The affected models are: Discovery Infant Car Seat 390, 391, 534 and 552, all of which were manufactured between April 2005 and Jan. 29, 2008. Evenflo, the car seat’s manufacturer, will provide affected car seat owners with a supplemental dual-hook fastener to ensure that the seat remains attached to the base. Consumers can order the fastener by calling 1-800-356-2229 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. CST or by visiting www.evenflo.com/discovery. In 2005, the Illinois General Assembly amended the Illinois Children’s Product Safety Act to require manufacturers and retail merchants to post recall notices both in their stores and on their Web sites. The new law also further strengthened the recall notification process by requiring manufacturers and retail merchants to alert – by e-mail or mail – Illinois consumers who purchased recalled children’s products online. Illinois was the first state to enact such comprehensive child safety notification measures. In 2007, Madigan launched a recall hotline at 1-888-414-7678 to help callers identify recalled products in their homes and to explain how consumers can contact companies to repair or return affected products. Today, Madigan urged consumers to call the hotline if they need help determining whether they own one of the affected car seats.

Ohio Reports Top Insurance Complaints

Claim denials from insurance companies were the number one complaint of Ohio insurance consumers in 2007, according to statistics released by the Ohio Department of Insurance. Nearly one-third of the 7,140 consumer complaints received by the Department dealt with the denial of claims by insurance companies. There were 312 more consumer complaints filed in 2007, up from 6,828 complaints in 2006. As a result of complaint reviews, the Department saved Ohio consumers more than $10.7 million in 2007. A closed complaint is a complaint that has been reviewed and resolved to the satisfaction of the state or jurisdiction in which it is filed.

Fla. Man Arrested in Repair Fraud Case


Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of Leonard Hugh Davis, 42, of Saint Cloud, Florida for two counts of Felony Home Repair Fraud. This brings the total number of people arrested by the Attorney General’s Office to 58, in a total of 95 cases. Davis was stopped on a routine traffic stop by an officer with the Florida Police Department who ran a check through the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC). That check showed that Davis was wanted by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. One complaint against Davis alleges that he took over $5,000 from a Diamondhead, Mississippi resident but failed to do some of the work and to properly complete some of the work. The second case stems from an investigaton in Harrison County, Mississippi where a homeowner alleges to have paid Davis $19,000 to repair property damaged by Katrina but the work performed needed to be torn down and re-done to Code. Upon arrest, Davis was transported to the Osceola County Jail where he was to be held until he can be extradited to Mississippi to face the Felony Home Repair charges against the Hurricane Katrina Victims.

State Farm Auto Rates Drop Again

State Farm® auto insurance rates declined 4.9 percent in 2007, the fourth consecutive year of rate level decline for the nation's largest insurer. State Farm's protection against the financial cost of auto accidents was 14.8 percent less expensive at year-end 2007 than it was at year-end 2003. State Farm's auto insurance rate level over this four-year period declined the most (29.2 percent) in New Jersey, where auto insurance costs have historically been the highest in the country. State Farm officials credit an improved regulatory environment there in addition to the steady decrease in claims. New York is second (27.0 percent). Colorado, Connecticut and Minnesota are third, fourth and fifth. Oklahoma, Arizona, California, Indiana and Massachusetts complete the top 10. In addition to the $4.5 billion reduction in premiums over the last four years, State Farm issued dividends in 2006 and 2007 to most of its 40 million policyholders totaling nearly $1.5 billion.

Ark. Tornado Aid Tops $3 Million

More than $3 million ($3,023,751) in federal aid has been approved to help support recovery efforts during the two weeks since President Bush declared a major disaster for the state of Arkansas due to the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding of Feb. 5, state and federal disaster recovery officials reported.

Listed below are highlights of the disaster recovery efforts through Feb. 21.

  • 1,429 individuals and households from counties eligible for individual assistance have applied for disaster aid. April 8, 2008, is the last day individuals can apply for FEMA assistance under the Feb. 7 disaster declaration.

