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Billionaire financier Warren Buffett made many in the insurance industry happy in 2006 with deals to absorb the runoff liabilities of Converium Holding Ltd. and Equitas Ltd.
Zug, Switzerland-based Converium announced in October that it had entered into an agreement to sell its North American reinsurance operations, which are in runoff, to a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $295 million. The deal was completed in December.
Several rating agencies indicated that could lead to Converium regaining an A rating in the medium term, which would be welcome news to reinsurance buyers.
Also in October, Equitas, the runoff reinsurer for the pre-1993 long-tail liabilities of Lloyd's of London syndicates, announced a deal with Berkshire under which Berkshire would reinsure, and eventually assume, London-based Equitas' liabilities.
Experts said the transfer of liabilities would rid Lloyd's of potential liability and remove a drag on its financial strength ratings. They also said the deal is likely to prompt more investors to consider entering the market, and could spark more merger or acquisition activity.
After spearheading the formation of New York-based large-account brokerage Integro Ltd. in 2005, veteran insurance company builder Robert Clements is embarking on another new venture.
In September, it was revealed that Integro and Mr. Clements, who serves as its chairman, were in the process of seeking $1 billion to capitalize Ironshore Ltd., a Bermuda-based property catastrophe insurer that will focus on major companies.
Mr. Clements is no stranger to Bermuda as he has had a hand in building powerhouses such as ACE Ltd., XL Capital Ltd., Mid-Ocean Reinsurance Ltd. and Arch Capital Group Ltd.
In April 2005, Mr. Clements stepped down as chairman of Arch Capital to launch Integro with former Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. executives Peter F. Garvey and Roger E. Egan. In doing so, Mr. Clements took advantage of industry upheaval in the wake of broker compensation and bid-rigging investigations launched by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and joined by other state officials.
Robert J. Cooney
Ongoing probes into reinsurers' accounting of finite reinsurance contracts created a bumpy ride for several industry companies and executives in 2006--one of the most prominent being Robert J. Cooney, Max Re Capital Ltd.'s former chairman and chief executive officer.
The longtime insurance executive--who founded Bermuda-based Max Re in 1999 after serving as president and chief operating officer of XL Insurance Ltd.--stepped down in October from the helm of the reinsurer, saying it was "in the best interests of the company to do so."
At the same time, Max Re reopened an internal investigation into certain finite risk retrocessional contracts that it wrote in 2001 and 2003, due to possible oral side agreements that existed for some of the contracts.
Following Mr. Cooney's departure, W. Marston Becker was named chairman and CEO by Max Re's board of directors.
The Des Plaines, Ill.-based Property Casualty Insurers Assn. of America and Ernst Csiszar, its president and chief executive officer since 2004, parted ways in 2006.
The PCI announced the breakup, saying Mr. Csiszar would resign effective Sept. 30. Gerald Whitburn, chairman of the PCI board of governors, said the organization would immediately begin a national search for a new CEO.
PCI Chief Operating Officer June Holmes was tapped to serve as the interim CEO of the insurer trade group.
Mr. Csiszar, who gave no reason for his resignation, said in a statement he plans "to continue to work within the financial and insurance industries."
A PCI spokesman did not elaborate on the reasons for Mr. Csiszar's resignation.
Mr. Csiszar was president of the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners and South Carolina insurance director before assuming his PCI post in 2004.
Sen. Christopher Dodd
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., may have had to wait years to become chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, but he wasted no time in telling risk managers and insurers something they'd longed to hear.
That something was his pledge that extending--or perhaps making permanent--the federal government's terrorism insurance backstop would be high on the committee's agenda.
Risk managers and insurers credit the program, which is slated to expire on Dec. 31, 2007, for assuring the availability of affordable coverage.
Sen. Dodd, however, acknowledged that he could face considerable opposition from the Bush administration in extending the program that had enjoyed bipartisan support since its 2002 inception.
While the program's fate may depend on whether the president will choose to alienate some important GOP constituencies, such as insurance agents, by vetoing an extension bill, supporters are pleased that they have a senator who shares their views at the helm of a committee that previously balked at extending the program.
Maurice R. Greenberg
The bitter battle between former American International Group Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Maurice R. Greenberg and the company he once controlled heated up anew during 2006. By year-end, however, there were signs that things were cooling down.
