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A fast-forward look to top stories of 2007


It's the end of January, the holidays are receding in the rearview mirror and I've already got a pretty good idea what my 2008 New Year's resolutions will be. They're curiously similar to my 2007 New Year's resolutions.

So it doesn't seem too early to start drawing up a list of the top risk management and employee benefit stories of 2007. Sure, we still have more than 11 months to go until the end of the year, but why wait until the last minute?

Broker compensation will continue to be a hot topic. More insurers will follow the lead of Chubb Corp. and St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc. and offer "supplemental" payments that are not--repeat, ARE NOT--contingent commissions. Brokers that have given up contingents will quietly accept the payments and hope that nobody raises a fuss. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's three daughters--only one of whom has reached her teens, but all of whom are considered future front-runners for the state attorney general's job--will be following the issue closely.

The trial of former General Re Corp. CEO Ronald Ferguson and other Gen Re and American International Group Inc. officials accused of manipulating AIG's financial results--recently delayed until the end of 2007--will be postponed again until 2010, by which time everyone will have forgotten what it was about. The case will be dropped.

The heavily Republican Idaho Legislature will enact a universal health care initiative, becoming the latest state to deal with the growing problem of the uninsured. State lawmakers will reject an initial proposal to fund the plan with a tax on registered Democrats. Instead, after years of complaining about unfunded mandates from Washington, lawmakers will decide to require all Idaho residents to buy health insurance and pay for it themselves.

Former AIG Chairman Maurice R. Greenberg will finish his memoirs and sell the movie rights to noted shark enthusiast Steven Spielberg.

After the Bush administration's decision to declare polar bears a threatened species because of vanishing polar ice, insurance industry groups will press the administration to act on global climate change. Initially encouraged by a White House concession that the problem exists, insurers will be disappointed when a presidential commission of former Tobacco Institute scientists concludes that there is no clear link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

Geologists will discover that Bermuda is gradually sinking under the weight of money contributed to new catastrophe reinsurers.

Insurers will win rulings that most Hurricane Katrina-related damages in New Orleans are flood losses excluded by their policies. Federal and state recovery efforts will continue until no one is left in New Orleans at all.

The National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners will succeed in streamlining its quarterly meetings, substantially reducing the number of committee meetings. The reduction will be partially offset by meetings of the new Executive Committee to Reduce the Number of Committee Meetings. The pace of the NAIC's progress on issues will remain unchanged.

In an effort to appease critics of its high-fat, high-salt menu, McDonalds Corp. will announce that all of its new restaurants will be built as three-story structures with counters at the top of a flight of 45 steps. The company calculates that customers will burn off 20% of a Big Mac's 540 calories before even ordering. Medevac helicopters will be standing by at all restaurants.

Those are the likely top stories of 2007. I'll check back in early next year to see how accurate my forecast was. If I'm half-right most of the time, I may have a future as a casualty actuary.