  • $1,330,360 in Housing Assistance has been approved to cover rental assistance, temporary lodging and housing repairs.

  • $493,391 in Other Needs Assistance has been approved to cover personal property loss, medical costs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance.

  • 1,432 visits to Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) have been made by people affected by the disaster to meet with recovery experts there.

  • 686 home inspections have been conducted.

  • To date, 33 public entities (counties, cities, certain private non-profit agencies) have applied for federal assistance under the Public Assistance program. These requests currently are being evaluated and additional requests are being received.

  • The SBA has approved more than $1.2 million in low-interest disaster loans to Arkansas residents and businesses. The SBA provides low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, non-profit organizations and businesses of all sizes.

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), funded by FEMA and administered by the state, provides benefits from $128 to a maximum of $400 a week for up to 26 weeks for individuals unemployed as a direct result of a major disaster. People living or working in the 10 disaster-designated counties who have temporarily lost jobs and do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits (such as self-employed individuals) may be eligible for DUA from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

    The deadlines to apply for DUA are March 13 for Baxter, Pope, Shape, Stone, and Van Buren Counties; March 14 for Conway, Izard, and Randolph counties; and March 24 for Marion and Newton counties.

Progressive Drives into Massachusetts

Massachusetts drivers could soon save even more on car insurance when Progressive begins offering coverage in the Commonwealth. Progressive has filed private passenger auto rates with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance. If the filing is accepted, Massachusetts drivers will be able to buy car insurance on progressive.com starting May 1. Progressive's filed rates are an average of 18 percent lower than the average rates paid by Massachusetts drivers in 2007. Progressive already sells Commercial Auto insurance to Massachusetts business owners through independent agents. Progressive plans to offer Massachusetts drivers most of the same coverage options and policy features it offers in other states. It will also offer many of its standard discounts including a Paperless discount, an Electronic Funds Transfer discount and a Distant Student discount.

Karen Clark & Co. Offers Hurricane Info

Karen Clark & Company announced a new Executive Briefing on Northeast Hurricane Risk. This briefing provides insurance company senior executives and boards of directors with information in five key areas: the likelihood of future major events, the nature of the hurricane damage, why the catastrophe models differ so significantly in this region, how the model results can be benchmarked for credibility, and current competitive threats and opportunities in the Northeast. This Executive Briefing provides information on what is known about hurricanes in the Northeast. It explains how that information gets incorporated into the catastrophe models and why the model results can differ so widely. The briefing also shows how other independent information can be used to benchmark the model results and provide more transparency with respect to a company's likely losses from future hurricane events. The Executive Briefing on Northeast Hurricane Risk can be scheduled at convenient times and locations. To request information e-mail info@karenclarkandco.com.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Aon, Gallagher Announce Deal

Aon Corporation, a provider of global risk management services, has signed definitive agreements to acquire substantially all of Gallagher Re's U.S. and U.K. reinsurance brokerage business. In addition, a team of industry professionals from Gallagher Re, based in the U.S. and U.K., will join Aon Re Global, the world's leading reinsurance intermediary. The definitive agreement includes an initial payment of approximately $30 million in cash and an additional payment for revenues generated in the 12 months following the close of the transaction. The UK portion of the transaction will be finalized when all regulatory requirements are met.

