Wednesday, April 30, 2008

California DA's Note Settlement Against 3 Insurers

District attorneys in three counties, including Los Angeles, announced a settlement of consumer protection lawsuits alleging unfair competition by Metropolitan Life Insurance, Prudential Insurance Co. and Unum Insurance Co.

In the civil actions filed against the three insurance industry giants, it was alleged the firms paid a San Diego-based brokerage firm unlawful undisclosed rebates to encourage big businesses to sign with their firms.

“The undisclosed payments that diverted business to the defendants deprived the insurance companies’ corporate customers of the benefits of fair competition,” said District Attorney Steve Cooley, who joined with San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff in the civil actions filed in San Diego.

MetLife, based in New York; Prudential, based in New Jersey; and Unum, based in Maine, agreed to injunctive terms requiring that the insurers disclose contingent payments to independent brokers. The companies entered into the separate settlements without admission of wrongdoing. All three worked cooperatively with the district attorneys’ offices.

Terms of the settlements include payment for $1.1 million in civil costs and penalties, which will be divided among the three District Attorneys’ offices to cover costs of the civil actions. MetLife agreed to pay $500,000; Prudential, $350,000; and Unum, $250,000.

RIMS Unveils Growth Model at Conference

The Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) released its Risk Management Professional Growth Model Tuesday at RIMS 2008 Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.
RIMS Quality Advisory Council developed the model as a way to assess various risk manager experience levels and corresponding skill sets, and to be used as a guide in professional development. The career tool is being distributed to all RIMS members starting in May will be made available as a benefit to new members.

"RIMS Risk Management Professional Growth Model was born from the need to improve quality in the risk management industry-starting with the risk practitioner," said Janice Ochenkowski, RIMS president and managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. "The model focuses on what the risk manager can do to improve personal skills and effectiveness, thereby directly benefiting employers, the overall risk management industry and one's desire to grow professionally."

The new career tool provides risk practitioners with a roadmap of the characteristics and skills needed to better define the roles a risk manager and identify what tools can be leveraged in order to improve performance and advance one's knowledge base and career-from entry through executive. A combination of vital communication, business and strategic risk management skills, along with management and leadership skills are outlined in the grid. The information falls into four categories, including abilities and knowledge; skills and attributes; tools; and distinguishing features.

RIMS Risk Management Professional Growth Model also serves to support employers in writing risk management job descriptions and hiring, as well as evaluating employees and risk departments. Ultimately, the tool offers a set of guidelines that allow risk managers to take control of managing and assessing performance excellence and career planning.

Arkansas Residents Reminded of Rebuilding Permits

Before considering new construction and repairs of flood-damaged property, Arkansas residents are urged to consult local building officials to obtain the necessary permits.

"Obtaining building permits is especially important for those with homes or businesses located within a FEMA-mapped floodplain," said State Coordinating Officer Richard Griffin of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). "Residents rebuilding after recent floods need to know that building permits are based on local codes and ordinances that are enforced locally, not by FEMA."

Floodplain development permits cannot be waived, and local governments cannot reduce or ignore the floodplain requirement. Permits are required for work on removing or replacing the roof, walls, siding, wallboard, plaster, insulation, paneling, cabinets, flooring, electrical system, plumbing, and heating or air conditioning. Repair projects must meet community building codes and flood-damage prevention ordinances.

  • Permits assure residents and communities that all proposed work complies with current codes, standards, flood ordinances and recommended construction techniques;

  • Permits that include an elevation certificate can provide a permanent record of compliance with elevation, and/or retrofitting requirements, which is useful information when selling your home and necessary for the flood insurance rating;

  • Local permit offices can provide suggestions or literature on how to protect your home or business from future disaster-related damages;

  • Local permit offices may provide consumers with information on selecting licensed contractors and with advice on protecting themselves from unscrupulous contractors;

Residents are asked to start construction and repair only after they have received permits from their local community. Repairs begun without proper permits may be subject to stop work orders, fines and penalties.

CSC, Zurich Ink Technology Deal

Computer Sciences Corporation has signed an information technology (IT) desktop services outsourcing contract expanding the scope of services CSC provides to Zurich Financial Services Group (Zurich). The new agreement has a six-year base period at an estimated value of $399 million with a two-year extension option.

Under the contract, CSC will assume responsibility for the provision of Zurich's electronic Workplace (eWP) desktop services to its businesses in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Spain. The scope includes global service desk, local on-site support, and software packaging and distribution to approximately 51,000 users.

The eWP service will provide Zurich with the cost and performance benefits of a globally standardised desktop service environment while allowing organizations within Zurich to tailor services specifically to their business needs and locations.

CSC's relationship with Zurich began in July 2004 when they signed a landmark seven-year global IT applications outsourcing contract. Through the agreement, CSC provides all applications development and support services to Zurich's businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany.

Farmers Insurance Opens Virginia Office for Temp Claims

Farmers Insurance has opened a temporary claims location to help customers victimized by the tornadoes and severe storms that swept through southeastern Virginia Monday.

Farmers customers who have suffered damage from the storms should call the 24-hour Farmers HelpPoint number at: 1-800-HelpPoint (1-800-435-7764).

To further assist customers, Farmers Insurance has opened a claims location at an evacuation center in Suffolk. Farmers customers needing additional help, can go to: Kings Fork High School, 351 Kings Fork Road, Suffolk, Va., 23434.

In addition, Foremost Insurance customers who have damage should file their claim by calling: 800-527-3907.

Our claims team has been on the ground assisting Farmers customers shortly after the storms and tornadoes hit southeastern Virginia, said Riko Metzroth, Farmers Virginia State executive director and vice president. We are working as quickly as possible to help customers with their claims and begin the process of getting those impacted back where they belong in their homes.

Quake Hits Northern California; No Serious Injuries

A 5.2 earthquake struck Northern California Tuesday evening not far from the town of Willow Creek. There were no reports of injuries or damages as of Tuesday night.

The quake hit shortly after 8 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and was reportedly felt in the San Francisco area, which is some 300 miles away.

Montana Auditor Files Brief for Consumers

Montana State Auditor John Morrison recently filed a “friend of the court” brief in a United States Supreme Court case involving worker rights under group health and disability insurance. The brief was filed on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners at Morrison’s request.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case -- Met Life v. Wanda Glen -- to address a question that has divided the U.S. courts of appeal: whether insurance companies that deny group health or disability insurance claims should be given deference by courts reviewing the claim denial, or whether such insurers are operating under a "conflict of interest" that precludes deference. The issue involves interpretation of the expansive and complicated federal law known as ERISA.

