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In Brief


NOAA reduces storm forecast

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center has scaled back the number of named tropical storms it is forecasting for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season to 13 to 16, down from 13 to 17 predicted in May. According to NOAA, seven to nine of the named storms are expected to grow to hurricanes; and three to five could become major hurricanes, packing sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

Heath Lambert exploring options

London-based Heath Lambert Group said last week it has appointed corporate finance advisory firm Hawkpoint Partners Ltd. to look at the broker's long-term financing options. Heath Lambert last year was in preliminary discussions to be acquired by Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group P.L.C. but pulled out of those talks, saying only that a merger would not have been in the best interest of its staff or clients.

Work fatalities hit new low: BLS

The rate of fatal workplace injuries in 2006 dropped to its lowest level since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted its first fatality census in 1992. According to BLS, there were 5,703 fatal work injuries in the United States last year, down from the revised total of 5,734 a year earlier. That resulted in a fatal work injury rate of 3.9 per 100,000 workers in 2006, down from 4.0 per 100,000 workers a year earlier. Highway accidents remained the most frequent source of work-related fatalities, accounting for about 23% of all such fatalities. But the number of highway-related deaths dropped 8% in 2006 from a year earlier. Homicides dropped 9% in 2006.

AIG unit to buy German insurer

American International Group Inc. subsidiary American International Underwriters has agreed to acquire German property/casualty insurer Württembergische und Badische Versicherungs-A.G. from private equity firm J.C. Flowers & Co. L.L.C. for an undisclosed amount. The Heilbronn, Germany-based insurer offers property/casualty, marine, personal lines and accident and health insurance through 2,500 broker relationships across the country.

Miss. regulator Dale loses primary bid

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who has been in office for 32 years, narrowly lost his re-election bid for a ninth term in the Democratic primary election. Major factors in his defeat were "(Hurricane) Katrina and Dickie Scruggs," Mr. Dale said. Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, whose law firm represents hundreds of homeowners in lawsuits against insurers, was a major donor to a political action committee that ran advertisements attacking Mr. Dale for failing to make insurers pay more hurricane-related claims and for allowing them to raise rates. Gary Anderson, the Democratic primary winner, is a former state fiscal officer.

Calif. to publish PPO report cards

California will have the first statewide health insurance report card for preferred provider organizations under an initiative announced by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Several large PPOs have agreed to collect and report data on various quality-of-care measures and patient satisfaction surveys using Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set measures developed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The measures include information on clinical factors and consumer satisfaction survey data. The California Department of Insurance plans to publish its first statewide PPO report card by 2009.

Most Segal judgments upheld on appeal

A federal appeals court in Chicago has upheld all but one of the judgments against Michael Segal, the former Near North National Group Inc. owner convicted of 19 counts of racketeering, fraud, embezzlement and other charges in 2004. Prosecutors alleged Mr. Segal looted Near North Insurance Brokerage Inc.'s premium fund trust account of $35 million for his own and his company's use. He was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $841.5 million in restitution and forfeit $30 million in ill-gotten gains and his entire ownership in NNNG, of which he was the sole owner. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected appeal arguments but did ask a lower court to review whether Mr. Segal must personally repay $30 million.


Andrew Carrier will become president of Argo Group International Holding Ltd.'s Peleus Reinsurance Ltd. unit in December, Argo Group announced last week. Mr. Carrier has been the active underwriter for the Kiln Group's Catastrophe Syndicate 557 at Lloyd's of London....Commercial property/casualty insurance rates fell an average 14% in July compared with a year earlier, MarketScout reported. The drop matched a 14% reduction in June, according to the Dallas-based electronic insurance exchange.