Category Archives: Political Risks

Cybersecurity and the Presidential Election

Insurance leaders say the upcoming U.S. presidential election could impact a range of issues, including healthcare and international trade.

Cybersecurity is another insurance-related issue that next week’s election is likely to impact. Forrester even predicts that the new U.S. president will face a major cybercrisis within 100 days.

A new Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper notes that governments are facing an unprecedented level of cyber attacks and threats with the potential to undermine national security and critical infrastructure.

The I.I.I. paper, Cyberrisk: Threat and Opportunity, also highlights rising concerns over how hacked information may be used to influence a political outcome:

“Hacks of both Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee emails during an election year have raised concerns that groups are attempting to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.”

Just last Friday U.S. government officials accused Russia of trying to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the DNC computers and other U.S. political organizations.

And on Tuesday Microsoft said the Russian hackers believed responsible for hacking the DNC computers had exploited previously undisclosed flaws in its Windows operation system and Adobe’s Flash software.

The Wall Street Journal reports that apparent Russian attempts to disrupt the U.S. election highlight more mundane risks as well as a new weapon in information wars: the disclosure of hacked information to influence policy or public perception.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts have warned that the election systems in the U.S. are vulnerable at the local, state and manufacturer level.

The mounting concerns have prompted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider whether the U.S. voting systems should be classified as critical infrastructure.

Currently, there are 16 critical infrastructure sectors, such as the U.S. power grid and water supply, whose systems and networks are considered so vital to the U.S. that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on national security and public health or safety.

In fiscal year 2015, there were around 295 attacks on critical infrastructure control systems in the U.S., a 20 percent increase on the previous year, according to DHS figures cited in the I.I.I. paper.

Aon: Rising Political Risks in Emerging Markets

The number of countries with downgraded political risk ratings  grew  in the last year, as all five emerging market BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) saw their risk rating increase, according to Aon’s 2014 Political Risk Map.

As a result, countries representing a large share of global output experienced a broad-based increase in political risk including political violence, government interference and sovereign non-payment risk, Aon said.

The 2014 map shows that 16 countries were downgraded in 2014 compared to 12 in 2013. Only six countries experienced upgrades (where the territory risk is rated lower than the previous year), compared to 13 in 2013.

Aon noted that Brazil’s rating was downgraded because  political risks have been increasing from moderate levels as economic weakness has increased the role of the government in the economy.

This is of particular concern given this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.†

Russia’s rating was also downgraded due to recent developments with the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

Aon said:

Political strains and focus on geopolitical issues have exacerbated an already weak operating environment for business and exchange transfer risks have increased following the risk of new capital controls. Russia’s economy continues to be dominated by the government, so economic policy deadlock has brought growth to a standstill and with it an increase in the risk of political violence.†

India, China and South Africa also saw their ratings downgraded.

In  another key takeaway  Aon noted that Ukraine is now rated a very high risk country, as the implications of developments following the annexation of Crimea by Russia and government collapse warranted a further downgrade in political risk.

Exchange transfer risks, which are already very high will be further increased by restrictions in the financial system, Further, the willingness and ability of the country to settle its debts may be affected.†

The map measures political risk in 163 countries and territories, in order to help companies assess and analyse their exposure to exchange transfer, legal and regulatory risk, political interference, political violence, sovereign non-payment and supply chain disruption.

Hat tip to Insurance Journal which reports on this story here.

Political Risks and Ukraine Crisis

The Ukraine crisis is making headlines around the world, and also in the insurance world.

While events are still unfolding, Russia’s move to annex the Crimea region of Ukraine has prompted United States and European Union leaders to impose economic and travel sanctions on some Russian officials.

U.S. and EU leaders will meet next week in the Netherlands to discuss the crisis and further sanctions are possible.

As for insurance implications, the ongoing turmoil has the potential to impact the political risk, structured credit and trade credit insurance markets.

Broker Marsh said in a briefing last week that some insurers had stopped underwriting political risk insurance in the two countries due to concern over the political unrest and credit ratings in Ukraine and potential sanctions in Russia.

Canadian Underwriter reported on the story here.

Noting the uncertainty of the evolving situation, Marsh said:

Companies with interests in the region face the potential for damage to assets through political violence and possible broader expropriation measures or sanctions against foreign interest in Russia should sanctions be imposed against the country. This is in addition to the potential for payment delays on trade payment obligations due from customers, especially those in Ukraine.†

Marsh also noted that because Russia is the political risk and structured credit market’s largest country exposure, if the current conflict results in large-scale insurable damage, global premiums and insurance capacity for these coverages could be adversely affected.

There is also the potential for a downgrade of the country rating by the ratings agencies and possible payment difficulties for creditors of Ukrainian companies, either commercial or economic, Marsh added.

The broker advised businesses with operations in Ukraine, especially those in Crimea, to check their crisis response and insurance programs to ensure they sufficiently mitigate the potential effects on their operations.

The I.I.I.’s International Insurance Fact Book has insurance and economic data on Russia and Ukraine here.