"Our position is that insurance companies evaluating claims that they will have to pay always have a conflict of interest," Morrison said. "Their denials definitely should not be given more weight than the evidence of workers and their employers that claims should be paid."

Glenn was an injured worker who filed for benefits under her employer-sponsored disability income insurance plan. The plan contained a "discretionary clause" that has been construed as creating a presumption that the insurer's claim denial was correct.

The case raises questions related closely to the discretionary clause issues decided by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy recently in Standard Insurance v. Morrison. The Standard case involved the authority of the insurance commissioner to remove the discretionary clauses that create the presumption in favor of an insurer that denies a claim. The Met Life case asks whether, when the discretionary clause has not been removed by an insurance commissioner, the presumption should still be given at all to insurance companies that have a conflict of interest because they are both deciding and paying claims.

ERISA law professor Mark Debofsky of Chicago said the insurance commissioner brief should be given great weight by the high Court. "I think the Court will be very interested in what the nation's insurance regulators say on this issue," he said. "It's a strong brief that addresses an issue that affects millions of Americans."

Briefing in the case should be completed soon and the case may be argued this year.

CDI Issues Legal Opinion for Homeowners

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that the California Department of Insurance (CDI) has issued a legal opinion supporting homeowners' rights to purchase an already built home at a new location using replacement cost insurance coverage and to replace a home in a new location using an extended or guaranteed replacement cost policy.

The legal opinion, formally issued at the request of San Diego Councilmember Brian Maienschein, clarifies current California law and serves as notice to insurers that CDI expects homeowners' rights to be honored.

"Homeowners should know they have legally protected options when putting their lives back together during a very difficult and taxing time," stated Poizner. "After a disaster, homeowners have an absolute right to re-establish their lives elsewhere if they so desire - either by rebuilding their homes or buying other homes."

CDI's legal opinion clarifies the application of California Insurance Code Section 2051.5(c), which was enacted in 2004 by Assembly Bill 2199 (Kehoe), part of the CDI-sponsored Homeowner Bill of Rights born from lessons learned in the 2003 Southern California wildfires.

CDI's response letter, an official document that communicates CDI's position but does not constitute an agency guideline, order, or rule, clarifies that:

  1. Homeowners can use their replacement cost insurance coverage to purchase an already built home at a new location; and
  2. Homeowners are entitled to the "extended" or "guaranteed" portion of their replacement cost policies to rebuild in a new location; and
  3. Homeowners purchasing a home at a new location for less than the cost to rebuild at the original location may only recover replacement costs reasonably paid to replace the damaged property.

This legal opinion is another step in CDI's efforts to protect the interests of wildfire survivors. Thus far, CDI has assisted in recovering more than $4.3 million on behalf of Southern Californians trying to rebuild after the 2007 firestorms. CDI staff was part of the initial disaster response, protecting property in the fire zones and staffing disaster assistance centers. CDI staff has hosted or participated in approximately two dozen insurance recovery forums, townhalls and workshops, in addition to counseling more than 150 survivors in one-on-one sessions scheduled with the assistance of consumer advocacy groups.

As of mid-April, CDI has received 154 fire-related complaints from San Diego County; it has received 237 such complaints from Southern California fire survivors. As of late March in Southern California, 39,000 residential and commercial claims have been submitted to the insurance industry. 1,866 claims have been for totally destroyed properties. Insurers have paid-out $1.7 billion so far, and 4,105 claims are pending.

Florida Holds Hearing on Reinsurance Companies

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) on Tuesday held a public hearing to ask for input on a draft rule that would implement 2007 legislation giving the insurance commissioner discretion to allow unaccredited reinsurance companies to conduct business in Florida without having to post 100 percent collateral.

The public hearing follows a Nov. 26 workshop and is the next step in the rule implementation process the Office is undertaking as part of its continuing effort to find alternative approaches to improving Florida's property insurance market.

In early 2007, the Florida Legislature passed a law (624.610(3)(e) F.S.) that gives the insurance commissioner the ability to establish lower collateral requirements for foreign reinsurers that are highly rated and financially sound. The Office is exploring whether this may lead to more reinsurance capacity to increase the supply of insurance in the Florida market.

"It is important for Florida that highly capitalized, well regulated foreign reinsurers be allowed to conduct business with Florida insurers without requiring them to post millions of dollars in collateral," said Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty. "It will lead to increased capital and competition in our state, and it will help to stabilize and potentially reduce property insurance rates."

When an insurance company buys reinsurance from a reinsurer authorized or accredited in Florida, the insurer gets a favorable accounting credit. U.S.-licensed and Florida-accredited reinsurers do not have to post collateral under current law.

Reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies. In the property insurance market, it is purchased to cover catastrophic losses that exceed what the company could pay out on its own. The cost of reinsurance is one component included in the cost to the homeowner of a property insurance policy.

For an insurer to get favorable accounting credit for reinsurance purchased from an unaccredited reinsurer, even if the unaccredited reinsurer is worth billions of dollars and is well regulated, the reinsurer has traditionally been required to post collateral for the full amount of the risk transferred. This collateral requirement is a barrier to investment by foreign reinsurers in the Florida market.

Following review of comments from Tuesday’s public hearing, the rule will next be presented to the Florida Cabinet for final approval. No date has yet been set for that presentation.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mississippi Makes 13 Home Repair Fraud Arrests

Thirteen arrests have been made recently in home repair fraud cases, announced Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Those arrested between April 16-22, 2008 (in no particular order) for reported fraud are:

• Joshua Michael Hutchison, age 24, of Pearl River, LA. Arrested on April 17, 2008 for Misdemeanor Home Repair Fraud and Felony Embezzlement. Hutchison was booked at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center. He posted a $6,000 bond and was released.

• Chris Columbus Broom, age 45, McComb, MS. Arrested on April 16, 2008 by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics on Felony Home Repair Fraud. Broom is in the Marion County Jail. No bond has been set as of this date.

• Arley Stephen Floyd, age 58, Bay St. Louis, MS. Arrested on April 16, 2008 on Felony Home Repair Fraud. Floyd was booked into the Hancock County Jail under a $10,000 bond. Floyd posted bond and was released.

• Marvin E. White, age 65, Pass Christian, MS. Arrested on April 16, 2008 on Felony Home Repair Fraud and bond was set at $2,500. White was booked into the Hancock County Jail under a $2,500 bond, which he posted and was released.

