Arkansas Earthquakes Due to Gas Exploration?

Arkansas experienced a 4.7 magnitude earthquake last night, with two more (registering at 3.8 and 3.6) following soon after. And, according to Scott Ausbrooks with the Arkansas Geological Survey, the 4.7 magnitude earthquake was the largest quake to occur outside of the New Madrid Fault System since 1969.

But Arkansas is no stranger to quakes. Since 2009, a series of tremors have plagued the central region of the state, more specifically, the town of Guy, population 563.

Since the early fall, there have been thousands, none of them very large — a fraction have been felt, and the only documented damage is a cracked window in the snack bar at Woolly Hollow State Park. But in their sheer numbers, they have been relentless, creating a phenomenon that has come to be called the Guy earthquake swarm.

So what’s causing these continuous earthquakes? Many residents think the gas companies are to blame. A few years ago they arrived to drill for gas and, soon after, the town started shaking.

Though such swarms have occurred in the past, way before the gas companies arrived, researchers with the Arkansas Geological Survey say that while there is no discernible link between earthquakes and gas production, there is “strong temporal and spatial” evidence for a relationship between these quakes and the injection wells.

As natural gas exploration has exploded not only in Arkansas, but throughout the southern parts of the United States, we are left to wonder if the next “swarm” will hit Louisiana, or Texas, or Oklahoma.

The 10 Best Industry Blogs

Bloggin’ ain’t easy. Doing it well takes commitment, research, accuracy and regular postings. And, of course, a knack for writing. The staff of Risk Management has a few favorite blogs that we visit on a regular basis for their insight, knowledge and timeliness. The following are 10 of our favorite risk management and insurance blogs:

  1. The Call: Foreign Policy magazine’s blog posts are authored by Ian Bremmer, president of the global risk research and consulting firm Eurasia Group. The blog uses political science to analyze the future of politics and the global economy. When it comes to industry blogs, this one is my personal favorite.
  2. Terms + Conditions: The Insurance Information Institute’s blog covers current disasters, risks, laws, regulations and market conditions, among other topics. Claire Wilkinson, vice president for global issues at III, has done a great job of posting timely articles first thing in the morning, and it seems she’s been joined recently by James Lynch, a veteran insurance professional and blogger.
  3. Clear Risk: The company itself works with organizations to help improve their risk management techniques and the blog, managed by Craig Rowe, covers the various aspects of risk management and insurance in a well-organized and easy to read manner.
  4. Schneier on Security: Bruce Schneier, a security technologist and author, manages this blog, which focuses on security and security technology. He has testified on security before the United States Congress and has written articles for some of the worlds biggest publications. Schneier, an opinionated tech man, knows what he’s talking about — and it shows in every post.
  5. Workers’ Comp Kit Blog: This blog covers (you guessed it) everything relating to the world of workers’ comp. It acts as a discussion forum for employers to learn about workers’ comp cost containment, techniques and strategies. The blog is managed by Rebecca Shafer, and attorney and risk consultant, and features posts by more than 30 other professionals. Though the format of the blog can be somewhat distracting (ads galore), the content is useful.
  6. GC Capital Ideas: The website, a part of reinsurance intermediary Guy Carpenter, refers to itself as more of a platform from which it disseminates information that has been published through reports, briefings and bylined articles. I refer to it as a blog and its information is has proved valuable to our team on more than one occasion.
  7. Calculated Risk: This blog offers a sophisticated analysis of economic data, from consumer sentiment to the mortgage and housing industry to the banking industry. Managed by Bill McBride, a full-time blogger with a background in finance and economics, Calculated Risk proves successful at turning complicated technical data into useful information for the masses. McBride publishes several posts per day.
  8. Political Risk Explored: Brian Hasbrouck, a man with a serious interest in the international political economy, manages this blog. PRE’s short and sweet posts pull from other publications or reports that the blog’s readers may have never come across on their own. The blog’s simple format makes it easy to navigate and read and the Twitter feed embedded on the right-hand side is an added bonus.
  9. Product Liability Monitor: This blog was created by attorneys in the Weil product liability practice and discusses key trends, developments and events that have shaped and are shaping the product liability landscape. The blog’s clean format is something to be imitated.
  10. The FCPA Blog: Its simple name leaves no guesses as to what it covers — news and views about the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Managed by Richard Cassin, the multiple daily posts gives readers a grim reminder of the oft-corrupt corporate world and analysis of the FCPA’s actions.