La., Allstate Resolve Dispute

Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon announced a resolution between the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDOI) and four Allstate companies over insurance disputes, which includes the opportunity for hundreds of property insurance policyholders to be reinstated and a $250,000 company fine. Donelon says he signed the Consent Agreement and Stipulation yesterday between the LDOI and Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, Encompass Insurance Company and Encompass Indemnity Company. As part of the resolution, Allstate will pay a $250,000 fine for a 2006 property inspection program that resulted in the cancellation of more than 4,700 homeowners insurance policies in Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. Of the 588 policyholders who filed written complaints with the LDOI, several hundred were reinstated by Allstate. Donelon says the other disputes involve the cancellation of wind and hail coverage on policies moved from Allstate Insurance to Allstate Indemnity, and from Encompass Insurance to Encompass Indemnity. The several hundred home owners whose policies were in effect for three or more years with Allstate Insurance and Allstate Indemnity combined, or with Encompass Insurance and Encompass Indemnity combined will be offered the opportunity to have their policies reinstated with full wind and hail coverage. The Allstate and Encompass companies will notify their agents about the reinstatement process. Commissioner Donelon says impacted policyholders should contact their insurance agent as soon as possible for reinstatement.

Fla. Orders Work Comp Companies to Pay

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has ordered six workers' compensation insurance companies to return $4.2 million in excessive profits to their policyholders. Workers' comp insurers are required to return profits in excess of 5 percent as set forth in Section 627.215, Florida Statutes. The Office performed an evaluation of submitted data that included, among other things, earned premium and incurred losses to determine if the insurers realized an excess profit for the three most recent calendar/accident years reported - 2003, 2004 and 2005. The six companies that have been ordered to return premiums to policyholders are: Alaska National Insurance Co. ($144,488), American Interstate Insurance Co. ($3,027,030), Church Mutual Insurance Co. ($768,259), Harco National Insurance Company ($4,819), Midwest Employers Casualty Co. ($218,337) and Petroleum Casualty Co. ($94,329). The companies have 60 days from the date of the order to return the premiums or provide policy renewal credits.

OSHA, P.R. Shipping Assoc. Form Alliance

A new alliance signed between the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Puerto Rico Shipping Association (PRSA) seeks to reduce hazards and injuries, and to increase safety awareness for employees and employers in Puerto Rico's maritime industry. Under the alliance, OSHA and PRSA, which represents 35 employers in the territory's maritime industry, will work together to develop a curriculum for accident prevention training for maritime supervisors, deliver the OSHA's new 10-hour course in maritime safety and establish a safety syllabus for training maritime crane operators. A key component of the alliance will be the first Maritime Industry Safety Awareness Week to be held in June in which all PRSA members will present training sessions for their employees. The alliance also will promote PRSA members' participation in OSHA's cooperative programs, including the Voluntary Protection Programs, safety consultation, and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

Catlin Adds Reinsurance Contract

Catlin Group Limited, the international specialty property/casualty insurer and reinsurer, has purchased a collateralised US$150 million annual aggregate reinsurance contract which protects the Group’s portfolio of property treaty reinsurance against accumulated losses from specific perils. The transaction is unusual as it provides retrocessional ‘catastrophe bond’ type coverage for a diverse portfolio of property catastrophe exposures on an indemnity basis. As it would be triggered by Catlin’s actual losses, it reduces the basis risk present in most index-based or parametric-based catastrophe bond products. The coverage, which expires on Dec. 31, 2010, will be triggered if Catlin’s losses from defined US windstorms and earthquakes, European windstorms, and Japanese windstorms and earthquakes exceed an annual aggregate threshold amount. The coverage complements the collateralised catastrophe protections previously purchased by Catlin in 2006 and 2007 and its traditional reinsurance programme. In the transaction, which was completed on Feb. 21, Catlin has entered into a reinsurance agreement with Newton Re Limited, a special purpose reinsurer established in the Cayman Islands. Newton Re in turn has issued US$150 million of principal at-risk variable rate notes, the proceeds of which will be used to provide collateral for Newton Re’s obligations to Catlin under the reinsurance agreement.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Meadowbrook, ProCentury Merger Moves On