• Kurt Alan Larson, age 28, Forest City, IA. Arrested on April 17, 2008 on Felony Home Repair Fraud and Felony Conspiracy to Commit Home Repair Fraud. Larson was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Facility under a $50,000 bond. Larson posted bond and was released.

• Jeffrey Casey Writer, age 41, Long Beach, MS. Arrested on April 17, 2008 on Felony False Pretense. Writer was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Facility under a $20,000.00 bond. Writer is still in Harrison County Jail at this time. The investigation was worked by the State Auditor’s Office, The affidavit and warrant was obtained by the Attorney General’s Office for the Auditor’s Office, the arrest was made by investigators with both the Attorney General’s Office and the Auditor’s Office.

• Charles Edward Carter, age 41, of Gulfport. Arrested April 16, 2008 for Felony Home Repair Fraud. Bond was set at $20,000. Carter was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center, where he posted bond and was released.

• George Lee Bush, age 47, of Gulfport. Arrested April 16, 2008 for Felony Home Repair Fraud. Bond set at $20,000. Bush was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center, where he posted bond and was released.

• Michael Alvin Tinsley, age 36, of Gulfport. Arrested April 17, 2008 for Felony Home Repair Fraud. Tinsley was incarcerated in the Harrison County Adult Detention Center on unrelated charges and will be given a bond when released from his current incarceration.

• Joe T. Sells, age 45, living in Gulfport, after moving from Florida after Hurricane Katrina. Arrested April 17, 2008 on three counts of Felony Home Repair Fraud. Sells was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center. Sells posted his bond ($20,000 on one charge, $50,000 on one charge and $50,000 on one charge) and was released.

• Kenneth Hyson, age 49, of Biloxi. Arrested on April 17, 2008 on a charge of Misdemeanor Home Repair Fraud. Hyson was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center. His bond was set at $1,000. Hyson was released after posting his bond.

• Ellis L. Haskin, Jr., age 56, of Gulfport. Arrested on April 18, 2008 for Felony Home Repair Fraud. Haskin was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center and released on a $10,000 bond.

• Thomas Dale Reeder, age 45, of Wiggins. Arrested on April 19, 2008 by the Stone County Sheriff’s Office, at the request of the Attorney General’s Office. Reeder was transported by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office and taken to the Hancock County Booking Office on the charge of Felony Home Repair Fraud. Bond was set at $10,000.

“As long as there are victims of home repair fraud on our Coast, we will keep rounding the defendants up and prosecuting them,” said Hood. “These are just a few of those on our most wanted list. The days are numbered for those remain on the lam. I would like to say a special thanks to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the State Auditor’s Office and the Stone County Sheriff’s Office for their work in some of these cases.”

Missouri Flood Aid Winding Down

Families, individuals and businesses in Missouri that have suffered damage from the mid-March severe storms and flooding have less than one month to register for help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Deadline for registering for FEMA assistance in the 35 counties declared for Individual Assistance is May 27, 2008. To register or to check the status of an existing registration, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech- and hearing-impaired. Online, go to www.fema.gov.

May 27 is also the deadline to submit loan applications to the SBA. While no one is required to take out an SBA loan, applications are a key part of the FEMA application process. A loan denial may open up other assistance to eligible applicants.

Registration for FEMA assistance must be done separately from registering for aid from any other organization. Don't let anyone discourage you from registering. Register even if you have insurance.

To date, FEMA has approved more than $10.25 million in aid to disaster victims, while the SBA has approved more than $2.94 million in disaster loans to homeowners, renters, and businesses.

Those with questions about SBA loans are encouraged to visit any Disaster Loan Outreach Center (DLOC) opening this week in the disaster-affected areas:

The DLOC for Franklin County opens Monday, April 28, at 1516 W. St. Louis St., Pacific, MO 63069. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The DLOC for Cape Girardeau County opens Monday, April 28, at 502E W. Main St., Jackson, MO, 63755. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The DLOC for Wayne County opens Wednesday, April 30, at Piedmont City Hall, 115 W. Green St., Piedmont, MO 63957. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

SBA representatives at the DLOCs are able to provide loan applications, answer questions, explain the application process, and help individuals complete their disaster loan applications. For more, visit www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.

NAIC Commends NCSL Support of State Regulation

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recognizes the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for their commitment to state-based insurance regulation and important consumer-protection measures.

At their Spring Forum, NCSL members approved adoption of the Resolution in Opposition to S. 40/H.R. 3200 – the National Insurance Act of 2007. The resolution opposes the National Insurance Act, as well as any other such federal legislation that would threaten the power of state legislatures, governors, insurance regulators and attorneys general to oversee, regulate and investigate the business of insurance.

“State legislators and regulators want to set the record straight,” said NAIC President and Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. “We provide local, proven consumer protection. And, by working together, we have continued to improve, enhance and modernize the state-based system of insurance regulation.”

Also during the Spring Forum, NCSL renewed two policy statements designed to protect consumers. “Insurance Fraud: Federal Criminalization” supports federal criminalization of insurance fraud, but maintains that prosecution should remain within the jurisdiction of the states. “Equal Access to FBI Criminal History Records” supports state insurance regulator access to the FBI criminal database information consistent with other federal and state financial regulators.

Safeco Insurance Foundation Notes $1.1M in Grants

The Safeco Insurance Foundation announced a $500,000 signature grant to Seattles Asian Counseling and Referral Service, part of a series of new grants to nonprofits whose work contributes to making Puget Sound communities healthy and inclusive.

In all, the grants total $1.1 million. They were announced on the diamond at Safeco Field on Saturday, April 26 before the Seattle Mariners game. The crowd included an estimated 6,000 Safeco employees and their families for Safecos Employee Appreciation Night.

The grant to the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) will support the campaign to build a new facility in Seattles Rainier Valley, allowing the agency to better serve its growing number of Asian-Pacific American clients with human services and behavioral health programs.

Asian Counseling and Referral Service is extremely grateful to Safeco for its belief in our abilities to save and improve lives through the holistic range of safety net services we provide to more than 22,000 clients a year, said Diane Narasaki. Safecos grant gets us very close to the finish line in our $19.1 million capital campaign, and allows us to complete construction on our new home in the Rainier Valley.

Virginia Anderson, president of the Safeco Insurance Foundation added, The Asian Counseling and Referral service has an amazing track record in serving the needs of our immigrant, refugee and American-born Asian-Pacific populations. The agencys 35 years of success merit our entire communitys support for its mission.