If you think we have left off an important blog related to the industry, please let us know in the comments section below.

Alibaba: The Case of Massive Fraud in China

The website claims to be “the global leader in e-commerce for small businesses.” It acts as a platform for global trade involving millions of buyers and suppliers around the world and is known as the largest B2B commerce site in China and one of the biggest in the world. Any way you put it, is a success. Or was.

It seems the folks running the site were not so successful in one area of business: fraud prevention. The site allowed phony suppliers to set up accounts on the site and sell their goods (mostly low cost electronics) to buyers. Once actually supplying the small amounts of goods to buyers, the sellers moved on to high-ticket items and would take large orders from overseas businesses who paid upfront. The sellers would never deliver.

What’s more troubling is that most of these sellers were labeled “Gold Suppliers” by, meaning they were checked out by the Alibaba staff and were deemed reliable and trustworthy. Some reports claim the Alibaba staff turned the other other way since they work on commission for each sale.

Though the company said only about 100 of 5,000 sales employees were implicated in the fraud, during the past two years more than 2,300 complaints were filed. According to the numbers the company supplied, the total losses suffered approached $2.8 million. The company’s stock price on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange dropped 8% Tuesday. And though management did take some measures to respond, the company’s top leaders deemed them inadequate. The board of directors’ investigation found that “sales people were incentivized to bring in as many paid suppliers as possible without regard to quality. There was a breakdown of the company’s internal check-and-balance systems.”

After news of the fraud was made public, David Wei, chief executive since 2007, and Elvis Lee, the company’s chief operating officer, stepped down.

Though it is Alibaba’s responsibility to police its website, ensuring fraudulent activity of any kind is prevented, it is also the responsibility of the consumer to do a little research of their own. With a Google search of Alibaba, I came across a site solely intended to publicize the wrongdoings of and its staff. The site, appropriately named, lists hundreds of complaints, some dating back years, from buyers who were ripped off, giving detailed information regarding the con artist’s name, email address, website URL and Paypal account name used. It makes one wonder why it took so long for any action to be taken against such a fraudulent company. Buyer beware. Always.

More from the Economist blog.

New Zealand Hit By Another Devastating Earthquake

For the second time in the past six month, Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, has been stuck by a catastrophic earthquake. The first was powerful enough to bend train tracks and, according to CNN, at least 65 people have been reported dead following this most recent magnitude 6.3 quake. (Photo above on a fallen Catholic church via The Atlantic)

“This is just heartbreaking,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said during a trip to survey the damage. “This may be New Zealand’s darkest day.”

The 6.3-magnitude quake struck Christchurch during the lunchtime rush. Frantic rescuers scrambled to reach those trapped beneath the rubble hours after the earthquake hit. Dazed, bleeding residents wandered through streets strewn with debris and piles of concrete.

The human toll will likely continue to mount as rescuers attempt to minimize casualties and overburdened hospitals triage the wounded.

In terms of economic loss, it’s obviously way too early to know anything for sure, but catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat expects the damage to be in the billions.

Estimating damages from this event is very challenging. The most fragile buildings were already damaged in September. Extensive damage from the September event is only partially repaired, and the state of repairs may have left many buildings in a more vulnerable position awaiting repair completion. EQECAT is researching this area more extensively to develop a method to separate the new damage estimate, but current indicators are that damage from this new event will exceed $1 Billion (USD).

Here is video of the disaster.

via CNN