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In Brief


Spitzer nominates Willis exec as NY regulator

New York Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer has nominated Eric Dinallo, general counsel of Willis Group Holdings Ltd., to be the state's insurance superintendent, Mr. Spitzer's transition team announced. Mr. Dinallo was appointed general counsel for London-based Willis in March. He previously served as managing director and head of regulatory affairs at Morgan Stanley and led the Investment Protection Bureau for the office of the New York attorney general. He will succeed outgoing superintendent Howard Mills.

St. Paul withdrawal from La. coast on hold

St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc. is re-examining a decision to stop renewing small and midsize commercial property risks in New Orleans and other Louisiana coastal areas. The insurer announced intentions earlier this month to stop renewing those coverages in 2007. But the insurer last week met with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Insurance Commissioner James Donelon and agents and brokers in the state. It has now put its plan to stop providing coverage on hold while considering a variety of options proposed by the commissioner, a St. Paul spokeswoman said.

Cash balance plans discriminate: Judge

Rejecting the reasoning of a federal appeals court, a federal district court judge says cash balance pension plans discriminate against older employees. The plans are age discriminatory because when an account balance is converted to a retirement annuity, "cash balance plans are not age-neutral," wrote Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Scheindlin's ruling came in a suit filed against Citigroup Inc. by several employees of the New York-based financial services giant. In her opinion, Judge Scheindlin said when an account balance is converted to a retirement age annuity, younger workers are credited with more interest on their accounts.

Final HIPAA guidance issued for wellness programs

Federal agencies have issued final rules providing employer guidance in complying with the nondiscrimination provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the implementation of wellness programs. The final regulations in general do not change the 2001 interim rules issued by the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury, which allow employers to provide incentives of up to 20% of the cost of coverage to encourage participants to participate in wellness programs. The final regulations do, however, clarify some issues under the HIPAA nondiscrimination provisions and provide the first examples of wellness programs that are not subject to additional standards.

Max Re to launch surplus lines unit

HAMILTON, Bermuda—Max Re Capital Ltd. is setting up a U.S. excess and surplus lines unit. The Richmond, Va.-based unit, to be called Max Specialty Insurance Co., is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2007. Stephen J. Vaccaro has been named president and chief executive officer for Max Specialty. Max Re has existing insurance and reinsurance operations in Hamilton, Bermuda and Dublin, Ireland.

Health care plan proposed for all Calif. Workers

A Democratic leader in the California Senate has unveiled a health care plan intended to provide working adults and their families with access to affordable health insurance. Under the plan proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, all employers would have a choice of either providing health insurance or contributing to a state purchasing pool called the Connector, according to a statement issued by Sen. Perata. The Connector would negotiate the best rates and offer employees a choice of plans. The state's Major Risk Medical Insurance Board would be responsible for establishing the Connector and administering the program.

Brit launches Bermuda retro insurer

Brit Insurance Holdings P.L.C. has reached an agreement to launch a joint venture Bermuda-based reinsurance company, Norton Re Insurance Ltd. to write catastrophe retrocession business. The move overseas is the first for Brit, which operates at Lloyd's of London and through its London-based insurance company. Brit is the lead investor in Norton Re with a 19.6% holding. Norton Re will use the underwriting expertise of Brit's existing retrocession team operating from Hamilton, Bermuda. The remainder of Norton Re's initial $107.7 million capital is provided by institutional investors.

Court rejects most of slavery reparations suit

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week rejected most claims by slave descendants that they deserve reparations from some of the nation's largest companies and insurers that may have benefited from slavery more than a century ago, according to reports. The court--saying the "statute of limitations would be toothless"--ruled descendants have no standing to sue for reparations for injustices experienced by their ancestors. It did, however, let stand part of the lawsuit claiming that companies may be guilty of consumer fraud if they hid their past ties to slavery. Defendants include Aetna Inc.

Brandywine reserves show increase

Hamilton, Bermuda-based ACE Ltd. said an annual internal review of the company's Brandywine runoff operations indicated that its gross loss reserves increased by about $200 million, while it concluded that its net loss reserves were adequate and therefore no change to the carried net reserve was required. The insurer said also that the conclusions of a biennial external review, which is required by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, provided estimates of ultimate gross and net Brandywine liabilities that are lower than the same study two years ago.