Meadowbrook Insurance Group Inc. and ProCentury Corporation have executed a definitive merger agreement for a transaction valued at approximately $272.6 million in cash and stock to be paid to ProCentury shareholders. Under the terms of the merger agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, shareholders of ProCentury will be entitled to receive, for each ProCentury common share, either $20.00 in cash or Meadowbrook common stock having a value of $20.00, subject to adjustment as described below. This price represents a premium of 33% to the 30-day volume- weighted average sale price of ProCentury common shares. The combined entity will adopt and operate under the Meadowbrook name. The acquisition will reportedly expand and complement Meadowbrook's specialty lines capabilities with ProCentury's insurance professionals and product expertise in the excess and surplus lines market. Both companies are based in the Midwest and have similar employee cultures. Subsequent to the completion of the merger, the combined entity will continue to operate the respective insurance subsidiaries as they were operated prior to the merger.

Texas Work Comp Sessions on March 13

The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDI-DWC) will present two educational sessions, Newly Revised 2008 Hospital Fee Guidelines and Newly Revised 2008 Medical Fee Guidelines, sponsored by the University of North Texas Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on Thursday, March 13. The Newly Revised 2008 Hospital Fee Guidelines educational session will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The Newly Revised 2008 Medical Fee Guideline educational session will be held from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The sessions will take place at Eastfield College, 3737 Motley Drive. The cost is $79 per person for each session when registering online.

The Newly Revised 2008 Hospital Fee Guidelines educational session is for health care providers, medical billing staff, insurance carriers, claims adjusters and case managers who bill and reimburse for hospital inpatient and outpatient services in the Texas workers’ comp system. This educational session will provide information on the 2008 Hospital Fee Guidelines, which establish a standardized format for billing and reimbursement for inpatient admissions and outpatient dates of services to injured employees on or after March 1, 2008.

The Newly Revised 2008 Medical Fee Guidelines educational session is for health care providers, medical billing staff, insurance carriers, claims adjusters and case managers who bill and reimburse for medical treatments and services in the Texas workers’ comp system. This educational session will provide information on the 2008 Medical Fee Guidelines, which establish a standardized format for billing and reimbursement as used in group health and Medicare systems for medical treatments and services to injured employees on or after March 1, 2008. The guidelines also establish new incentive payments to health care providers caring for injured employees in areas of the state designated as underserved by the Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation.

For more information on the educational sessions, visit the TDI Web site at http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/wc/policy/feetraining.html.

Chubb Offers International Hull Insurance

The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies (www.chubb.com) has expanded its marine offerings with the addition of international hull insurance. The move follows Chubb's recent appointment of two veteran hull underwriters in London. The underwriters will review submissions on a worldwide basis from Chubb's box at Lloyd's of London. Chubb will continue to provide insurance through its global branch network for ocean cargo, marine liability and an entire suite of inland marine products. "Chubb has been insuring ocean cargo since our founding in 1882 along New York City's seaport. Our expansion into hull insurance rounds out our marine portfolio at a time when world trade is booming. We can now bring a full complement of marine products to the international insurance marketplace," said Rich Soja, global manager, Chubb Marine Underwriters.

DaimlerChrysler Ins Co. Uses New Tool

Valley Oak Systems Inc., a unit of Aon Corporation and a provider of insurance technology solutions, announced that DaimlerChrysler Insurance Company has implemented Valley Oak's iVOS system as its "one-system" claims management solution. DaimlerChrysler Insurance Company (DCIC) is a specialty insurance company offering property and casualty insurance programs to automobile dealerships. "We have two primary lines of business -- one for our car dealerships and another for other insurance programs. Previously, these businesses required two separate claims systems and two separate IT teams to support," said Stephanie Sackfield, manager of insurance systems and support services at DCIC. "By moving to iVOS, we have now integrated our two businesses onto a single solution, enabling streamlined operations, simpler system maintenance, and one centralized data repository." The iVOS claims system offers a wide array of system capabilities to assist adjusters in processing claims, including diary, scheduling, document imaging, workflow management, and automation tools. The system can be customized to meet an organization's specific claims-management needs.

