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House panel holds TRIA extension hearing in N.Y.


NEW YORK--Eliminating the distinction between foreign and domestic terrorist attacks under a federal terrorism insurance program was a focus of testimony at a field hearing held in New York on Monday by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises.

In addition, witnesses at the hearing stressed that any new program should steer clear of temporary solutions and institute a long-term--if not permanent--program to replace the expiring backstop created by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which is set to expire on Dec. 31.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in testimony noted that TRIA should no longer discern between acts of terrorism committed on behalf of foreign or domestic interests, because this distinction becomes complicated when a domestic group contains at least one member from another country or maintains contact with other terrorism groups around the world. He noted the 2005 attacks on London's mass transit system--which were carried out by homegrown terrorists--as an example of the type of event that would be excluded under the current backstop.

In addition, terrorism coverage for only conventional types of weapons such as explosives is insufficient and TRIA must be expanded to respond to all possible kinds of attacks, Mr. Bloomberg said. "We must not only be prepared for yesterday's attack," he said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in his testimony outlined four major points for lawmakers to consider in drafting a new TRIA bill: the extension should be permanent or, at the very least, last for no less than 15 years; the legislation should provide for coverage of nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological threats; there should be sufficient insurance capacity for densely populated areas that are deemed high-risk; and lawmakers should move quickly on the issue.

Congress should also consider permitting tax-deferred reserving for insurers to create a dedicated pool of capital for terrorism insurance, added Eric Dinallo, acting New York state insurance superintendent.

Subcommittee member Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, said, "we're committed to extending TRIA this year."

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., noted that lawmakers are looking at drafting a new TRIA bill as early as April.

Others who testified included: Donald J. Bailey, chief executive officer of Willis North America; Edmund F. Kelly, chairman, president and CEO of Liberty Mutual Group Inc.; Robert W. Ferguson, chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corp.; Warren Heck, president and chief executive officer of Greater New York Mutual Insurance Co.; and representatives of World Trade Center Properties L.L.C. and S.L. Green.