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In Brief


Commercial P/C rates still declining: Survey

Commercial property/casualty insurance rates continued to fall, albeit only slightly, during the third quarter of the year compared with the same period last year, according to the RIMS Benchmark Survey released last week by the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. The survey, which was produced by Advisen Ltd., found, among other things, that directors and officers and general liability premiums decreased by less than 1% in the third quarter and workers compensation rates fell 3.4%.

Fairfax restates several periods

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. on Friday issued a previously announced restatement of financial results for 2005 and several prior years, resulting in a cumulative decrease in shareholders' equity of $261.7 million as of Dec. 31, 2005. The restatement, which Fairfax said was necessitated by an accounts review related to the planned commutation of a $1 billion reinsurance contract with Swiss Reinsurance Co. and other accounting issues, had the net effect of: decreasing Fairfax's net loss for 2005 by $51.3 million, to a $446.6 million loss; reducing its 2004 net loss by $72.9 million, leading to a $53.1 million profit; and boosting 2003 net earnings by $18.6 million, to a $288.6 million profit, among other changes.

Pa. governor signs comp reform measure

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell has signed legislation amending the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act of 1915 by creating an uninsured employers guaranty fund. The new law also requires workers compensation judges to include mandatory mediation conferences as part of any trial schedule and limits attorneys' fees from exceeding 20% of the amount awarded by a judge or agreed to in a settlement. The law stems from House Bill 2738, sponsored by Bob L. Allen, R-Berks. Among other things, the new law increases the minimum compensation for total disability or death to $100 per week.

MMC vice chairman Sinnott to retire

Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.'s vice chairman, John T. Sinnott, will retire effective Dec. 31, MMC said. Mr. Sinnott, a former chairman and chief executive officer of the Marsh Inc. brokerage unit, originally retired in July 2003, but returned to the company in 2005 following various management disruptions stemming from brokerage industry investigations prompted by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

401(k) plans dominate at 25th anniversary

As their 25th anniversary nears, 401(k) plans have emerged as the dominant employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, according to a new study. Last year, 401(k) plans had 47 million active participants, up from 40 million in 2000 and 28 million in 1995, according to the study by the Washington-based Investment Co. Institute, which represents mutual funds. Employer sponsorship of 401(k) plans has soared, while employers have steadily moved away from defined benefit plans. Last year, U.S. employers sponsored 417,000 401(k) plans, up from 348,000 in 2000 and 201,000 in 1995. By contrast, employers offered just 41,000 defined benefit plans last year, down from 49,000 in 2000 and 69,000 in 1995.

IRS raises HSA limits

The Internal Revenue Service announced last week that in 2007, the maximum contribution that can be made to health savings accounts for employees with single coverage will increase to $2,850, up from $2,700, while the cap for those with family coverage will rise to $5,650, up from $5,540 this year. Additionally, the maximum out-of-pocket expense-including deductibles-that employees with single coverage can be required to pay will rise to $5,500 from $5,250, and to $11,000 from $10,500 for those with family coverage. The minimum deductible of the high-deductible health insurance plan to which HSAs must be linked will increase to $1,100 from $1,050 for employees with single coverage and to $2,200 from $2,100 for family coverage.

City benefit mandate faces legal challenge

The Golden Gate Restaurant Assn. is challenging a health benefit mandate passed by San Francisco last summer. In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the organization charged that the city's Health Access Program violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The ordinance, which is slated to take effect July 1, 2007, requires employers with 50 or more employees to pay a fee for each hour an employee works into a fund that would be used to pay for their health care. By 2008, smaller firms with between 20 and 49 workers also would be required to make the contributions. Employers already offering health care coverage but not spending at the minimum level would be required to contribute the difference to the new city program.