Last week, Boston-based Liberty Mutual Group announced plans to purchase Safeco. In light of that announcement, Anderson reaffirmed that the Safeco Insurance Foundation is committed to continuing its philanthropic activities in the Northwest. We look forward to supporting our partner organizations and continuing the work of the Foundation for years to come, said Anderson.

The Foundation also announced four additional grants to Seattle-area agencies that contribute to a diverse Puget Sound community through programming in such areas as education, the arts, human services and financial stability:

  • A $150,000 grant to the 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle in support of its Downstairs at the 5th capital campaign.
  • A grant of $110,000 to Islandwood, based on Bainbridge Island which seeks to provide exceptional learning experiences and inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship.
  • A grant of $100,000 to the King County Low Income Credit Union. The credit union provides affordable financial services to low- and moderate-income people in King County, helping them build assets and achieve financial stability.
  • A $200,000 grant to Seattles Technology Access Foundation, which prepares underserved children of color for higher education and professional success.

Chubb Captures '08 Claims Management Quality Award

The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies has received a 2008 Claims Management Quality Award from Greenwich Associates, an international research-based consulting firm in institutional financial services.

The award is based on a study of 714 risk managers that concluded that an insurance company's claim management process is a significant determinant of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Member insurers of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies form a multi-billion dollar organization providing property and casualty insurance for personal and commercial customers through 8,500 independent agents and brokers worldwide. Chubb's global network includes branches and affiliates throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia.

Texas Dept. Notes Enforcement Actions

The Texas Department of Insurance announced enforcement actions taken by Commissioner Mike Geeslin that became final during March. The actions include five license revocations, four license denials and fines and restitution totaling $130,400.

Copies of Geeslin’s orders may be obtained by contacting TDI’s Public Information Office. Only final orders are listed. An order imposing disciplinary measures becomes final 20 days after the agent or insurance company has received notice of the order unless a motion for rehearing is filed within that period. A motion for rehearing stays the finality of an order until the Commissioner of Insurance acts upon the motion or upon the operation of law. Commissioner's orders are subject to appeal to state district court.

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE

FINAL DISCIPLINARY ORDERS MARCH 2008

American Standard Lloyd's Insurance Company of Dallas
Order Number: 080262
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $15,000 fine
Violation: Failed to file credit scoring model with TDI


Bham, Yaqub Dawood of Houston
Order Number: 080230
Date of Order: 3/17/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $1,500 fine; Must complete 30 hours of continuing education
Violation: Failed to comply with continuing education requirements


Blincoe, Donna L. of Beaumont
Order Number: 080267
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: Insurance Adjuster License application denied
Violation: Felony conviction involving fraud and dishonesty


Caballero, Alexander Guadalupe of Dallas
Order Number: 080228
Date of Order: 3/14/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $1,500 fine; Must complete 30 hours of continuing education; General Life, Accident and Health License suspended for one year
Violation: Failed to comply with continuing education requirements


Cayton, Joe of Galena Park
Order Number: 080263
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $1,500 fine; Must complete 15 hours of continuing education
Violation: Failed to comply with continuing education requirements


Danziger, Jason Adam of Austin
Order Number: 080232
Date of Order: 3/17/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: General Property and Casualty License and General Life, Accident and Health License surrendered and canceled
Violation: Allegedly failed to notify TDI of an administrative action taken by a financial regulator


Dilbeck, Elizabeth Faye of Hughes Spring
Order Number: 080266
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: General Lines Property and Casualty Insurance Agent License denied
Violation: Engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices; Misdemeanor conviction


Fussell, Michael Gregory of Rowlett
Order Number: 080227
Date of Order: 3/14/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: General Property and Casualty License and General Life, Accident and Health and HMO License revoked
Violation: Engaged in dishonest acts or practices; Misappropriated or converted money belonging to an insurer or insured


Garcia, Esther of San Antonio
Order Number: 080231
Date of Order: 3/17/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $1,500 fine; Must complete 15 hours of continuing education
Violation: Failed to comply with continuing education requirements


Garza, Gary of Corpus Christi
Order Number: 080240
Date of Order: 3/20/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: Emergency Cease and Desist
Violation: Unauthorized insurance; Engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices


Gramercy Insurance Company of Dallas
Order Number: 080251
Date of Order: 3/24/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $50,000 fine
Violation: Made a loan to one of its officers/directors


Herrera, Tanya Zuniga of San Antonio
Order Number: 080233
Date of Order: 3/17/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: Limited Lines License application denied
Violation: Engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices; Made a material misrepresentation on a license application


Landsberg, Phillip of Euless
Order Number: 080182
Date of Order: 3/5/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $2,400 restitution
Violation: Failed to comply with Commissioner’s Order


Lewis, Georgia Faye of Houston
Order Number: 080234
Date of Order: 3/17/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $1,500 fine; Must complete 30 hours of continuing education
Violation: Failed to comply with continuing education requirements


Peal, Danna Kay of Rowlett
Order Number: 080268
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: County Mutual Agent License revoked
Violation: Allegedly engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices


Randall, Billie L. of Plano
Order Number: 080252
Date of Order: 3/24/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: General Life, Accident and Health License revoked
Violation: Engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices; Criminal acts involving fraud and dishonesty


Reaume, David George of New Braunfels
Order Number: 080249
Date of Order: 3/21/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: Insurance Adjuster License revoked
Violation: Engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices


Startex Title Company of Sugarland
Order Number: 080183
Date of Order: 3/5/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $45,000 fine
Violation: Allegedly made a material misrepresentation on a license application; Allegedly made false statements on an application; Allegedly made improper payments


Stokes, Karen J. of Lubbock
Order Number: 080269
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: Funeral Prearrangement Life Insurance License application denied
Violation: Engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices; Made a material misrepresentation on a license application


Taylor, Dana Ann of Houston
Order Number: 080264
Date of Order: 3/26/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $3,000 fine; Must complete 30 hours of continuing education
Violation: Failed to comply with continuing education requirements


The Insurance Company of The State of Pennsylvania of Harrisburg, PA
Order Number: 080194
Date of Order: 3/7/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: $7,500 fine
Violation: Failed to pay independent review organization fees on a timely basis


Trevino, Blanca O. of Weslaco
Order Number: 080226
Date of Order: 3/14/2008
Order Final In: March
Action Taken: General Property and Casualty License revoked
Violation: Engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts or practices; Misappropriated or converted money belonging to an insurer or insured.

