Category Archives: Specialty Coverage

Energy Market: Uncertain Times

Is Gulf of Mexico windstorm risk still an insoluble risk management problem? This is the question posed in the latest annual Energy Market Review from Willis. The report notes that fallout from a major Gulf of Mexico windstorm is once again casting a shadow over the energy insurance market in the wake of Hurricane Ike. A full consensus has yet to emerge as to the best way to offer the product, and in the meantime the market for Gulf of Mexico windstorm risk is more confused, volatile and expensive than ever before. Meanwhile, the energy industry is faced with a changing world, Willis says. The financial market meltdown and global economic recession have led to rapidly cooling commodity prices and left the energy industry now facing a very different challenge of maintaining profitability in the face of plummeting demand. As a result energy insurers must find new ways of making up for income shortfalls and sharp decreases in investment incomes in 2008. An increased focus on underwriting profitability is the inevitable result. However, any drive towards a harder market is being tempered by the fact that with little or no withdrawals from the market in January 2009, capacity levels for energy risks have actually increased by about 5 percent from last year, according to Willis. A big question mark therefore hangs over 2009: will competitive pressures take their toll on market discipline as the year progresses? Check out I.I.I. facts & stats on the 2007 and 2008 Atlantic  hurricane seasons.

D&O Costs Skyrocket

Directors’ and Officers’ (D&O) liability insurance costs for financial institutions increased 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to that of 2007, according to the Quarterly D&O Pricing Index from Aon Corp’s Financial Services Group. This is the first time year-over-year price increases were found in over five years. Aon said a number of unprecedented events contributed to the significant price increases, including: reports of more than 1 million job losses in Q4 2008; Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme; a substantial decline in major stock indices; and federal securities class action lawsuits activity in 2008. Aon’s D&O Index also shows that the average price for $1 million in coverage limits increased 3.15 percent from Q4 2008, compared to Q4 2007. This is the first time since 2003 that price increases in the financial sector have been significant enough to move the entire index. So will there be more? “In the short term, we expect to see D&O pricing for the financial sector continue to rise,† said Mike Rice, managing director of Aon’s Financial Services Group and author of the Index in a press release. “It is possible, however, that a tough underwriting environment could emerge for all public companies as the economy continues to negatively impact both financial results and stock prices.†Ã‚  

And the Oscar Goes To…

It’s time to make your Oscar picks and as you select a Best Picture among this year’s crop of nominated films another question you might want to consider is what is the riskiest movie of 2008? According to Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co, honors in this category go to “The Wrestler† a drama about Randy “The Ram† Robinson, a once popular pro wrestling star, now aging and down on his luck. As an insurance risk, the film wins “most risky production† primarily because lead actor Mickey Rourke did much of his own stunt work in the film. The physicality and quantity of the stunts – in one scene Rourke has a brutal wrestling match accompanied by glass shards, staples and barbed wire – made the film a major risk. Luckily adequate precautions were in place to mitigate the risk, including insurance. Among insurance coverages for films, cast insurance covers a range of possible scenarios that could happen to an actor where production would be affected, such as illness, injury or even death. Of the total of 79 Oscar nominees this year Fireman’s Fund insured 46. Insured nominees include “Milk,† “Frost/Nixon,† “The Reader,† “The Dark Knight,† “Changeling,† “Iron Man,† “Defiance,† “In Bruges,† “The Visitor,† “Frozen River,† “Wanted,† and “Hellboy II† as well as “The Wrestler.†

And on a completely different topic here’s a note for your calendar: Fireman’s Fund and the I.I.I. invite you to participate in a webinar next Wednesday February 25 at 1pm ET/10am PT that will provide an overview of the impact of the economic stimulus plan on the property/casualty insurance industry. To register for the webinar, please contact: Susan Murdy, Fireman’s Fund (susan.murdy@ffic.com) or Loretta Worters, I.I.I. (lorettaw@iii.org).  

  

Stanford Fraud Scheme Probe

Another day, another fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Robert Allen Stanford and three of his companies for orchestrating an alleged fraudulent, multi-billion dollar investment scheme centering on an $8 billion certificate of deposit (CD) program. This  is the second massive alleged fraud to hit the headlines in a matter of months. It follows the recent charging of Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff in connection with a $50 billion investor fraud. That scheme’s collapse has fueled litigation on a number of fronts. Hat tip to the D&O diary  for details of the first securities class action lawsuit filed by investors in connection with the Stanford fraud allegations. Also check out I.I.I. information on the liability system.  

Credit Crisis and Liability Lines

On the road here at the annual Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) International conference in San Francisco, this morning’s sessions include a very topical one on the credit crisis and its impact on financial institutions (FIs) and their directors and officers (D&O) insurers. Ahead of the discussion Advisen today estimated the insured loss from the subprime meltdown and the ensuing global credit crisis will add 229 points to the 2008 loss ratio for the FI segment of the D&O market and approximately 149 points to the aggregate 2007-2009 financial institution errors and omissions (E&O) loss ratio. In dollar terms, this translates to an overall  insured liability loss of $9.6 billion ($3.7 billion in E&O and $5.9 billion in D&O insured losses). According to Advisen the upshot is that commercial lines rates, including D&O and E&O, are likely to increase in 2009.  

Data Call for D&O Survey

Towers Perrin is calling for data submissions for its 2008 Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Survey. The survey is best completed by the person responsible for buying an organization’s D&O coverage. To participate, request a secure link from caroline.webb@towersperrin.com, then visit Towers Perrin’s Web site, www.towersperrin.com, to complete the electronic questionnaire. Deadline for participation is Friday, August 29. Check out our June 18 posting to review key findings of Towers Perrin’s 2007 D&O Liability Survey.

Nose Insurance

Today another example of the innovative and unusual side of our industry comes from across the pond at Lloyd’s. Word has it that a Dutch wine maker has insured his nose for ┚ ¬5 million ($7.8 million) to cover against any incident that could threaten his livelihood. The individual, owner of Chateau de La Garde in Bordeaux and producer of Tulipe Wines, recognized that his nose is the most important asset in his profession which relies on a good sense of smell to guarantee the constant quality of wines. The policy is co-insured by Watkins Syndicate and Allianz Nederland. Lloyd’s notes that nose insurance is not just restricted to wine buffs. For example, Watkins Syndicate is currently working on a policy with a U.S. perfume consultant who develops new fragrances for perfume houses. As the lead underwriter himself commented, these insurance policies are not to be sniffed at…