To start the year, lawsuits were filed by AIG and the C.V. Starr & Co. Inc. managing general agencies still controlled by Mr. Greenberg. Central to the battle was the agencies' efforts to strike out on their own, and AIG's efforts to stop them from doing so. Other litigation followed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Greenberg was building up Starr's business. Initiatives included an agreement under which Chubb Corp. would offer clients of Starr Aviation Agency Inc. hull and liability and workers compensation coverages. In addition, Starr opened a new Lloyd's of London syndicate as part of plans to expand its international aviation, marine and energy business.
Then, in December, AIG and Starr announced they had reached a settlement of certain disputes stemming from the termination of managing general agency relationships between the companies' subsidiaries.
Robert B. Lockhart
After being terminated from Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. in May 2005 in the wake of regulatory investigations, Robert B. Lockhart re-emerged in 2006 in the brokerage community with a new venture, as well as filing a lawsuit against his former employer.
The former HRH president launched middle-market brokerage Kinloch Holdings Inc. in September with $150 million in equity capital and acquired its first firm, Genatt Associates, a New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based brokerage with $26 million in 2005 revenues.
Around the same time, Mr. Lockhart also filed a defamation lawsuit against Glen Allen, Va.-based HRH in Virginia state court in which he accused HRH of improperly terminating him and making him a "scapegoat" in its $30 million settlement of contingent commission charges with Connecticut regulators in August 2005.
Mr. Lockhart resigned under protest from HRH after a review of the brokerage's business practices found that an employee in HRH's Hartford, Conn., office had arranged in 1998 for potentially "improper" payments in connection with professional liability insurance placements. Mr. Lockhart headed the Hartford office at the time; the employee in question was terminated.
The suit charges that HRH mischaracterized Mr. Lockhart's termination, falsely painting him as a "culpable individual and a target of the investigation who stepped down voluntarily because of his involvement."
Sen. Arlen Specter
Outgoing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is nothing if not tenacious.
Despite opposition from committee members from both parties as well as the insurance industry and some manufacturers--not to mention some plaintiffs' attorneys--Sen. Specter pushed ahead with his Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act early in 2006. An earlier version of the bill, which sought to create a national no-fault trust fund to replace the current litigation-based system for compensating victims of asbestos-related diseases, had failed to make it to the Senate floor. But this time around, the FAIR Act enjoyed open support from a critical player--the Bush administration--that appeared to enhance its chances at least slightly.
Unfortunately for Sen. Specter, even White House support could not carry the day. Although the Judiciary Committee approved the bill, opponents kept it from coming to a vote on the Senate floor.
Now it will be Sen. Specter's successor as Judiciary chair--Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and a co-sponsor of the legislation in the last Congress--to decide whether to continue pushing for such a bill in the next Congress.
2006 marked the final year in Eliot Spitzer's eight-year reign as New York's attorney general, and what a year he had.
The soon-to-be New York state governor, building upon his success in reaching multimillion dollar settlements over wrongdoing in the insurance brokerage industry in 2005, extracted billions from insurers in 2006--starting with a landmark $1.6 billion settlement of civil fraud charges by American International Group Inc. in February.
That agreement ushered in subsequent settlements this year of allegations of bid-rigging and finite reinsurance-related abuse brought against Zurich Financial Services Group Inc., ACE Ltd., Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc., UnumProvident Corp. and Prudential Financial Inc.
Whether or not Mr. Spitzer's impact will continue to be felt throughout the industry once he assumes the governor's post remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Mr. Spitzer set the bar high for his successor, Andrew Cuomo, New York's incoming attorney general.
James N. Stanard
RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd.'s former chairman and chief executive, James N. Stanard, found himself facing civil fraud charges from U.S. securities regulators in 2006.
The charges, brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in September, stemmed from his role in allegedly carrying out a sham reinsurance deal between Pembroke, Bermuda-based RenRe and Inter-Ocean Reinsurance Co. Ltd., which now is in runoff, for the purpose of smoothing RenRe's earnings.
The claims, which Mr. Stanard's attorney said were the result of an accounting error and not misconduct, came less than one year after Mr. Stanard's November 2005 exit from the company that he helped build and ran since June 1993.
He is one of a few individuals to face formal charges since regulators in 2004 began focusing on companies' improper use of finite risk products.