Del. Commissioner Says No to Aetna Decision

Delaware Cancer Consortium Chairman William Bowser and Delaware Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn recently called upon self-insured companies in Delaware that use Aetna to administer their employees’ health insurance benefits to reject Aetna’s recent decision to forbid doctors from using their medical judgment when administering anesthesia during colonoscopies. Bowser and Commissioner Denn said that Aetna’s actions, if left unchecked, would harm the state’s efforts to reduce cancer mortality because Aetna’s policy may discourage people from getting colonoscopies. Denn said that he has confirmed that the State of Delaware has already informed Aetna that the state rejected Aetna’s decision for State of Delaware employees whose benefits are administered by Aetna. “Whether or not what Aetna did was legally defensible, it was short-sighted and harmful to our state’s cancer prevention efforts,” said Denn, who was an original member of the state’s cancer task force before becoming insurance commissioner. “Many of Aetna’s customers are self-insured, so Mr. Bowser and I are encouraging other self-insured employers to follow the state’s example and reject this new barrier to cancer prevention.” Many companies and organizations are “self-insured,” meaning that they pay the actual costs of medical care for their employees, though they often have insurance company act as the administrator of the plan. Most large companies are self-insured, as is state government. Among the Delaware companies that use Aetna to administer their self-insured health benefits are Dupont, Avon, Computer Science Corporation, and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Denn also said that if Aetna’s decision was not reversed, he would ask the General Assembly to consider taking remedial action when it returns to work in March.

Kentucky to Receive Storm Aid

The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster aid has been made available for the commonwealth of Kentucky to help people and communities recover from the effects of severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding during the period of Feb. 5-6. FEMA Administrator David Paulison said the assistance was authorized under a major disaster declaration issued for the commonwealth by President Bush. Paulison said that the President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Allen, Christian, Fayette, Hardin, Hart, Meade, Mercer, Monroe, and Muhlenberg counties. The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance. Federal funding also is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for all counties within the commonwealth.

Fla. Man Arraigned for Comp Fraud

A Florida man has been arraigned on charges he schemed to collect $27,489 in workers’ compensation benefits while continuing to work. Douglas Poole, 47, was charged with Workers’ Compensation Fraud (3 counts) and Larceny Over $250 (1 count). On Sept. 14, 1992, Poole, then employed by the construction company A. Paul Etre Builders, was injured in a fall sustained at work. He applied for and began receiving workers’ comp benefits through the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) from September1992 through May 2006. According to authorities, Poole, formerly of Spencer, Mass. and current resident of Spring Hill, Fla., allegedly collected workers’ comp benefits while continuing to operate and work at his own construction company, Construction Unlimited, on separate occasions over a three year period from October 2002 through November 2005. On April 10, 2003, Poole reportedly submitted an Employee Earning Report (E.E.R.) for the time period from October 2002 to April 2003 to DIA stating that he was entitled to benefits and earned no other wages. An investigation by the Insurance Fraud Bureau revealed that Poole was allegedly paid $2,907 from the town of Spencer for snowplowing services rendered during this time period in which he reported to the DIA that he was not working. A subsequent report submitted by Poole to DIA on Nov. 13, 2005, for the time period of May 1, 2003, to Nov. 1, 2003, reportedly claimed that he was entitled to benefits and earned no other wages. During this time period, Poole was allegedly paid $3,000 for a roofing contract for his construction company Construction Unlimited. Poole reportedly issued an additional report to DIA on Nov. 14, 2005, reporting that from the time period from Nov. 1, 2004, to May 1, 2005, that he was entitled to benefits and earned no other wages. According to authorities, Poole allegedly earned $10,319 for a roofing contract for his company Construction Unlimited at a private residence. The alleged fraud was initially detected by Liberty Mutual and reported to the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts (IFB) on Jan. 30, 2006. This case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office on Nov. 13, 2006. A Grand Jury returned indictments against Poole on July 12, 2007. On Feb. 13, 2008, Poole was arrested in Florida, on a default warrant and transported to Massachusetts. At this week's arraignment, Poole entered a plea of not guilty and was ordered held on $30,000 bail. He is due back in court on April 3, 2008, for a pretrial hearing.

