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In Brief


Ex-CFO of comp bureau sentenced to 64 months

A federal judge has sentenced Terrance Gasper, the former chief financial officer for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, to 64 months in prison. Mr. Gasper's acceptance of bribes in return for handing out bureau investment business came to light as part of a rare-coin investment scandal that surfaced in 2005 and became known as "Coingate." He pleaded guilty to violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, including extortion under color of authority as well as mail and wire fraud.

Committee OKs Calif. disability benefits bill

A California Senate committee has passed a measure that would double workers compensation permanent disability benefits over the next three years. The bill now goes to the full Senate. Numerous employer organizations, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Coalition on Workers' Compensation, are fighting the bill sponsored by Sen. Don Perata, D-East Bay.

Chicago archdiocese to freeze DB pension plan

The Archdiocese of Chicago is freezing its defined benefit pension plan and beefing up its 403(b) savings plan. After June 30, lay employees of the Roman Catholic archdiocese will cease accruing benefits in the nearly 40-year-old pension plan, which is almost fully funded and covers about 10,000 employees. The archdiocese will make automatic, age-related contributions to so-called target date funds after June 30. Additionally, the archdiocese will continue to match 50% of employees' 403(b) plan contributions, up to the first 4% of pay. To boost employee participation, starting Jan. 1, 2008, the archdiocese will begin an automatic enrollment program for employees who haven't indicated whether or not they will make 403(b) plan contributions. The automatic enrollment contribution rate will be 3% of pay.

Mercer units combine to form new consultancy

Three Mercer consulting units have combined into a single entity called Oliver Wyman. Combining Mercer Oliver Wyman, Mercer Management Consulting and Mercer Delta Organizational Consulting "enables us to address a broader range of our clients needs," said John P. Drzik, president and chief executive officer of Oliver Wyman, in a statement. M. Drzik previously served as president of Mercer Specialty Consulting.

Concentra to separate main operating units

Health care services company Concentra Inc. plans to separate its two principal operating units, Health Services and Network Services, into two companies. Network Services, which negotiates out-of-network claims for group health payers, will be spun off into an independently operated company called Viant Holdings Inc. Health Services, which operates more than 300 occupational health centers in 40 U.S. states, will retain Concentra's name.

Lawmakers introduce bills shielding food industry

Bills designed to protect the food and beverage industries from lawsuits brought by people who blame their products for obesity and other health problems have been introduced in both houses of Congress. The measures, both called the Commonsense Consumption Act of 2007, hold that weight gain, obesity and related health problems are "based on a multitude of factors" and "cannot be attributed to the consumption of any specific food or beverage." The measures would bar suits alleging such health problems from targeting food manufacturers, marketers, advertisers and others under most circumstances.

Calif. state retiree costs pegged at $47.9B: Report

California's pay-as-you-go funding of retirement health benefits for state employees will require $47.9 billion over the next several decades compared with a full-funding policy that would result in an actuarial liability of just $31.28 billion, said state Controller John Chiang. Under the current system, California needs to set aside $3.59 billion annually, the controller said announcing an actuarial analysis of California's long-term cost of state retiree health and dental benefits. But the state currently funds only $1.36 billion annually, resulting in a liability of $2.23 billion for 2007-2008. By prefunding the benefits, though, the state would need to set aside $2.59 billion annually, Mr. Chiang said.

Travelers arranges $500 million cat bond

Travelers Cos. Inc. has arranged a three-year, $500 million catastrophe bond reinsurance program for hurricanes and other loss events occurring in the Northeast United States. Under the arrangement with Longpoint Re Ltd., a new Cayman Islands insurer, Travelers may obtain reinsurance by entering into one or more agreements in which the amounts payable to Travelers will be based on an index. Travelers will be entitled to recover reinsurance if index-based losses reach a trigger of $2.25 billion.