Property Inspections Key During Arkansas Recovery

Property inspections are a necessity for Arkansas residents rebuilding following recent severe storms, tornadoes and flooding according to officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM).

Registering with FEMA for disaster assistance triggers a series of actions leading to an inspection of your property by a FEMA contract inspector.

Once registered, homeowners and renters referred to FEMA’s Individual Assistance program should hear from an inspector within 7- 10 days. The inspectors will schedule an appointment with the applicant. If an applicant has evacuated from his/her home and is unable to meet an inspector at the property, arrangements can be made for someone else to accompany the inspector.

Inspections are conducted by companies under contract to the government, and all FEMA representatives carry photo identification. Never give information to someone without seeing official identification. If in doubt, call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362. A FEMA inspector simply verifies and documents damages and does not make decisions about any benefits you may receive.

There is no charge for official inspections. Homeowners should show proof of ownership, and homeowners and renters should be able to prove occupancy. If insurance papers are available, residents should show them to the inspector.

The FEMA inspection process will include a search for structural damage of the building. The inspector will look at the foundation, roof, flooring, drywall and ceilings of the structure. The heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems also will be reviewed. The inspector will create a record of all disaster-related damages. A survey of damaged personal property, clothing and automobiles also may be conducted.

More than one inspection may be required, depending on the type of aid under consideration. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may require its own inspection before issuing a low-interest loan.

Missouri Agents Issued Cease and Desist Order

Missouri Department of Insurance Director Doug Ommen has issued a cease and desist order against Kevin Louderback, Springfield, and Justin Barnes, Battlefield, for their reported participation in a fraudulent health insurance scheme.

An investigation by the Consumer Affairs Division reportedly revealed Louderback and Barnes employed deception and forgery to take advantage of Missouri consumers, Mo HealthNet and two insurance companies.

The order states that Louderback and Barnes acted as representatives of Premier Financial Services and a non-profit corporation, Citizens for Aids Assistance and Prevention (CAAP & Associates) to enroll over 800 employees in a small business group plan through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company. A majority of enrollees were Medicaid-eligible and had applied for the Health Insurance Premium Payment Program (HIPP) to pay the health insurance premiums. The HIPP program determines if it is more cost effective for Mo HealthNet to purchase health insurance or pay straight Medicaid on medical claims.

The agents reportedly misrepresented the work hours of eligible employees and the amount of premium the employer would pay for each employee on their insurance application with UnitedHealthcare to obtain a small group health policy. Before submitting information to the HIPP plan for coverage, they reportedly artificially increased the premium rates charged by UnitedHealthcare to receive the entire premium (rather than only the employee’s share) and an unallowable broker’s fee (in some instances, more than double the UnitedHealthcare premium rate) from HIPP.

On March 29, 2007, HIPP reimbursed CAAP & Associates $537,847.75 for April 2007 insurance premiums, but the agents only owed $444,317.97 to UnitedHealthcare. To date, CAAP & Associates and the agents have not paid UnitedHealthcare the $444,317.97 owed for the health insurance premiums.

After United Healthcare became aware of the issue in the January 2007, company representatives performed an audit and terminated their contract with CAAP & Associates. Upon termination, Louderback and Barnes reportedly sent communication to employees stating a new policy with a different company had been put in place when, in fact, no new policy was in effect.

In an effort to obtain another small group plan with Coventry Insurance, the agents reportedly presented a letter from Mo HealthNet to The Coventry Group, which stated the HIPP program would continue to work with CAAP & Associates in the future for funding because of their excellent working relationship with them for the past two years.

The Consumer Affairs Division, Mo HealthNet Division and UnitedHealthcare worked to move all HIPP members back to the regular Mo HealthNet system as soon as possible in order for recipients to resume coverage of health care.

WeatherBill Inks New Deal with Nephila Capital

WeatherBill (www.weatherbill.com), an online weather risk management service, announced at the Risk and Insurance Manager's Society (RIMS) conference in San Diego that the company has signed a new Risk Capacity Agreement with Nephila Capital, extending the strategic partnership between the two companies.

Under the terms of the newly enhanced Risk Capacity Agreement, Nephila, a leading fund manager specializing in catastrophe reinsurance and weather risk, will continue to provide WeatherBill with risk capacity and collateral, via the Nimbus Weather Fund, to support weather coverage sold by WeatherBill.

"This important agreement allows us to continue to offer our clients evidence of strong financial backing as we grow our business and offer new innovative products to help companies manage the financial impact of bad weather," said David Friedberg, CEO of WeatherBill. "Over the past year, our strong relationship with Nephila Capital has allowed us to provide secure coverage to clients across industries, with individual exposures ranging from $1 to $100 million and more."

Barney Schauble, a Partner at Nephila Capital, said, "WeatherBill's unique online platform for managing weather risk has allowed businesses, large and small, to access this important coverage in a way not available before. We have been impressed by growth in the first year well in excess of our expectations and look forward to a long relationship with this exciting company."

This multi-year partnership involves the Nimbus Weather Fund continuing to collateralize the risk of all weather contracts sold by WeatherBill, placing cash in a Trust that may only be used to satisfy payout obligations to WeatherBill customers. Nephila is also a strategic investor in WeatherBill and maintains a seat on the company's Board of Directors.

New Tool Offered to Contain Pa. Workers' Comp Costs

In an effort to help Pennsylvania employers contain their workers' compensation exposure and control costs, the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Fried, Kane, Walters, Zuschlag and Grochmal has published The 2008 Employers' Guide to Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Law.

Designed to equip Pennsylvania employers with the tools necessary to control their increasing workers' comp costs, The 2008 Employers' Guide to Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Law provides a brief introduction to the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, discusses the employer's duties in reference to the workers' comp law, explains how a Pennsylvania workers' comp claim works, outlines the litigated workers' comp case, offers suggestions of cost effective strategies employers can use to handle a workers' comp issue, and discusses the remedies available to the employer to alter an injured worker's benefit status.

The 2008 Employers' Guide to Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Law is available on line at www.friedkanelaw.com or a hard copy can be obtained by calling Fried, Kane, Walters, Zuschlag and Grochmal at (412) 261-4774.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Canadian Province Injury Rates Remain Steady

In today’s economy, more people head home safely at the end of their workday because their employer makes time for safety—great news for workers and employers.