Nevada Earthquake Yields Damage, Injuries

An early morning earthquake on Thursday in northeastern Nevada brought damage to properties and some injuries, but no fatalities have been reported to date. The quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey said registered 6.3, occured near the town of Wells, Nev. and was felt as far away as Salt Lake City, Utah (some 150 miles away). In Wells, a pair of historical buildings reportedly suffered a great deal of structural damage, along with a casino. The quake happened shortly after 7 a.m. local time. Nev. Gov. Jim Gibbons was to visit the area this afternoon to inspect the damage.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Indonesia Earthquake Kills at Least 3

An earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.6 rocked the northern tip of Sumatra Island in Indonesia on Wednesday, killing three and injuring at least 25 people. Injuries resulted from people being struck by collapsed buildings. The death toll is expected to rise and communications are down in much of the area. No tsunamis were reported as a result of the quake, which some reports are saying was closer to 7.5 in magnitude. Indonesia is located in the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," one of the top seismically active regions in the world.

Minn. Bridge Collapse Funds Flow

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced that the amount available in near-term relief for victims of the I-35W bridge collapse is increasing from $10,000 to $20,000 per claimant. The increase is based on the amount of funds available after initial claims were processed. In November, the Governor and the co-chairs of the Joint House-Senate Subcommittee on Claims, Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) and Rep. Dennis Ozment (R-Rosemount), announced the availability of up to $1 million in existing state tort claim funds to individuals who lost wages as a result of the collapse of the I-35W Bridge on Aug. 1, 2007. Spouses of those killed in the collapse are also eligible to apply for funds. More than $70,000 from the “I-35W Emergency Hardship Relief Fund” has been paid to 13 claimants, four of whom received the previous maximum of $10,000. Payments of $20,000 will now be available per claimant and will continue to be based on lost wages due to physical injury or death. The Governor’s Office and legislators continue to work on a plan for consideration during the 2008 legislative session to create a special victims fund that would provide additional support for victims of the bridge collapse and their families. Individuals seeking funds from “I-35W Emergency Hardship Relief Fund” have been and will use the existing claims process that involves the Department of Administration’s Risk Management Division and their claims adjusters to process claims. The Risk Management Division is notifying victims regarding the increased amount. Payments from the I-35W Emergency Hardship Relief Fund would not be an admission of any liability and would not be admissible in any adjudicatory proceeding. Payments would be offset against any future recovery from the State.

La. Gov. Updates Dangers to FEMA Trailers

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has released the following statement in response to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) announcement that they have discovered high levels of formaldehyde in FEMA trailers in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast:

“Almost a year ago, I called for congressional hearings to investigate whether Gulf Coast hurricane victims were allowed to live in FEMA trailers and mobile homes with dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. I directly asked FEMA Administrator David Paulison why it took the agency more than a year to act on the complaints they had received from residents suffering from health problems in these trailers. “It is simply inexcusable for FEMA to have a one to two year delay in addressing the serious health issues of these men and women along the Gulf Coast who have already suffered from the devastation of the 2005 hurricanes. When the health of our people and our children and our families is at stake we cannot afford to wait, we cannot decide that we have to do more studies and conduct further analysis. The federal government must act. “FEMA’s announcement today that trailer residents should leave as soon as possible and especially before the ‘weather warms up’ in the summer and further increases formaldehyde levels is serious and it should be taken seriously by everyone. However, the incredible delay in taking this action has most likely elevated the negative health impact of high formaldehyde levels on trailer residents and this reality should be met with an aggressive response. “I am calling on the federal government to fulfill its obligation to Gulf Coast residents living in emergency housing and address the effects of their prolonged exposure to high levels of formaldehyde. The contamination of these FEMA trailers is no longer in question. Now it is time for the federal government to act and ensure residents living in these trailers are given the medical treatment they may need. “I am also calling on the federal government to provide more details on its plan to relocate these up to 36,000 residents currently living in emergency housing along the Gulf Coast. It is imperative that there is a system in place that not only provides the necessary funding for these individuals to afford alternative housing, but also works to coordinate their move and immediately connect them to housing options. The federal government must provide adequate housing and medical treatment as soon as possible. These people have already been the victims of a natural disaster, and now they are the victims of a manmade disaster.“The time for studies, research, disagreement and debate is over. Now it is time to provide the residents of these trailers and temporary homes with the medical attention they need and the alternative housing they require. Nothing short of aggressive and immediate action is acceptable.”

