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Late News


MMC's CFO named Mercer chief exec

Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. has named M. Michele Burns, MMC's current chief financial officer, as chairwoman and chief executive officer of Mercer Human Resource Consulting, the world's largest benefit consultant. Ms. Burns joined MMC earlier this year. She previously held several positions with Mirant Corp., an Atlanta-based power company, where she developed a reorganization plan following the company's 2003 bankruptcy filing. She also was CFO of Delta Air Lines Inc. She succeeds Michael Caulfield, who is retiring. He will remain at Mercer until the end of the year to ensure an orderly transition. Succeeding Ms. Burns as MMC's CFO is Matthew Bartley who has been MMC's treasurer since 2001.

Federal charter bill introduced in House

Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., introduced legislation last week in the House of Representatives that would allow property/casualty and life insurers to be chartered by the federal government rather than by the states. The National Insurance Act of 2006--H.R. 6225--is nearly identical to a measure of the same name introduced in the Senate earlier this year. Under both bills, property/casualty and life insurers would have the option of being regulated by federal authorities. Under current law, insurance regulation is reserved to the states under most circumstances.

Labor Department official to depart

The U.S. Labor Department's top employee benefits official will leave next month to return to the private sector, the agency announced last week. No successor has been announced. Assistant Secretary of Labor Ann Combs joined the Labor Department as head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration in May 2001, making her the longest-serving head of EBSA, which regulates more than 6 million employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Ms. Combs was involved on behalf of the Bush administration in the negotiations that led to last month's passage of comprehensive pension funding reform legislation, as well as the recovery of more than $220 million for Enron Corp. pension plan participants. Prior to joining the Labor Department, Ms. Combs was a vp and chief counsel for pensions and retirement at the American Council of Life Insurers and a principal at William M. Mercer Inc.

Oregon comp rates to decline 2.1%

Workers compensation pure premium rates in Oregon will decrease by 2.1% in 2007, the state's Department of Consumer & Business Services announced. Since 1990, rates in Oregon decreased for 12 consecutive years then flattened for four more years, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said in a statement. In California, meanwhile, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi said he will likely recommend a reduction in workers compensation pure premium rate decrease of at least 6.3%, as recommended earlier this month by the state's Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau.

Willis launches unit for global benefits

Willis Group Holdings Ltd. has launched a multinational benefits unit to provide a single point of contact to its clients with international operations. The new unit, which will be a specialized subdivision within Willis' global employee benefits practice, will operate out of three multinational benefits centers in New York; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Paris via Willis partner Gras Savoye. Chris Burns will head the unit as multinational benefits global practice leader based in New York. Mr. Burns was formerly responsible for new business development in the Northeast region of the United States at Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

Catlin U.S. opens Atlanta operation

Catlin U.S., a unit of Bermuda-based international specialty property/casualty insurer Catlin Group Ltd., has established an Atlanta-based primary and excess underwriting unit. The five-person unit, headed by Vp Steve Singer, will underwrite specialty classes of primary and excess casualty risks for U.S. policyholders on a nationwide basis, according to the company. In July, Catlin Group announced it had opened a New York office to underwrite various classes of professional liability and directors and officers liability insurance for financial institutions, accountants, real estate agents and lawyers, among others.

United Airlines faces EEOC bias suit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Seattle charging that United Airlines' policy on minimum working hours violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. H. Joan Ehrlich, director of the EEOC's San Francisco district, said the suit is on behalf of three women who were terminated from their positions in United's Honolulu and Seattle offices after the airline introduced a minimum 30-hour work week in 2003. All three had medical conditions that prevented them from working that many hours, said Ms. Ehrlich. She said other plaintiffs may join the suit. A spokesman for the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based airline said in a statement: "We made all reasonable attempts to accommodate employees affected by this policy, and we believe we acted in full compliance with all laws."