Managing Emerging Risks

A new report from Lloyd’s and the Economist Intelligence Unit titled Directors in the Dock: Is Business Facing a Liability Crisis? reveals that boards could make better use of the time they spend on liability and litigation issues by switching their focus to emerging risks. Many executives interviewed for the report admit that there has not yet been board-level discussion on a range of emerging threats, even though they recognize the need to tackle the issue. For example, nearly four in 10 said that they should discuss work-related stress, but have not yet raised this issue formally, while 29 percent believe technology security should be discussed. Indeed, technology risks – such as data and system security and nanotechnology – are among the top three emerging risks that executives are most concerned about. Environmental liabilities and the liabilities arising from poor corporate governance are also top board concerns. Check out further I.I.I. info on the U.S. liability system.  

RI Lead Paint Hearing

Keep your eyes peeled on the Rhode Island Supreme Court today where a case involving three former lead paint manufacturers is due to be heard. It comes two years after the landmark February 2006 RI lawsuit against the three companies. Last September the state released a proposal detailing cleanup and related costs, requiring the paint manufacturers to pay out $2.4 billion to clean up 240,000 housing units (see our Monday Sept 17, 2007 posting). A decision in the case is expected this summer. We note that recent court decisions in other states, including New Jersey, Missouri, and Ohio have rejected the public nuisance legal theory on which the RI lead paint suit was based. Check out further I.I.I. info on products liability emerging exposures.

Preparing for Disaster

With just over two weeks to go before the start of the 2008 hurricane season, and with tornadoes and wildfires inflicting damage across the U.S., the news that nearly half of U.S. consumers are insufficiently prepared – in terms of their insurance coverage – to deal with potential losses is a concern. The survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that the majority of consumers do not have the coverage necessary to protect themselves from specific types of losses that are not reimbursed under standard insurance policies. For example, 69 percent do not have earthquake insurance and 65 percent do not have flood insurance. The NAIC also found that nearly half (48 percent) said they did not have an inventory of their possessions. Of those consumers with a checklist, 32 percent had not taken any pictures and 58 percent had no receipts validating the cost of their possessions. In addition, 44 percent acknowledged that they had not stored their inventory in a remote location. I.I.I.’s free home inventory software can help residents better protect their property ahead of disaster.

China Quake

Yesterday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck a mountainous region north-west of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, China, leaving thousands dead could lead to a large number of insurance claims from the area, according to catastrophe modeler Risk Management Solutions (RMS). In  its commentary, RMS notes that most of the damage reports so far are from Chengdu, the 10th largest city by GDP in the country, with some 4.5 million people. A mitigating factor is that the rapid growth of the city in the last 30 years means that the majority of buildings were constructed after 1978, when buildings were required to be made more resistant to earthquakes, so many of the commercial buildings will have been constructed to withstand some level of ground-shaking. RMS also notes that the event is a reminder for businesses considering moving into China that business continuity insurance should be a risk management priority. Take a look at  the Business Insurance  May 12 online article  by Jeff Casale  for more on this story. Check out I.I.I. facts & stats on global catastrophes.

Tornado Toll

With at least 22 deaths after tornadoes hit Missouri, Oklahoma and Georgia over the weekend, more people have lost their lives so far in 2008 from tornadoes in the U.S. than in all of 2007. That’s the key stat from senior meteorologist Stu Ostro over at The Weather Channel blog. Ostro makes the point that it’s frustrating so many people still lose their lives in tornadoes, tropical cyclones and other weather phenomena despite modern forecasting techniques. Check out further I.I.I. facts & stats on tornadoes.  

GAO Report on Wind/Flood

As debate continues in the Senate on reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds that a federal flood and wind insurance program could benefit some policyholders and market participants but would also involve trade-offs. While current legislation would require premium rates to be adequate to cover any exposure and restrict borrowing by the program, GAO notes that the potential exists for losses to greatly exceed expectations, as happened with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This could increase FEMA’s total debt, which as of December 2007 was about $17.3 billion, according to GAO. Check out further I.I.I. info on the NFIP.

IIS Award

The International Insurance Society (IIS) has named the 2008 winners of the Insurance Hall of Fame Award. All three insurance leaders have demonstrated outstanding leadership and made a significant and lasting contribution to the insurance industry and society as a whole. The three are: Dominic D’Alessandro, president and chief executive officer of Manulife Financial since 1994; legendary actuary, Professor G.S. Diwan (1901-1987), instrumental in the development of the actuarial profession in India; and Patrick Ryan, founder and executive chairman of Aon Corp. The three will be honored during a gala dinner at the 44th IIS Annual Seminar to be held in Taipei, this July. There are currently 119 laureates in the Insurance Hall of Fame from more than 20 countries. Check out the I.I.I. International Fact Book for further global insurance facts & stats.  

Increasing Tornado Activity

Arkansas became the latest state to bear the brunt of tornado damage Friday, with officials reporting seven dead as a result of severe storms. Reports suggest more than 25 tornadoes may have touched down across the  middle of the  country  late Thursday and early Friday. The storms came less than a week after twisters swept through Virginia destroying over 140 homes and several other buildings. The increased activity appears to support a recent A.M. Best study that foresaw high tornado losses in 2008, based on first quarter estimates. The study also noted that losses of $1 billion and higher from single events are becoming more frequent, approaching losses from hurricanes. Check out further I.I.I. facts & stats on tornadoes.

Flood Insurance Necessity

So the official countdown to the start of the 2008 hurricane season has begun. We’re now just 29 days away, but there’s a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect, so no time like present to underscore the importance of buying flood insurance. This reminds us, the Web site of the National Flood Insurance Program has a neat interactive tool showing the real cost of flood to a home, inch by inch. Just two inches of water can cost a homeowner $7,800, according to the NFIP. Check out further I.I.I. facts & stats on flood insurance.

Climate Change Discussion

A panel discussion organized by the Swiss Society of New York and the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, and supported by Swiss Re will take place at Swiss Re’s NYC offices next Tuesday, May 6. Aptly named “Climate Change: From Dialogue to Action†, the discussion will bring together experts from the UN, Harvard Medical School, UBS and Swiss Re to discuss the impact of global climate change and propose possible solutions. The gathering will start at 5.30pm, ET, and will be followed by a moderated Q&A session and cocktail reception.  

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