British Assoc. Reveals Customer Survey

The ABI (Association of British Insurers) has published the results of the Customer Impact Survey 2007-08. The Survey, which measures customer satisfaction with and experience of the life insurance, pensions and investment industry, is now in its second full year, with 32 companies and almost 20,000 customers taking part. The latest results show that overall satisfaction with the long-term insurance industry remains high, with 85 percent of consumers stating that their provider ‘treats customers fairly.’ A majority of people, 53 percent, agreed that the industry has an excellent reputation, up from 48 percent last year. But room for improvement remains, in particular on complaints handling. While only 3 percent had cause to complain to their provider, 57 percent of these felt that their complaint had been handled poorly. “Despite the fact that this year’s Customer Impact Survey was carried out at a time of economic uncertainty, when consumer confidence overall had dipped, the results show that the insurance industry is making some progress in improving customer experiences. The industry recognises that Customer Impact Scheme is a long-term undertaking and that it will take time for the full effect of the industry’s work to be seen," said Maggie Craig, ABI director of Life and Savings.

Mass. Unveils Site for Auto Information

Massachusetts has launched a Web site that allows consumers to compare sample auto insurance premiums, helping them find the best deals as the state’s new managed competition system shifts into high gear. February marks the start of the policy renewal process and, for the first time in 30 years, auto insurers can now offer lower rates to good drivers, more product choices and better services. The Division of Insurance estimates that responsible drivers across Massachusetts can save at least 10 percent on their 2008 auto insurance premiums. Available at www.mass.gov/autorates, the Division of Insurance portal shows consumers the range of prices and discounts they may qualify for and tells them how to contact insurance companies and agents directly for quotes. Consumers can generate a list of sample premiums by providing their zip code, number of years licensed, the type of vehicle they drive, their driving records and coverage levels.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chubb Unveils New Filmmaking Policy

A new film producers risk policy from the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies (www.chubb.com) addresses the enormous advances in filmmaking during the past decade. The policy helps pay for the additional costs to complete a production when it is interrupted or has to be re-shot as a result of specific causes. And unlike traditional film policies, which reportedly insure certain losses only through principal photography, Chubb's Film Producers Risk policy extends protection through post production.

Among the additional costs that are insured by the new policy are those that are caused by:

  • Loss or damage to any medium or device used to record or store sounds or images;
  • Damage to property used in the production;
  • Mechanical breakdown of equipment, animatronics, boats, aircraft, etc.;
  • Illness or injury of cast members or their immediate family;
  • Loss of power, communication or other utilities or services; and
  • Seizure or quarantine of property by government or military authority.

The policy also protects against the cost of repairing or replacing lost or damaged property, including production equipment, props, sets, wardrobe and animals, and the producer's legal liability for damage to property of others.

Available for producers of feature films, television, commercials, music videos, educational or corporate films, the policy features enhancements such as:

  • Cast insurance without age or childhood disease exclusions;
  • A blanket limit for undeclared cast or crew members;
  • Insurance for damage to media from X-rays, magnetic fields or temperature extremes; and
  • Insurance for losses caused by malicious computer programming.