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In Brief


Bills would end antitrust exemption

Bills that would repeal the insurance industry's limited federal antitrust exemption were introduced in both the House and Senate. The bipartisan measures, called the Insurance Industry Competition Act in both chambers, would retain state regulation of insurance while giving the federal Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission the authority to apply antitrust laws to insurance companies. The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 granted insurers a limited exemption from federal antitrust laws.

Calif. lowers standard for smoker lawsuits

California's Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that plaintiffs are allowed to sue cigarette companies for physical injuries within two years of learning of an illness. The decision in Leslie J. Grisham et al. vs. Phillip Morris U.S.A. Inc. et al. revives litigation that had been halted since 2002, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that a smoker must sue within one year of becoming addicted under California law.

GE loses asbestos coverage dispute

General Electric Co. said that it will take a $115 million aftertax charge in the first quarter following an unfavorable state court decision regarding its insurance coverage for thousands of asbestos claims. Ruling Thursday on Appalachian Insurance Co. vs. General Electric Co., the New York Court of Appeals in Albany--which is the state's highest court--found that each claimant's exposure to asbestos insulation in GE turbine engines is a separate occurrence for the purposes of GE's insurance recoveries. The decision, which upholds lower court rulings, prevents GE from accessing two decades worth of excess liability insurance.

AWAC marks funds for regulatory pact

Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings Ltd. says it has reserved $2.1 million for an expected settlement with Texas regulators of an antitrust investigation disclosed last year. The antitrust arm of the Texas attorney general's office served Bermuda-based AWAC with a civil investigative demand inquiring about whether its relationships with shareholders American International Group Inc. and Chubb Corp. restrained trade. Announcing its 2006 results last week, AWAC said it expected the investigation to end in a settlement. AWAC representatives did not respond to questions about the reserve.

Judge tosses MBIA shareholder suit

A federal judge has dismissed a proposed shareholder class action lawsuit from 2005 charging that MBIA Inc. defrauded investors by using sham reinsurance transactions to mask a $170 million bond loss in 1998. U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton ruled that the suit is barred by the two-year statute of limitations in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Investors were aware of possible concerns related to the transactions no later than December 2002, when a hedge fund issued a report questioning the reinsurance deals and quoting an MBIA official comparing them to "borrowing" money and repaying it later, the judge wrote.

NCQA proposes change to PPO accreditation

The National Committee for Quality Assurance is proposing changes to its PPO accreditation program to require preferred provider organizations to be evaluated on the same set of standards, clinical measures and patient experience ratings on which the NCQA measures the performance of health maintenance organizations and point-of-service plans. The clinical quality measures and patient experience ratings also would be given more weight in the evaluation process, rising to 50% from approximately one-third of the score a health plan needs to become accredited.

Two states change insurance regulators

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has named Superior Court Justice Nonnie S. Burnes as insurance commissioner. In addition, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Diane Koken has resigned to join the board of an unnamed insurer. Ms. Koken is the state's longest-serving commissioner and is a former president of the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners. Randolph Rohrbaugh, deputy commissioner of the department's Office of Insurance Product Regulation and Market Enforcement, will serve as acting commissioner.


Hub International Ltd. has agreed to acquire substantially all of the assets of Metairie, La.-based Hibernia Insurance Agency L.L.C. from Capital One Financial Corp. Hibernia, with $18 million in annual revenues, will do business as Hub International Gulf South....Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., a champion of legislation to expand the liability of health insurers for improper care denials, died last week of lung cancer at age 65.