Even though Alberta’s workforce has increased by 6%, with nearly two million workers covered by workers’ compensation, injury rates have remained steady and show signs of dropping. Why? One reason is because approximately 7,500 companies have enrolled in the Partners in Injury Reduction (PIR) program—a voluntary program designed to encourage and reward employers for safe behaviour, and have obtained a Certificate of Recognition.

Being a member of the PIR program is not just a matter of completing a form; employers must improve their safety performance or be an industry leader to reap both human and financial reward.

PIR employers have met stringent Alberta safety standards. They have:

  • identified health and safety hazards
  • controlled measures to eliminate or reduce the risks from these hazards
  • clearly-stated company policy and management commitment
  • provided employee training
  • implemented an inspection program
  • communicated an emergency response plan, and the list goes on.

All of which take time, attention and resources but it’s worth it so Alberta employees can go home safely to their families.

This spring, employers registered in the PIR program have earned a share of a record $73.5 million in workers’ compensation premium rebates for their 2007 results.

Thanks to these employers and their committed employees, there are more Albertans working in a safe, healthy and strong Alberta.

Ohio Dept., BMV Team Up on Auto Information

As part of the Ohio Department of Insurance’s Auto Insurance Awareness Month, the Department of Insurance and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles are teaming up to inform consumers about the state’s minimum coverage requirements for automobile insurance.

“Many Ohioans think they can save money by purchasing only the bare minimum requirements,” said Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson. “While minimum coverage does cost less, Ohioans need to realize that auto insurance minimum requirements don’t always provide adequate coverage in the event of an accident.”

“Vehicle owners should also realize they need to carry insurance on all vehicles that are registered, including those that are inoperable,” added Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Registrar Mike Rankin. “Many people assume they can cancel the policy if the vehicle is not being driven.”

Ohio law requires drivers who purchase automobile insurance to demonstrate Financial Responsibility (FR) to have at least $12,500 of Bodily Injury or Death Liability Coverage per person ($25,000 for 2 or more persons), as well as $7,500 of Property Damage Liability Coverage for any one accident. However, many times accidents result in damages that exceed those minimum coverage limits. If the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits are exceeded, then the at-fault driver may be personally responsible to pay the difference not covered by the automobile insurance policy.

If the driver didn’t have the funds to pay for the damages, they could face legal action and long-term debts. If the driver’s child was driving a car that was underinsured and was in an accident, they too would be held responsible for any damages and could face significant debt. The driver and the driver’s family could end up paying for one accident for the rest of their life! The Department of Insurance and Bureau of Motor Vehicles strongly encourage consumers to talk with their insurance agent to discuss the risks of only getting the bare minimum levels of insurance.

The Department’s new Auto Insurance On-Line Toolkit, available at www.ohioinsurance.gov, provides guidance on auto insurance needs for different life stages, information on state minimum requirements and a list of frequently asked questions about auto insurance. There are also links to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Web site.

UPDATE: Virginia Storms Injure Many

Severe storms left more than 200 people injured in Virginia on Monday, with Gov. Tim Kaine declaring a state emergency

Reports say that the majority of injuries were in Suffolk, where a reported tornado destroyed a number of homes and businesses shortly before 4 p.m. EST. Another storm, which may have included a tornado, hit in the Colonial Heights area, near Richmond. Thousands of Virginia Dominion Power customers were reportedly without service following the storms.

A tornado warning over the area will remain in effect Monday evening.

Authorities Take Bite Out of California Restaurants

Officials with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (Labor Commissioner’s Office) issued 38 citations totaling more than $207,000 in fines to restaurants in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in a recent two-day enforcement sweep.

Teams of investigators conducted the sweeps of 39 restaurants in Riverside County and five in San Bernardino County. To request a complete list of the violations and businesses cited, email the Department of Industrial Relations at: Communications@dir.ca.gov.

Violations uncovered include failure to:

  • provide workers’ compensation insurance
  • provide itemized deductions,
  • pay minimum wage, and
  • secure permits for working minors (child labor).

Interboro Now Live with STGMastek Products

STGMastek, a P/C Insurance solution provider, has completed the deployment of its Renaissance Personal Auto ASP Service for Point of Sale, Policy Administration, Billing and Accounts Receivable and Claims functions to serve Interboro Insurance Company's New York Personal Auto needs. STGMastek is also in the process of deploying Reinsurance and Dashboard reporting along with the Homeowners product as part of phase II for Interboro's New York book of business, which is expected to go live in Q2, 2008.

Through this agreement, STGMastek's Renaissance Suite, in its ready to deploy ASP mode, will replace the current legacy system for Interboro's Personal Auto and Homeowners line of business in the State of New York. STGMastek is also responsible for all activities related to managing the application, making ongoing changes, help desk support, regulatory and statistical reporting. Interboro will reposition their products and overhaul their processing systems with the help of the Renaissance Suite.

Information about Interboro is available on their Web site at http://interboroinsurance.com/index.php .

TDI to Help Storm Victims

Texas consumers who suffered property damage in the recent severe weather outbreak should contact their insurance companies or agents to file claims as soon as possible. Filing a claim is the first step toward getting money for living expenses or to begin making repairs.

In general, homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for losses due to wind and hail, and in certain conditions, may provide coverage for losses due to wind–blown rain.

Consumers should make reasonable and necessary repairs to protect their home and property from further damage. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out, but do not make permanent repairs before a claims adjuster inspects the damage. Keep a record of all repair expenses and save receipts. Photograph the damage. Try to be present when the insurance adjuster inspects the damage.

Consumers with any questions or concerns about their insurance coverage are encouraged to contact the Texas Department of Insurance. Department staff is prepared to help consumers obtain prompt responses from their insurance carriers regarding claims and questions.

TDI offers the following consumer resources:

On the web: - http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/home/condisasterfaq.html#homefaq

(disaster assistance FAQs for consumers)

TDI Consumer Help Line:

1-800-252-3439 (general insurance questions, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
1-800-372-7713 (Division of Workers’ Compensation customer service)

1-800-252-7031 (Workers’ compensation claim assistance directed to the nearest Field Office).

Travelers Aviation Climbs With Added Capacity

Travelers Aviation is increasing its capacity to insure aircraft for hull coverage values up to $50 million. The new increase will allow Travelers to insure larger general aviation aircraft, including jets with international capabilities such as the Gulfstream 450/500/550, the Falcon 7X and the Bombardier Global Express.

