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Domicile debate over Applied Underwriters unit continues

New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Insurance is defending its actions in accepting the move of Applied Underwriters’ California Insurance Co. from its domicile in California to New Mexico in the days leading up to the company’s sale.

On Oct. 16, Omaha, Nebraska-based Applied Underwriters Inc. announced that it was being acquired by founder and President Steve Menzies and a New York private equity investment firm from Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which had owned the company since 2005, in a $920 million deal.

On Oct. 4, the New Mexico insurance department received an application for the formation of California Insurance Co. II, which would merge the California-based company into the newly formed New Mexico-domiciled insurer, said New Mexico’s Office of the Superintendent of Insurance in a statement released Thursday. The California Department of Insurance had issued neither approval nor denial of the sale.

A hearing was held Oct. 9, with representatives from the California Department of Insurance and Berkshire Hathaway attending telephonically, according to the superintendent’s office.

“The hearing officer inquired whether anyone in attendance had any objection to the proposed merger,” wrote the office in the statement. “Having received no objection and having found that the proposed merger satisfied all requirements of New Mexico law … the superintendent … issued an approval order.”

The California Department of Insurance declined to comment on New Mexico’s approval process “out of respect” for the superintendent’s office, a department spokesman said in an email. The department reiterated that regardless of the actions taken by New Mexico, California law requires prior approval of any sale or merger of a California-domiciled insurance company.

“As with all states, New Mexico has its own process and standards for reviewing insurance transactions subject to its jurisdiction,” wrote the spokesman. “However, to be clear, at no time did California agree that the proposed merger presented no risk to California policyholders or that the prior approval for the merger by California was not required.”


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