Both Travelers Flight Plan PreferredSM and Travelers Flight Plan PremierSM policies will now have capacity to insure up to this new hull limit for eligible accounts.

In December 2007, Travelers introduced Flight Plan Preferred, its second aviation insurance policy, which is a flexible policy form providing aircraft hull and liability coverage designed for todays diverse general aviation fleet, including pleasure and business transportation, municipal aircraft accounts and commercial/charter operators. Travelers introduced Flight Plan Premier, an integrated hull and liability policy form designed to meet the needs of corporate flight departments, in May 2007 with the launch of its Aviation unit.

Travelers Aviation was introduced to provide coverage for U.S.-based aviation exposures through a licensed U.S. company.

Last month, Travelers Aviation announced that it now offers workers' compensation coverage for general aviation flight departments, including pilots, ground crew and administrative staff. The program supplements aircraft hull and liability policy forms for flight departments ranging from a single pilot to large departments.

Lexington Insurance Adds Capacity on SAFETY Policy

Lexington Insurance Company, an AIG company, has increased capacity to $50 million from $25 million for the limits of liability offered for Product Liability Insurance provided by its SAFETY Act Homeland Protector® policy. The company also increased capacity to $25 million from $15 million for the Professional Liability Insurance provided by SAFETY Act Homeland Protector® policy.

SAFETY Act Homeland Protector® provides product and professional liability coverage for companies developing and selling anti-terrorism products and technologies in accordance with the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002. The SAFETY Act provides important legal liability protections for providers of Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technologies whether they are products or services. The liability protections of the SAFETY Act require product and technology providers to obtain insurance that meets certain standards and characteristics, which the SAFETY Act Homeland Protector provides.

Due to the requests for increased limits which we receive from clients in the Department of Homeland Securitys designation or certification process, Lexington has raised its capacity to provide additional financial safeguard against risks when such products or technologies are deployed, said David Bresnahan, division and executive vice president, Lexington Insurance Company.

For more information on Lexingtons Safety Act Homeland Protector contact Rob Cruz, Homeland Security Practice Leader at 646-857-1436 or email: Robert.Cruz@aig.com.

Illinois Flood Aid Tops $8 Million

Federal officials have approved more than $8 million in grants and loans in Illinois for Iroquois and Livingston county residents who had damage from the severe storms and flooding Jan. 7 through March 14. However, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) officials stress that less than two weeks remains to apply for assistance.

To apply by the May 6 deadline, residents should call the FEMA Helpline at1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for speech- or hearing-impaired applicants. Both lines are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CDT).www.fema.gov. For individuals who have already applied, their cases will continue to be processed, but no new telephone or online applications will be accepted after the deadline.

Disaster recovery efforts through April 24 include:

  • Exactly 1,267 individuals (homeowners, renters and business owners) already have applied for assistance. (Iroquois County: 757 and Livingston County: 510)

  • More than $3.6 million ($3,661,745) in grants has been approved in housing assistance for 786 applicants to be used for temporary disaster housing or to help make disaster-damaged, uninsured homes safe, sanitary and functional.

  • A total of $719,362 in Other Needs Assistance (ONA) already is approved for 362 applicants to replace personal property and to help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

  • More than 238 home and business owners have returned their U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) application packets for low-interest loans. So far, the SBA has approved $3,656,800 for 95 low-interest loans.

  • May 6 also is the deadline for applicants who received SBA low-interest loan applications to complete and return the packet. If the SBA application is not returned, FEMA will not consider the applicant for other forms of federal assistance.

Farmers Insurance Assists California Fire Victims

Farmers Insurance claims personnel and agents are in the Sierra Madre and Southern California fire areas contacting Farmers customers to help them if they have been evacuated or suffered losses from the fires that struck this weekend.

The fires began on Saturday and have forced the evacuations of homeowners, however no injuries or deaths have been reported to date.

Farmers Senior Vice President, State Operations Steve Feely said, Our claims teams are in full operation throughout the fire areas helping our customers.

Farmers customers who have suffered damage from the storms should call the 24-hour Farmers HelpPoint number at:

1-800-HelpPoint (1-800-435-7764), for immediate assistance.

SmartDrive Systems Rides Into RIMS Conference

SmartDrive Systems Inc. will be participating at the 2008 Risk and Insurance Management Annual Conference in San Diego (April 27-May 1) exhibiting driver risk management solutions for fleets.

RIMS 2008 (www.rims.org) gathers more than 10,000 risk professionals over five days. The annual Conference and Exhibition will offer resources to help companies identify the critical issues facing risk professionals today, discover innovative ideas and solutions to optimize risk, acquire the skills and resources to become a risk management expert and cultivate and strengthen your network of contacts.

SmartDrive (www.smartdrive.net) is a featured exhibitor at the year's conference and their fleet risk and safety management team will be available at the expo to greet and educate all conference participants in Booth #938.

All attendees are invited to experience a demonstration of SmartDrive's Measured Safety Program(TM) proven to reduce risky driver behaviors by measuring and managing driver safety and improving loss control across customers' fleets. "SmartDrive's much-anticipated participation in the 2008 Annual Conference & Exhibition is going to be a unique experience for the 10,000 participating risk practitioners," said Greg Drew, SmartDrive System CEO. "SmartDrive's breakthrough solutions benefits risk management professionals of all levels, business executives with risk management interests, brokers, insurers and service providers. We are proud to announce our upcoming Summer '08 release featuring our SmartDriver Score(TM) which will fundamentally change the way fleets track and measure driver safety and bring customers the most comprehensive way to target and minimize driver risk."

The RIMS educational program and exhibition is designed to keep risk programs moving at the speed of light. There will be keynote presentations, thought-provoking sessions and spectacular special events.

The RIMS Annual Conference & Exhibition will also offer an exhibit hall with services and solutions with more than 400 corporations showcasing the industry's latest products and services.

RIMS, Advisen Release Broker Survey

The Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) and Advisen, Ltd. reported the release of the Broker Services and Remuneration Study as part of the 2008 RIMS Benchmark Surveybased on data gathered in February from 1,519 participantshas found that insurance buyers are driving brokers to change their service offerings and the way brokers are compensated.

The Broker Services and Remuneration Study is a study of the relationship between commercial insurance buyers and brokers since the industry tumult of 2004-2005. Benefiting from the dynamics of a doggedly soft market in which brokers have shifted the basis of competition to offerings of new services and aggressive pricing models, insurance buyers are demanding a wider array of service options. For the industrys largest programs, buyers are spending the majority of their broker money on fees instead of commissions, the study reports.

The Broker Services and Remuneration Study documents the current state of the brokerage market with the purpose of enabling risk managers to benchmark broker costs and services, and identifies a number of key trends affecting broker pricing models and new service offerings. Buyers were surveyed on how their brokers are compensated, how much their brokers receive for their services and what types of services their brokers provide.

While virtually all survey respondents continue to use brokers to place insurance programs, the majority agree that brokers are shifting from commissions to fee-based compensation. With this shift towards fee-based pricing, respondents note a broker trend towards supplementing dwindling commission income with added services. The study quantifies the differences in average costs to insurance buyers of fee-based broker remuneration, as opposed to traditional commission-based remuneration.

The study also quantifies services that buyers feel are missing from their brokerage programs. A surprisingly large number of respondents indicate that they do not receive certain Market Placement services within the standard services covered by normal broker compensation. The study also enumerates a string of Loss, Exposure and Financing analysis services, which many buyersnearly 40 percent in some caseswould be willing to purchase if they were offered by their broker. Additionally, there remain significant differences by size of company and industry group in the types of services provided.

The Broker Services and Remuneration Study as part of this years RIMS Benchmark Survey book combine to create an invaluable resource for risk managers, said John Phelps, member of RIMS Board of Directors and director of business risk solutions for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc. This is precisely the type of market intelligence that buyers seek as they navigate the migration to fee-based pricing and witness introduction of new services.

Broker fees and services are areas that have undergone tremendous change over the past decade, added David Bradford, editor-in-chief of Advisen Ltd. Most of those changes have resulted from competitive pressures and advances in technology; but some, especially the demise of contingent commissions for large brokers, have been imposed from the outside by regulators and law enforcement agencies. Whichever the reason, todays soft market has the buyer in the drivers seat looking at brokers to differentiate themselves through pricing models, service offerings and high-touch relationships.

The Broker Services and Remuneration Study is only available as part of the 2008 RIMS Benchmark Survey book. Purchase orders are now being taken for the book online at www.RIMS.org/book. Special discounts apply to RIMS members and survey data contributors.

AIR Unveils Cyclone Model for Mexico

AIR Worldwide Corporation (AIR) announced the availability of the AIR tropical cyclone model for Mexico.

The new probabilistic model will reportedly help the industry better manage hurricane and tropical cyclone risk in the growing Latin American insurance market. The unique feature of the AIR tropical cyclone model for Mexico is that it estimates insured losses from wind and flood to buildings, contents, and business interruption.

On average, Mexico experiences almost two hurricane landfalls per year, which is similar to the United States, said Dr. Tim Doggett, Senior Research Scientist at AIR Worldwide. The most intense storms have the potential to cause significant insured losses when they make landfall in a highly developed area on Mexicos coastline, as demonstrated by the $2 billion loss from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and the $1 billion loss from Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, if it were to recur today.

While damage from tropical cyclones is often thought of as being caused primarily by wind, this is not always the case in Mexico. Tropical cyclones in this regioneven those with relatively low wind speedscan be accompanied by significant flooding, which is typically covered under both residential and commercial insurance policies. Since precipitation from tropical cyclones can penetrate hundreds of kilometers inland, weak storms that impact vast areas and generate substantial rainfall have the potential to produce significant insured losses.

Mexicos coastal mountains have a considerable impact on both the meteorological and hydrological aspects of landfalling cyclones. Mountains act as barriers to the flow of storms and impact the rate at which a landfalling storm will dissipate. Additionally, as winds from the cyclone are forced over the mountains, the lifting of the air increases the rainfall that the storm produces in that area.

The AIR models flood component incorporates high resolution elevation and soil data to simulate tropical cyclone induced flooding. The flood depth or accumulated run-off is estimated based on total precipitation produced by a simulated storm, the topography, elevation and the ability of local soils to absorb water.

The model includes a catalog containing more than 50,000 potential landfalling tropical cyclones, which range from tropical storms to intense hurricanes. Additionally, the model covers both the Atlantic and East Pacific basins and incorporates the negative correlation in tropical cyclone formation in the East Pacific and North Atlantic basins caused by the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

To reflect the vulnerability of the Mexican building stock to wind and flood, AIR engineers developed separate damage functions for a wide range of occupancies and construction types, as well as contents and time element coverage. AIRs damage functions also account for storm duration to reflect the increased damage that results from prolonged exposure to wind and rainfall.

The AIR tropical cyclone model for Mexico is available immediately in AIRs CLASIC/2 and CATRADER® catastrophe risk modeling applications.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

UPDATE: California Wildfires Hit Los Angeles Area

Firefighters spent a good portion of the weekend battling a wildfire in dense brush near Los Angeles that forced more than 1,000 people from their homes. The areas most impacted by the blaze are Sierra Madre and Arcadia.

Nearly 500 firefighters were battling the 400-acre blaze that was reported Saturday afternoon during hot and dry weather this weekend in Southern California. Several hundred homes were threatened, but there have been no reports as of Sunday evening of any major property destruction or injuries with the fire.
Thirty-five members of a mountaintop wedding party had to be relocated via helicopter, as the fire moved within several miles of where they were.

Although this is generally not regarded as fire season, the area where the fire was burning was faced with a lot of dry brush that has not burned for some time. Throw in temperatures in the 90s and some winds, and firefighters have been faced with a challenging situation.

Authorities report they hope to have the blaze contained in the next several days.

Friday, April 25, 2008

ACE USA Now Offers eRisk Hub

ACE USA, the U.S.-based retail operating division of the ACE Group of Companies, announced the launch of eRisk Hub, a web-based loss prevention resource designed to help policyholders manage their cyber risk.

The eRisk Hub portal is provided to all ACE policyholders who purchase privacy and network security coverage under the ACE Privacy Protection®, ACE DigiTech® and ACE Digital DNA®

The eRisk Hub provides triage support through its Incident HELP Hotline staffed by security experts who understand the potentially catastrophic impact of privacy and network related exposures. These experts use that knowledge to help companies deal with post-breach regulatory, reporting and crisis management issues. The eRisk Hub also helps policyholders keep abreast of best practices and regulatory guidelines and prepare detailed, comprehensive response plans.

Founded and managed by NetDiligence®, a cybersecurity and e-risk assessment services company, eRisk Hub features news, and informative content from leading cyber risk experts (including risk management, computer forensics, forensics accounting, crisis communications, legal and other specialists)
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